LA CANADA — A sudden two-touchdown flurry provided all the momentum the St. Francis High football team needed Friday evening.
The Golden Knights punched in two scores late in the first half in going up by four possessions and never looked back in a 35-14 nonleague victory at the team’s home opener at Friedman Field in a contest that was not as close as the score may suggest.
“The game changed for us late in the second quarter when the defense made plays and we scored,” St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said. “We took a sizable lead into halftime and that changed everything.”
Just when it seemed St. Francis (2-0) had blown a great opportunity, the Golden Knights turned around and scored two late touchdowns in rolling to a 28-0 halftime lead.
Up, 14-0, St. Francis was about to extend its advantage to three possessions when a fumbled exchanged between quarterback Ty Gangi (15 of 22 for 269 yards and three touchdowns and six carries for 59 yards and one touchdown) and his fullback at the Righetti 1 was recovered by the Warriors (2-1) at the 2 with 2:44 left in the first half.
Righetti advanced the ball to the 8 on two plays, when Warriors quarterback Conor Regan (four for 11 for 65 yards) was stripped-sacked by the Golden Knights combo of defensive back Avery Williams and linebacker Andy Cesta.
While Williams and Regan went to the ground, Cesta stayed on his feet and was rewarded when he picked up the fumble in the end zone with 1:18 left which, after the extra point, put the Golden Knights ahead, 21-0.
“That’s the second time we’ve had a bad exchange and when you get into Mission League you can’t fumble like that,” Bonds said. “The good thing is that that didn’t end up hurting us.”
Whether or not the Warriors intended on running out the clock or challenging the Golden Knights wasn’t immediately known when, after a touchback, Righetti running back Colin Cooper (19 carries for 117 yards and one touchdown) fumbled at his team’s 26, with the ball recovered by linebacker Michael Weber.
With the ball at the 25, St. Francis went for the knockout when Gangi connected on four-yard hitch to running back Joe Mudie for a score that put St. Francis up, 28-0, with 42.2 seconds left.
“I know this is a passing offense, so I do whatever is needed,” said Mudie, who caught six passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. “My job is to go out there and catch the ball and help out.”
Prior to the late fireworks, the Golden Knights scored on some big plays.
Gangi connected with Mudie on 35-yard swing pass on the Golden Knights’ first possession that was followed by a 34-yard keeper for a touchdown from Gangi with 6:16 left in the first.
St. Francis’ second score of the first half came on 69-yard slant from Gangi to Dylan Crawford, in which the sophomore receiver nearly had his knee touch down on the 30 before recovering his balance and outracing two defenders to the end zone with 6:41 left in the first half.
The touchdown pass came two plays after Righetti was denied on a fourth and one at the Golden Knights’ 20 by about one foot on a run by Elijah Wilkinson.
St. Francis ended Righetti’s hope on the first possession of the second half when the Golden Knights marched 66 yards on six plays with the drive culminating on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Gangi to Matt Bayle with 8:39 left in the third that put the home team ahead, 35-0.
On the following Golden Knights’ possession, Bayle relieved Gangi at quarterback.
To its credit, Righetti didn’t quit and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a one-yard plunge from Cooper and a 61-yard scamper from Deandre Thomas (13 carries for 150 yards) versus the Golden Knights’ second string.