Glory days and Golden Knights

GLENDALE — This is the seventh of eight consecutive editions in which the News-Press looks back at the area's 2009-10 seasons, school by school, before looking ahead at the year to come.

At least within its recent chronicle, the St. Francis High athletic body has been highlighted most often by the exploits of its soccer and football programs.

That was much the same this past season.

Dietrich Riley grabbed headlines not just locally, but far beyond as he was one of the nation's top football recruits before deciding to take his talents to UCLA.

Riley, Justin Posthuma, Chris Cabrera and a host of talented Golden Knights football players reaffirmed St. Francis' placement atop the Mission League and Western Division with a run to the quarterfinals amid a season filled with nailbiting games.

The soccer team, by its lofty standards, struggled, but did so against a fiercely arduous schedule. Still, Coach Glen Appels' bunch was able to pull off some playoff magic, as is often the case.

Led by Tommy Jordan, the basketball team began to surge ahead, while the baseball and tennis teams took a step backward.

In all, it was a year that saw its share of team triumph, individual accolades and riveting contests, which lie ahead:

Sept. 11, 2009 — Dietrich Riley, who would go on to become a three-time All-Area Player of the Year, an Under Armour All-American and the 2010 James H. Jenkins News-Press Male Athlete of the Year, has more than 100 yards receiving, more than 100 yards rushing and three total touchdowns in only a first half's worth of work in the football team's season-opening 40-0 win against Arcadia.

Sept. 18, 2009 — Behind a game-winning 17-yard touchdown run by quarterback Justin Posthuma and a game-clinching interception from Ryan Jenkins, both of them eventual All-Area and All-CIF standouts, the football team holds off Crescenta Valley, 28-21, in the "Battle of Foothill Blvd."

Oct. 7, 2009 — Riley has three touchdowns and 109 yards rushing in 13 carries as the football team routs El Rancho, 41-0, to begin the season at 5-0.

Oct. 20, 2009 — Kyle Palazzolo, an eventual All-Area member, paces the Golden Knights with a fourth-place mark in 16:35, as the Golden Knights defeat Notre Dame, but lose to Harvard-Westlake in a tri-meet. It's a sign of things to come, as the Golden Knights had their sights set on reclaiming the second-place spot from Harvard-Westlake.

Oct. 23, 2009 — With Riley injured, the football team still pulls off a nailbiting comeback as Posthuma hits Travis Talianko on the tail end of a 60-yard drive. Talianko's touchdown grab with seconds left gives the Golden Knights a 27-23 win over Loyola.

Nov. 4, 2009 — Coach Pat Donovan is hardly pleased as his cross-country squad stumbles to a fifth-place finish in the Mission League finals at Crescenta Valley Park. Still, they're able to get fourth overall for the season and move on to the CIF prelims.

"That's a weight off my shoulders," says Donovan of making the postseason, "but still, it's a bittersweet feeling. I was coming in expecting considerably more.

"It absolutely is disappointing, I can't second that enough."

Nov. 13, 2009 — After beginning Mission League play with a win over St. Paul and following it up with a heartbreaking loss to Alemany, second place and an automatic playoff bid are on the line as the football team travels to the historically unfriendly confines of Chaminade.

A huge underdog, Chaminade holds a 25-7 halftime lead.

Once more it is a Posthuma-to-Talianko scoring hookup that leads to a comeback win, as the Golden Knights prevail, 32-25.

"We went into the locker room at halftime and we were pretty quiet," Talianko says. "There probably wasn't anybody in there who didn't think we could do what we would do."

Nov. 14, 2009 — The cross-country team finishes eighth and fails to advance to the CIF finals, but Palazzolo makes the top-six cut for individual advancement, taking fifth in his Division III heat in 15:52.

Nov. 20, 2009 — The football team wins a wild one, blasting past high-scoring Gahr, 55-34, in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs for the program's first playoff win since 2005.

"Our offense is not going to be stopped," says Posthuma, who tallies three rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns. "We knew they had a high-powered offense, so we had to match them step for step. We wanted to pound it and we had everything going all game, we can pass and we can run."

Nov. 21, 2009 — Palazzolo, an individual entrant, takes 31st in the CIF Southern Section Division III finals, finishing his and the Golden Knights' cross-country run.

Nov. 27, 2009 — In an unbelievably back-and-forth, mind spinning game, the Knights' football team walks away heartbroken as its season ends with a 49-42 double-overtime loss to Palmdale in the Western Division quarterfinals.

Posthuma has five total touchdowns and linebacking standout Chris Cabrera has 20 tackles, but it's not quite enough to derail the Falcons.

The Golden Knights finish the season with a 9-3 mark.

Jan. 6, 2010 — The soccer team opens up Mission League play with a 2-0 loss to Harvard-Westlake to start the season at a dismal 2-7 after having won the CIF Southern California Division II Regional Championships the season prior.

Jan. 8 — On the road at Chaminade, the basketball team edges out the Eagles, 57-55, for its first Mission League win, with Tommy Jordan scoring 13 points.

Jan. 15 — With a 1-0 win over Loyola on the strength of an early Christian Swart goal, the soccer team finishes the week with seven points and gets back into the Mission League mix.

Feb. 3 — Despite a season-high 28 points from Jordan and 19 from Emerson Castaneda, the basketball team falls against Alemany, 72-70, in a Mission League tilt.

