St. Francis football edged in league opener

LOS ANGELES — Despite a litany of errors, several points left on the field and some crucial turnovers, the St. Francis High football team might find one fact hardest to swallow: the Golden Knights still had a chance.

Quarterback Jared Lebowitz was picked off with less than a minute left by defender Hasani Smith that sealed a 42-40 defeat for the Golden Knights versus host Los Angeles Cathedral in Mission League play Friday evening, which marked the Phantoms' first win versus the Golden Knights this century.

The interception marred a Herculean effort for Lebowitz, who even outshined Cathedral quarterback and Pasadena resident Hayden Rettig, who is heading to Louisiana State University.

Despite a bum shoulder and an undisclosed leg injury, Lebowitz completed 27 of 48 passes for 388 yards and five touchdowns, versus 307 yards and five scores for Rettig.

St. Francis' final score of the game was the only one that didn't come through the air for the Golden Knights (3-3, 0-1), as Zachary Washington ran in from two yards to bring the visitors within two points with 3:43 remaining.

Yet, an incompletion on the subsequent two-point conversion due to a wide-open drop prevented St. Francis from tying.

Cathedral (6-0, 1-0) picked up one first down on its next drive before punting the ball back to St. Francis with 1:18 left and the ball on the 24.

The Golden Knights drove 16 yards before Smith came calling.

“We just have to learn from our mistakes and get better,” St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said. “We had our chances to tie it or even win it and we didn't.”

St. Francis opened the second half with two straight touchdowns and two-point conversions on nine-yard scoring passes from Lebowitz to receivers Matthew Gonzalez and Evan Crawford (six catches for 77 yards and three touchdowns) to go up, 28-14.

However, Cathedral responded with two touchdowns and a safety generated by Michael Ray on a sack of Lebowitz in the end zone to go up, 29-28, at the end of the third.

Cathedral's 15-point surge was fueled by a Golden Knights fumble as St. Francis was driving for a score to increase its 28-14 advantage.

Both teams traded fourth-quarter blows with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Rettig to Torry McTyer on a fourth and 15 answered by a 43-yard touchdown pass from Lebowitz to Crawford.

The Crawford score was answered, though, by an 80-yard kickoff return touchdown from McTyer that put Cathedral up, 42-34, with 6:44 left in the fourth.

Not to be forgotten was a super day from St. Francis receiver Tommy Scheper, who hauled in 10 catches for 164 yards and one touchdown.

Overall, St. Francis only converted three of six extra-point chances.

After a lackluster first quarter in which the Golden Knights trailed, 7-0, didn't record a first down and wasted an interception from Cole Ramseyer with a missed 31-yard field goal, St. Francis rallied with two touchdowns to only be down 14-12 at the break.

St. Francis pulled within 7-6 with 7:43 remaining on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Lebowitz to Crawford that capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive.

The drawback of the possession came on the extra point when Cathedral jumped offsides and the Golden Knights responded with an unsuccessful two-point conversion try on a run.

St. Francis continued to chase that elusive point as Lebowitz countered a Phantoms touchdown on its next possession with a nine-yard scoring strike to Scheper with 23.7 seconds left.

This time, St. Francis was denied on its two-point conversion through the air on an incomplete pass.

Cathedral led because it was two for two on its extra points.

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