Golden Knights march on

GLENDALE — This is the fifth of eight editions in which the News-Press looks back at the area's 2010-11 seasons, school by school, before looking ahead at the year to come.

Two St. Francis High teams, football and basketball, were left to find ways to win without the services of Dietrich Riley, one of the best athletes to come through the school, in 2010-11.

The football squad continued its typical strong play and was knocked out in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs. The Golden Knights' basketball team stayed put, getting knocked out in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

The Golden Knights' soccer team assembled the most impressive season this year after losing by a goal in the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals.

Richie Maloof was the highlight of the boys' golf season, advancing to the CIF Individual tournament.

St. Francis' baseball team took a small step, making an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division II wild-card playoffs, while the school's tennis and volleyball teams came up just short.

Individually, track and field's James Knowles proved himself to be one of the area's very best.

Just like any season, the Golden Knights hauled in their fair share of individual awards and experienced the thrill of victory and bitter taste of defeat. Here are some of those highlights:

• Sept. 17, 2010 — After a nailbiting win the previous year, the football team wins the "Battle of Foothill Blvd." against Crescenta Valley with relative ease, 42-14. Quarterback Brett Nelson throws for 181 yards and three touchdowns and Travis Talianko hauls in two of those touchdown passes.

• Oct. 1, 2010 — The football team loses to West Ranch, 35-34, in a nonleague contest, as Nelson throws for 412 yards and five touchdowns. The defeat breaks St. Francis' perfect 3-0 start to the season.

Down 35-28, Nelson finds receiver Ian Hamilton on a touchdown pass with 11 seconds left to finish the scoring. The Golden Knights go for the win, but fail to score on a two-point conversion.

• Oct. 29, 2010 — Defense helps right the ship for the football team, which surrenders just 139 yards to St. Paul in a 40-10 Mission League victory. The win snaps a four-game losing streak and keeps playoff hopes alive for St. Francis.

Luke Anderson, St. Francis' linebacker and fullback, finishes the game with a rushing touchdown, a sack and an interception. Nelson and Talianko hook up for two passing touchdowns.

"I can't remember ever being on a four-game losing streak," said Golden Knights Coach Jim Bonds. "It was good just to get back on the winning track. The feeling was night and day."

• Nov. 3, 2010 — The cross-country team rounds out its regular season with a fourth-place finish at the Mission League finals. The Golden Knights notch 82 points and tie for third, but lose the tiebreaker to Harvard Westlake.

Kyle Palazzolo finishes eighth in the race with a time of 16 minutes and 18.6 seconds. Colin Peterson comes in 12th (16:29.6). Tyler Kawachi (18th, 17:13.8), Matt Evans (20th, 17:13.8) and Daniel Velladao (24th, 17:38) round out St. Francis' scoring five.

• Nov. 12, 2010 — Talianko racks up 85 receiving yards as the football team gets a 34-14 win over Harvard Westlake behind a strong ground game. Anderson, Ryan Jenkins and Austin De Los Santos all rush for one touchdown apiece in the win.

The victory locks up a CIF Southern Section Western Division playoff berth and a third-place finish in the Mission League after the Golden Knights finish with a 3-2 league record.

• Nov. 13, 2010 — The cross-country team places fifth in prelims and qualifies for the CIF Southern Section Cross-Country Finals for the first time in two years. Palazzolo leads the pack in the prelims with a fourth-place run (15:47).

• Nov. 19, 2010 — Nelson finds Talianko for three passing touchdowns in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Western Division football playoffs, but the Golden Knights can't defeat Compton's Dominguez High.

The Dons stave off a St. Francis comeback for a 28-25 win. The Golden Knights are as far down as 21-10 in the second half before clawing back into the game. St. Francis begins what it hopes is a game-winning drive with 3:13 left in the contest. The drive lasts six plays, as Talianko and Nelson can't connect on a fourth-and-18 attempt.

"It was kind of happening in slow motion," Bonds said of the drive's final play. "[We] would have liked to have that last drive to do over again. But unfortunately, you don't get to do that."

Nelson throws for 286 yards and Talianko has eight receptions for 169 yards.

• Nov. 20, 2010 —The cross-country team misses the cut for the CIF State Cross-Country Meet as a team and individuals. The team finishes 15th in Division III with 389 points and only the top seven teams and individuals make the cut. Peterson and Palazzolo finish 61st and 62nd, respectively, both in 17:06.

• Dec. 3, 2010 — A Mark Verso hat trick leads the soccer team to a 3-2 win over Santa Barbara. The Golden Knights see a 2-1 lead disappear when the Dons score with four minutes left in the game. Verso saves the day and nets his third and final goal on a header with a minute left to give his team a one-goal victory over the No. 1 team in CIF Southern Section Division I.

