LA CAÑADA — As impressive as the first half was for the St. Francis High football team’s offense, it wasn’t without hiccups.
Then came the third quarter, 28 points and an offensive surge that keyed a 36-point run for St. Francis en route to a rout of La Mirada, 49-20, on Thursday night at St. Francis’ Friedman Field.
“It was just like an avalanche in our favor,” said Golden Knights Coach Jim Bonds, whose team improved to 3-0 thanks in large part to the offensive dynamics of running back Joe Mudie and quarterback Ty Gangi. “I’m just really happy with our execution.”
Mudie, a senior cornerback and running back, was astounding all-around on Friday, rushing for a pair of touchdowns and 129 yards in 15 carries, hauling in a touchdown pass and 73 yards receiving on five catches and delivering a game-changing 99-yard kickoff return for a score to open the second half.
“We had a great game plan going in, we just had to execute,” said Mudie, whose kick return to put the Knights up, 28-7, came after his touchdown catch from nine yards out with 7.8 seconds left in the first half. “We knew we’d score a lot of points.
“We just had to finish.”
The finish, for all intents and purposes, came in the third quarter. St. Francis, ranked sixth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division, opened with Mudie’s return and did not relent against a winless La Mirada (0-4), which is ranked eighth in the Southeast Division.
“Once that kick return happened, we had all the momentum,” Mudie said. “Everything was just clicking.”
La Mirada followed Mudie’s return by fumbling away the ball, with Michael Weber recovering his second fumble of the game. Six plays later, Mudie scored on a two-yard run for a 35-7 advantage.
La Mirada’s answer was a three-and-out on three incomplete passes.
St. Francis then upped the lead to 42-7 when Gangi ran it in from seven yards out with 4:59 to play in the quarter. That quickly, the game was essentially over. La Mirada finally answered with a score to break the 36-point string from whence it had led 7-6 late in the first quarter. However, the Golden Knights ended any chances of a miraculous comeback with a recovered onside kick and a nine-yard touchdown run by Areg Nazarian (12 carries for 94 yards) to stake a 49-13 lead with 36 seconds to go before a running clock in the fourth quarter.
Mudie scored on runs of three and two yards, a nine-yard catch and the return.
“Joe Mudie, what can you say about his effort? He’s a kid that just does a lot of things,” Bonds said. “It’s a lot of fun to coach that kid.”
Gangi finished 16 of 26 for 216 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and ran for 28 yards in five carries and the seven-yard score.
“I thought Ty, with the exception of those two turnovers, was on the money again,” Bonds said.
Mudie staked St. Francis to a 6-0 lead with his first scoring run at the 6:14 mark of the first quarter, but a missed extra-point attempt opened the door for La Mirada to take a 7-6 lead.
Gangi hit Dylan Crawford (five catches for 66 yards) on a 10-yard out to go back ahead and Ross Niederhaus ran in the two-point attempt off a direct snap to go up, 14-7.
While the third quarter was an aforementioned “avalanche” of momentum and offensive firepower for the Golden Knights, the momentum shift likely started in the waning moments of the first half.
After St. Francis’ defense held La Mirada on fourth and inches, the Golden Knights took over with 1:40 left in the half and 80 yards to go.
In a drive that saw Mudie run for five yards on fourth and inches after dropping a third-down conversion, he capped the drive with a nine-yard reception with 7.8 seconds to go. In all, he had two catches for 29 yards and two carries for 25 yards on the possession.
St. Francis has now outscored its opposition, 136-37, in three games.
“I thought [our defense] did a great job shutting down their running game,” Bonds said.
The Golden Knights held La Mirada to 151 yards rushing in 28 carries and 341 total yards, with 159 yards and 13 points coming on the Matadores’ final two drives.
Thus, Bonds isn’t quite sure how impressive the victory was just yet.
“It’s hard to say, I expected a lot tighter game,” Bonds said, “I’m not sure if that’s us [being good] or them [struggling].”