St. Francis football takes care of St. Paul to wrap up second place

SANTA FE SPRINGS — After losing its first game of the season, the St. Francis High football team had one last hurdle to jump in the regular season.

It was more of an emotional hurdle for the Golden Knights, who looked to cut down on turnovers and turn to their trademark offense and defense to get them back on track.

St. Francis answered the call Friday, as running back Jace Harrick rushed for 124 yards and one touchdown in 17 carries to lift visiting Golden Knights to a 38-21 Angelus League win against St. Paul.

"It's a great bounce-back game after losing to Cathedral," said Harrick, who scored on a two-yard run in the third quarter to give the Golden Knights a 31-21 lead. "Even with that loss, we know we have a good team and we want to make the most out of our season. Now, we can get ready for the playoffs."

St. Francis (9-1, 4-1 in league) finished second in league behind Cathedral, which clinched the league title outright with a 56-0 win against Harvard-Westlake.

The Golden Knights, ranked fifth in CIF Southern Section Division III, will learn their first-round matchup when the CIF Southern Section office unveils its playoff pairings Sunday. St. Francis, which advanced to the Southeast Division semifinals last season, didn't commit a turnover against St. Paul; (4-6, 2-3). It had four turnovers in a 24-17 loss to Cathedral.

"That's something we came in looking to do and that was taking good care of the ball," said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team limited St. Paul to 260 yards of offense. "Our guys had their first taste of adversity after last week and I was proud of the way they bounced back here at a tough place.

"I think it's going to give our guys a huge positive going into the playoffs. We got another good effort from Jace and our defense came through. That's what you want to see right now."

St. Francis took a 7-0 lead on its first possession. Quarterback Michael Bonds scored on a one-yard run to make it 7-0 with 7:07 left in the first quarter.

St. Paul tied the game off a double pass. Cody Cardenas took the ball under center and tossed the ball to Alfredo Reyes, who threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to uncovered Anthony Lemos to tie it at 7 with 1:42 left in the first quarter.

Bonds threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Greg Dulcich to give the Golden Knights a 14-7 lead with 11:10 left in the second quarter. A 42-yard field goal by Dulles Hanula extended St. Francis' lead to 17-7 with 7:32 to go in the first half.

St. Paul responded on the ensuing kickoff, as Gabriel Bermudez ran it back 96 yards to pull the Swordsmen to within 17-14.

St. Francis' Elijah Washington restored the 10-point cushion with a five-yard run on the left side to make it 24-14 with 4:15 remaining in the opening half.

St. Paul, ranked 10th in Division VII, made it 24-21 on a 10-yard run by Armando Velasco with 8:02 to play in the third quarter.

Harrick scored to give the Golden Knights a 31-21 lead with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter.

"Jace is such a grinder," Bonds said. "He's a hard-nosed runner who has such great vision."

Bonds then lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Scott to close out the scoring with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter.

Bonds completed 10 of 17 passes for 165 yards. Washington rushed for 75 yards in 16 carries. Scott caught five passes for 80 yards.

Nick Redick of St. Paul rushed for 110 yards in 20 carries.