"It went from a devastating tie to an elating win in just about 30 seconds," said St. Francis Coach Glen Appels.

• Jan. 10 — A pair of goals from Mark Verso and another from Connor Snashall deliver a 3-0 win over Alemany for the soccer team, the third of a four-game winning streak. The victory improves St. Francis to 3-0 in the Mission League (7-6 overall). The Golden Knights have only given up one goal in three league matches.

• Jan. 20 — Coming off a four-game losing streak, the basketball team wins its first Mission League game of the year with a 63-56 win over Chaminade. Emerson Castaneda and Zack Gardea score 26 and 16 points, respectively, for the Golden Knights.

• Feb. 7 — The soccer team wraps up second place in Mission League behind Loyola with a 1-0 win over Chaminade. Austin Frank nets the only goal of the game, his first of the season after battling his way back from a broken fibula and tibia he suffered last year.

The win gives the Golden Knights a 13-8 record (9-2 in league) and secures second place in league and a berth in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

The basketball team defeats Mission League opponent Chaminade, 66-60. Gardea scores 30 points in the game and Ben Maynard adds 12 more. League wins are few and far between for the Golden Knights, who go on to finish the season 2-10 in league for a sixth-place finish.

• Feb. 16 — A strong fourth quarter leads St. Francis over Sierra Vista, 62-55, in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA basketball playoffs. With the score tied at 51 midway through the fourth quarter, Maynard, who finishes with 13 points, makes two consecutive three-pointers to give the Golden Knights a 57-51 lead.

"He stepped up under pressure when we needed him to," said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien. "When he can step up like that, it makes it harder to defend against us."

St. Francis outscores Sierra Vista, 13-4, in the fourth. Sevan Zarifian drops 14 points, while Castaneda and Gardea score 13 points in the win.

• Feb. 18 — A late 13-1 run leads Northview to a 66-54 victory over St. Francis in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA basketball playoffs. Castaneda scores a team-high 17 points in the loss, as the Golden Knights finish the season 11-17.

"One of the main reasons they had that run was just rebounding," Castaneda said. "They had so many offensive boards."

• Feb. 18 — Eric Verso scores two goals, including a dramatic game winner with two minutes left to lift the soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Thousand Oaks in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

"A lot of guys get a little nervous in the big games but those are the moments I play for, this is why I play soccer," Eric Verso said.

• Feb. 23 — St. Francis pulls out a 2-0 win against Ventura, the fourth-seeded team, in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I boys' soccer playoffs. A Cougars' own goal and strong goal keeping from Paul Dean, who had nine saves in the game and seven in the second half, lead the Golden Knights to victory.

"Paul [Dean] was big," said Appels, whose team only gave up one goal in two playoff games. "[The effort Wednesday] was a testament to our defense and Paul."

Billy McCreary scores the second goal of the game off a corner kick in the 74th minute.

• Feb. 25 — The soccer team's magical postseason run ends against San Clemente in a 3-2 loss in the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals. The Golden Knights finishes the season 15-10 overall. Eric Verso continues his dominating playoff performance with two goals in the game, bringing his total in the playoffs to four goals in three matches. Eric Verso scores the first goal of the game for an early St. Francis lead, but the Tritons score three straight goals and hold on for a one-goal win.

• March 3 — The tennis team improves to 2-0 on the season with a 13-5 win over Oakwood. The Golden Knights receive a doubles sweep from Antonelo Gonzalez and Alex Kavakian and a pair of wins from John Kanzanjian in singles competition.

• March 8 — Wesley Coffey's 24 kills and 53 assists from Chris Thompson lead the volleyball team to a dramatic five-game victory in its Mission League opener against Harvard Westlake. The 25-19, 21-25, 25-22, 17-25, 15-12 win keeps St. Francis undefeated at 4-0 to start the season.

• April 5 — David Olmedo-Barrera bangs a walk-off two-run double and delivers the baseball team an upset victory over an undefeated Chaminade, which is ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division II.

The Golden Knights overcome a 4-0 deficit in the game, as JP Nolan and PJ Dezotell both get on base in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs and two strikes. Olmedo-Barrera, who finishes the game with three of St. Francis' eight hits, drives them in for a 5-4 victory. David Hubinger also has a two-run single in the game.

• April 6 — James Knowles leads the track and field team to a 93-34 victory in a dual meet with Chaminade. The Golden Knights receive nine first-place efforts and improve to 3-2 in the Mission League. Knowles wins the 110 hurdles in 14.25 seconds and the 300 hurdles in 39.34 before closing out the meet with a victory in the 4x400 relay (3:41.60) with Matt Evans, Marshall Tush and TJ Tree.

• April 21 — The tennis team finishes the season with a nonleague loss against Hoover after failing to qualify for the playoffs. It goes down to the wire, as the Tornadoes' doubles team of Artur Arutunyan and Alex Kanbyan wins the last set of the day to seal a 9-9 (85-78) victory.

