LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — In a victory emblematic of how one-sided the rivalry has become, St. Francis High's football team once again won the "Battle for Foothill Boulevard."
Led by a stifling defensive effort and a first-half offensive surge, the Golden Knights defeated Crescenta Valley, 35-0, on Friday at Friedman Field for the 10th straight win in the rivalry for St. Francis.
"I love the way our defense is playing," said senior safety/receiver Travis Talianko, who had five catches for 87 yards on offense and a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second half. "If we work out the kinks in our offense, we'll be a well-oiled machine."
Ranked sixth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division, St. Francis (2-0) held Crescenta Valley (1-1) to just 79 yards of total offense, caused two turnovers and posted five sacks.
It was, in large part, the defensive line's pass rush, led by Tyler Marona and Cole Ramseyer, that keyed the defensive onslaught.
"They did an outstanding job," Golden Knights Coach Jim Bonds said. "They track you down."
Crescenta Valley quarterback Zac Wilkerson was held to just six of 23 passing for 46 yards and two interceptions, as he was hurried and hit all day and also plagued by a handful of receiver drops.
"We just couldn't get going," said Falcons Coach Paul Schilling, whose Falcons, ranked 10th in the Southeast Division, fell to 1-1.
Crescenta Valley's last win in the rivalry game came back in 2001 and from the onset it looked as if its next would be hard to come by, as the Golden Knights found the end zone on their first three possessions of the game.
"That's probably the best team we'll play all year," Schilling said. "They're a better football team than us right now. They have bigger guys, they have faster guys, they have stronger guys."
Junior quarterback Jared Lebowitz completed 11 of 19 passes for 178 yards and an interception with touchdown passes to Christian Hess and Parker Nieves (four catches for 57 yards).
For the most part, the Falcons played tough on defense, allowing 233 total yards and notching four sacks and two takeaways. But after the Golden Knights' 21 unanswered first-half points, the St. Francis defense needed little else, with Talianko's pick sealing the game, as CV's Noah Stubblefield had just recovered a fumble in the third quarter on the Golden Knight 12.
"It came at a crucial point," said Talianko of the pick, which came off a deflection by teammate Ryan McAleenan.
Jeff Garavaglia notched the other interception for the Golden Knights, whose impressive night was all the more so considering starting defensive lineman Griffin Longo and starting linebacker Luke Anderson missed the game with injury.
A William Wang three-yard run on CV's third play of the game notched the Falcons' initial first down, but it was hardly a sign of things to come.
The Falcons had just nine total first-half yards, two first downs and 11 penalties for 81 yards. They finished with 14 penalties for 116 yards.
St. Francis sandwiched a 59-yard scoring pass from Lebowitz to Christian Hess on a third-and-14 play in between a pair of short-yardage scoring runs from sophomore fullback Austin Finton.
Finton's first score, a three-yarder with 3:58 to play in the third quarter was keyed by a clutch 26-yard catch on third and eight from Nieves.
Finton scored a two-yarder in the second quarter for a 21-0 lead on a drive keyed by a 26-yard grab from Talianko, as Lebowitz completed his first nine passes.
In the second half, after Talianko's pick, Nieves' 14-yard touchdown catch with 7:16 left closed out the scoring.
"There's a lot of things we still need to work on," Bonds said, "but it's hard to complain about 35-0."