Riley also has nine points and five rebounds on the night, coming not long after he had announced he would attend UCLA and play football there on National Signing Day live on ESPNU.

Feb. 8 — Crespi defeats the Golden Knights, 1-0, in soccer action, assuring St. Francis of a second straight fourth-place finish in the Mission League.

Feb. 17 — Sparked by Castaneda's 23 points and Ian Hamilton's 16 rebounds, the basketball team tastes postseason victory for a second straight year, defeating Gabrielino, 76-44, in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs.

Feb. 18 — On the road against third-seeded West Torrance in the first round of the CIF Division I playoffs, the soccer team pulls off the upset with a 1-1 (5-4) triumph.

Max Cadena converts a penalty kick with under two minutes to play and Sean Fitzpatrick, after the teams had played to a stalemate in overtime, boots in the winning penalty kick in a shootout.

"We're not daunted by somebody's record, we know if we play well, we have a chance," Appels says.

Feb. 19 — The basketball season comes to an end in the second round of the playoffs, as the Golden Knights lose, 77-62, against fourth-seeded Bishop Amat.

Jordan and Spencer Nieves each score 15 points in the finale, which concludes the Golden Knights' year with a 12-15 record.

"That's a good team and there's nothing shameful in losing to that team," St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien says. "They've proven all year long they're worthy of the No. 4 seed."

Feb. 23 — Another overtime thriller doesn't end in the same fashion, as the soccer team rallies from a two-goal deficit only to fall in overtime, 3-2, to Northwood.

"From where we were early in the season, our guys made great strides," says Appels, whose team ended its season at 8-12-2 and got goals from Cadena and Joel Ingram in the playoff loss.

March 2 — After going winless the previous season, the volleyball team opens with a 25-23, 15-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-12 win over Temple City on the strength of 53 Matt Grace assists. Michael Bacall and Wesley Coffey had 17 and 15 assists, respectively.

March 4 — St. Francis' golf team begins its season competing in a nonleague tri-match at La Cañada Country Club against neighbors Flintridge Prep and La Cañada. The Golden Knights are victorious as they shoot a 175 to 193 by La Cañada and 204 by Flintridge Prep.

St. Francis receives an even-par 34 from Sean Brennan, a 36 from Bobby Coffin and a 37 from Richie Maloof.

March 16 — Ethan Bramschreiber twirls six brilliant innings to lead the baseball team past Alhambra, 9-1, to win the championship game of the Arcadia Elks Tournament.

March 25 — The track and field team opens up the season at 3-1 with an 89-36 win against Chaminade, with Palazzolo, James Knowles and Walker Fitch all notching double wins. However, it would be the pinnacle of the season for the track team, as it lost its last two meets.

April 1 — The golf team maintains its upper hand over rival Crescenta Valley, knocking off the Falcons, 197-221, in a nonleague match at Brookside Park Golf Course No. 1 in Pasadena.

Maloof earns low-medalist honors by shooting a one-under-par 35.

The tennis team drops an 11-7 decision to Flintridge Prep and finds the loss a bit of a foreshadowing, as the Golden Knights are unable to return to the postseason, going 4-10 overall and 3-7 in league for fourth place in the six-team Mission League.

April 16 — With the tying and winning runs on base, Mark Saatzer sends a shot into the right-center field gap in the bottom of the seventh inning, only to be robbed for the third and final out in Chaminade's 6-5 Mission League win over the baseball team.

"We battled again," St. Francis Coach Brian Esquival says. "That's all you can ask for.

"We did the things to put us in position to tie or even win the game. We had a couple of bounces go against us. I thought the ball Mark hit would fall in and [the center fielder] got a good jump on the ball to make the catch. That's a tough play to make and he made a great catch."

The game is especially symbolic of the season for the Golden Knights, who lose nine games by one run.

April 20 — The Golden Knights rally for a long-overdue Mission League volleyball win, besting Chaminade, 22-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20, 20-18, as Michael Bacall has 20 kills, five blocks and three aces. Wesley Coffey adds 17 kills and five aces, while Matt Grace had 51 assists.

May 1 — The volleyball squad rebounds from a subpar first day to capture the Silver Division championship on the final day of the Crescenta Valley Varsity Tournament. The team would end the season with a 7-12 mark, a huge improvement from a season prior.

May 3 — The doubles pairings of John Kazanjian and Chris Norhadian and Daniel Setiady and Greg Pak notch first-round victories in the Mission League prelims, but fall in the second round, putting an end to the tennis season.

May 6 — None of the Golden Knights golfers extend their seasons at the Mission League finals at Mountain Meadows Golf Course in Pomona. Maloof, an All-Area golf and football selection, notches a 10-over-par 82 after shooting a 76 in the first round for a two-round score of 158. Coffin posts an 80 for a total of 161. Drake Muir shoots an 83 (163), while Chris Petito shot a two-day 165. As a team, St. Francis takes fifth with an 11-6 overall mark and a 6-6 league slate.

At the Mission League track and field finals, James Knowles takes second in the 110 high hurdles in 15.16, while Walker Fitch notched a mark of 20-1 in the long jump for third.

May 13 — The baseball team defeats Notre Dame, 12-5, to finish its season on a winning note and with a 13-14 overall mark. David Olmedo-Barrera and Bramschreiber, both of them All-Area selections, lead the way as the former has a three-run triple and the latter pitches six innings for the win.

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