St. Francis football loses heartbreaker in first round to Palos Verdes

SAN PEDRO — Just as suddenly as the end zone-to-end zone heroics of Daniel Scott had brought the St. Francis High football fateful to its feet, it was all knocked away.

Ever the gunslinger, Golden Knights Coach Jim Bonds didn't hesitate to call for a two-point conversion attempt.

But Palos Verdes standout Adison Umrarong deflected Michael Bonds' attempted two-point pass and the Sea Kings recovered the ensuing onside kick to garner a 38-37 CIF Southern Section Division III first-round win on Friday night at San Pedro High.

"We felt like we had momentum and let's just win it there," said Jim Bonds of the decision to go for two points. "The kid just made a great play."

Umrarong's deflection sealed a game that began and ended with some spectacular St. Francis offense, but the fourth-seeded Golden Knights were held to just three points in the second and third quarter combined.

Still, Scott made it a game to remember as he intercepted a surprising pass attempt in the end zone with Palos Verdes leading, 38-31, with 2:06 to go. Ten plays, 80 yards and 1:50 later, St. Francis trailed, 38-37, after Scott hauled in a 40-yard touchdown from Bonds.

But with the conversion going awry, St. Francis ended its season at 9-2, having finished second in the Angelus League. The Golden Knights also ended their three-year run of first-round playoff wins.

Palos Verdes (7-4), a Bay League tri-champion, came in with a somewhat deceiving record, but Jim Bonds knew it was a formidable opponent before and after the game.

"That's a good football team we lost to," he said. "There's no easy teams in this division."

Playing in his final high school game, Bonds completed 26 of 37 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a rushing score. Scott had eight catches for 103 yards and the touchdown, while Gabriel Mathews had five catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Umrarong finished the night with 123 yards and a touchdown in 19 carries in addition to a 98-yard kickoff return, Robert Gilbertson ran for 113 yards in 14 carries and quarterback Jake Nolls had 44 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

"They're big up front and they're a physical team and they got a lot of yards on the ground against us," Jim Bonds said.

St. Francis led, 21-14, after the first quarter, but a safety off a snap through the end zone on a punt cut Palos Verdes' deficit to 21-16. A run of 17 straight points for the Sea Kings led to a 31-24 halftime lead and complete change of the make-up of the game.

"It kept going backwards on that drive and then they got the safety," Jim Bonds said. "That was a huge momentum shift in the game."

St. Francis opened the second half with possession but an 18-play drive came up short of any points after a dropped touchdown pass and a missed 40-yard field goal attempt by Dulles Hanula.

Hanula was clearly troubled not just by the grass field at San Pedro, but also, because before the game, the officials told St. Francis it was only allowed to use two footballs, so the decision was made not to use the usual kicking ball.

Palos Verdes extended its lead to 38-24 with 8:06 left in the game, but St. Francis' offense finally broke through for a 63-yard drive culminated by a Jace Harrick (eight carries for 52 yards) two-yard touchdown run.

St. Francis, which played four consecutive road games to end the season, looked phenomenal offensively in the first quarter to emerge with a 21-14 lead.

Bonds threw a 59-yard touchdown to Mathews on the Golden Knights' first drive for a 7-0 lead and came back with a 40-yard score to Blake Howard for a 14-7 lead with Umrarong's kickoff return sandwiched in between.

Another Sea Kings score tied it at 14, but Bonds scored on a 12-yard option run for the 21-14 lead.

In the second quarter, though, all the momentum shifted to Palos Verdes.

On a drive in which St. Francis was flagged for the first time and gave up a sack for the first time, it ended with a snap through the end zone.

The Sea Kings scored on the ensuing drive and, with 2:58 left in the half, the Golden Knights went three and out with three incompletions. Palos Verdes took full advantage with a score and a two-point conversion for a 31-21 lead.

Hanula hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired for a 31-24 lead.

Alas, Hanula's field goal was the last time the Golden Knights put points on the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for St. Francis, it was too late to keep its season moving on.