Not even a pregame invocation from St. Francis High President Fr. Antonio Marti could stop the Golden Knights football team Friday in the regular-season finale.
St. Francis players were unable to hear an on-going prayer from across the field and, led by senior running back Kevin Armstead, blew through a large banner only to slow down upon requests from team coaches.
The gaffe was perhaps the only one on the night for the Golden Knights.
St. Francis smashed through visiting Los Angeles Cathedral, 38-0, spearheaded by four rushing touchdowns from Armstead, to earn a share of the Angelus League title, the first for the program since 2014.
With the win, St. Francis (8-2, 2-1 in league) finished the regular season in a three-way tie for first place with Cathedral (5-5, 2-1) and Encino Crespi (6-4, 2-1).
Either St. Francis or Cathedral has shared the Angelus League crown since the league was reinstituted in 2014, while the series is now tied 3-3.
St. Francis, Cathedral and Crespi will now await the CIF Southern Section playoff pairings, which will be released at noon Sunday.
“We’ve been talking all season… about not shooting ourselves in the foot and playing 48 minutes of Golden Knight football and we just haven’t been able to do that quite yet and I think we finally did that tonight,” St. Francis coach Jim Bonds said.
For the first time in this series, a running clock was instituted when Armstead bounced off a tackler for a four-yard touchdown run with 11:17 left in the contest to put the Golden Knights up, 38-0.
The touchdown was the final for Armstead, who exited the contest with 7:15 remaining after rushing 31 times for 185 yards and four scores while adding two receptions for 56 yards.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect other than we were going to go out and play,” Armstead said. “I didn’t expect that score. We came out and showed up.”
Armstead scored his team’s previous three touchdowns on carries of 8, 1 and 4 yards as the Golden Knights never trailed.
St. Francis opened the contest marching 65 yards on its first drive.
Quarterback Jack Clougherty, who completed seven of 14 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown, capped the possession with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Reeves which, after a successful point after, put the home team ahead, 7-0, at 7:34 in the first quarter.
St. Francis added 17 points in the second quarter on two rushing scores from Armstead and a 29-yard field goal from Jake Smith before the half.
Smith’s attempt was set up on an interception from Tanner Tomko, who returned the ball to the Cathedral 23 with 21 seconds left.
St. Francis led, 31-0, after three quarters.
Cathedral, which had outscored league foes Salesian and Crespi, 75-7, endured a miserable night due to St. Francis’ defense.
The Phantoms never picked up more than two first downs on any drive and saw their best possession end on a fumble recovery by St. Francis’ Mikey Kane at the Golden Knights’ 16 with 10:40 left in the third.
Cathedral quarterback Lucas Lenhoff completed nine of 15 passes for 88 yards and an interception and was the only Phantom to post more than 40 yards of offense.
St. Francis also denied Cathedral at the 8-minute mark in the third quarter when a Phantoms’ fourth-and-2 rush was stuffed for a two-yard loss by St. Francis senior Matthew Buntich.
“For the last few years, we’ve had a sour taste in our mouth because of these guys,” Bonds said of Cathedral, which had won the previous three match-ups. “We didn’t expect this type of game, but we’ll take the result.”