The Golden Knights close out the year with a 6-8 record (4-6 in Mission League) for fourth place in league. St. Francis Coach Ron Zambrano is proud of his team's effort in the loss.

"I'm happy for the performances from everybody, they all played their hearts out," he said. "We're not going to the playoffs, but it is what it is."

• May 3 — With playoff contention on the line, the volleyball team pulls off a crucial five-game, 26-24,24-26, 23-25, 25-23, 15-7, victory over Chaminade. The Golden Knights grab the win thanks to Kenny Leaven's nine blocks and three kills and Chris Thompson's 51 assists.

The baseball team drops an important game, in terms of playoff contention, with a 9-8 loss to Alemany. The Golden Knights are down by as many as eight runs at one point and charge back, but can't pull of the win. Tei Vanderford hits a grand-slam in the sixth inning to bring St. Francis back within striking distance, cutting Alemany's lead to 9-7.

The golf team stalls in the Mission League prelims, racking up a score of 410 for a sixth-place finish in the seven-team competition. The Golden Knights take fifth in the Mission League overall.

Richie Maloof and Vince De Pinto experience individual success, though, carding a 72 and 75, respectively. The scores advance them to the league's individual competition.

• May 4 — Maloof stamps his ticket to the CIF Southern Section Individual Boys' Golf Tournament with a two-round score of 145, which is also good for a third-place individual finish in the Mission League. The top-seven finishers advance to the CIF Southern Section Southern Individual Regional.

"I went into the tournament with a positive mindset and I just had to go out there and stay focused and worry only about my game," Maloof said. "It's great to be moving on."

De Pinto notches a 151 to finish ninth in the league and is the second alternate for CIF Individuals.

• May 5 — The Mission League finals are no match for Knowles, who takes home two titles in the 110 (14.77) and 300-meter hurdles (39.43). Knowles also qualifies for the CIF Southern Section Division III preliminaries.

"I thought before the season that if all went well, he could challenge for league in both events," said St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan. "He's a hard-working athlete and it's great to see everything pay off for him."

• May 6 — The volleyball team's playoff hopes evaporate with a loss to Crespi. The Golden Knights fall in four games, 23-25, 16-25, 26-24, 25-20, 15-8. St. Francis Coach Mark Frazee isn't disappointed with his team's effort, though.

"I've been playing or coaching volleyball for 30 years now," Frazee said. "I've been doing this for a long, long time. I don't mind walking out of a gym knowing that we gave it our all. It's tough to swallow. It's a real life lesson."

St. Francis finishes with an 8-10 record (4-8 in league). Thompson has 47 assists and Coffey adds 18 kills.

• May 12 — With a trip to the playoffs on the line, the baseball squad defeats Loyola, 9-4, to extend its winning streak to three games. The victory ties the Golden Knights for third in the Mission League and locks up a wild-card slot in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.

The Golden Knights rally back from a 4-2 deficit in the win, as Hubinger and Pete Hofman deliver big hits. Hubinger drives in a run off a single in the fifth inning and Hofman bangs a two-run triple to give his team a comfortable 8-4 lead.

• May 16 — Maloof's season comes to an end in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Individual Boys' Golf Tournament. The senior needs to finish in the top 30 to advance, but finishes 41st with a nine-over par 80.

"I missed some putts in the middle and toward the end," Maloof said. "I'm happy with my season, but I wish I qualified [for the final]."

• May 18 — The baseball team is unable to convert on its scoring chances, as it leaves 11 runners on base in a 7-3 loss to Palos Verdes Peninsula in a CIF Southern Section Division II wild-card game. The loss ends the Golden Knights' season with a 14-14 (6-6 in Mission League) record. Olmedo-Barrera goes two for three with two runs and a walk in the loss. Jeff Garavaglia also has two hits.

"We played OK, they just played better," Golden Knights Coach Brian Esquival said. "They got some timely hits and we didn't. We left way too many runners on base."

• May 21 — Knowles makes the Golden Knights proud, as the only member of the St. Francis track and field team to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Divisional Championships. He finishes ninth in the 300-meter hurdles (38.38), making him the only area athlete to qualify for the CIF Masters Meet. He also takes 10th overall in the 110 hurdles with a personal-best time of 14.62, making him an alternate for the Masters in that event, missing the automatic time by .07 of a second.

• May 27 — Knowles becomes the first Golden Knight to participate in the CIF Masters Meet since 2006. He clocks a time of 38.71 to finish eighth in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, ending his and St. Francis' season.

"I was a bit nervous coming in, but I knew I was here for a good reason," Knowles said. "It's a great experience for me competing in my biggest meet. I see a lot of potential for me leading into next year. This meet has allowed me to progress."

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