WEST HILLS — On an evening in which St. Francis High quarterback Ty Gangi threw for more than 350 yards and scored four touchdowns, the senior was overshadowed by an even more brilliant effort.
Chaminade junior running back Donovan Lee turned in a virtuoso performance, scoring seven touchdowns and combining for 311 yards of total offense as his Eagles defeated the visiting Golden Knights, 56-35, in the Mission League and regular season finale Friday evening.
With the win, the Mission League playoff seeding order is complete, as CIF Southern Section Western Division top-ranked Serra (10-0, 5-0 in league) is the league’s first seed, while second-ranked Chaminade (8-2, 4-1) takes second and No. 3 St. Francis (8-2, 3-2) is third.
The CIF-SS office will release playoff pairings for next week’s postseason on Sunday.
“We talked all season long about starting fast, finishing strong and winning the turnover battle and we didn’t do any of those,” said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose squad surrendered more than 50 points for the first time this century. “We were sloppy with the football, even in the fumbles we didn’t lose and we’re going to obviously have to play better in the playoffs.”
Trailing by 23 points to start the second half, the Golden Knights launched a final surge as the visitors took the half’s opening possession and drove 79 yards on eight plays with a pass from Gangi (31 for 43 for 361 yards and three passing touchdowns) to receiver Matt Gonzalez giving St. Francis a first and goal at the one.
Yet, nothing came easy for the Golden Knights, as they lost one yard over the next three plays, all of which were passes, before Gangi hit Gonzalez on a quick curl in the end zone which, after a two-point conversion run from Areg Nazarian, brought St. Francis within 35-20 with 8:19 remaining in the third.
Momentum seemed on St. Francis’ side as the Golden Knights forced a punt from Chaminade on its next possession and took over at their eight with 7:25 left in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for St. Francis, Gangi was sacked and the Golden Knights had to punt from deep within their own territory.
St. Francis’ punt from its two was returned by the Eagles to the Golden Knights’ 35.
Chaminade didn’t waste any time as Eagles quarterback Brad Kaaya handed off twice to Lee, with the second carry culminating in a 15-yard touchdown that put Chaminade ahead, 42-20.
After another St. Francis punt, the Eagles then iced the game after again going to Lee, who this time broke containment at the line of scrimmage and scampered 59 yards down the right side for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 49-20 advantage with 4:03 left in the third.
Lee scored one more time in the fourth quarter with his fourth one-yard rushing touchdown, as he finished with 238 yards rushing on 23 carries and with 73 receiving yards on three catches.
St. Francis did add two more scores before the night was over on a 21-yard connection from Gangi to receiver Dylan Crawford (five catches for 70 yards and two scores) and on a two-yard carry late from Gangi.
“The thing we’ve learned over the last two weeks is that we have to be able to compete against tough opponents in tough games,” Gangi said. “We have to do better than this.”
St. Francis tried to stay within striking distance, but trailed, 35-12, after one half, primarily due to the exploits of the 5-foot-9 Lee.
The scat back contributed 170 total yards of offense and punched in four of his team’s five touchdowns, including a brilliant 17-yard cutback touchdown with 6:11 left in the first to put the Eagles ahead, 7-0.
Lee’s final three touchdowns of the first half were of near identical fashion, as the junior punched in a trio of one-yard scores.
Chaminade’s other touchdown came on its third drive on a 26-yard fade into the end zone from Kaaya to receiver Dymond Lee, which gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead with 11:26 left in the second quarter.
Shortly after the score, the game and mood changed for the Golden Knights when the squad fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which led to a Lee one-yard score exactly 30 seconds later that put Chaminade ahead, 21-3.
St. Francis’ lone touchdown came in the final minutes of the first half on a majestic 42-yard bomb from Gangi to a streaking Crawford.
The touchdown brought St. Francis within 28-12 after a missed two-point conversion try with 2:16 remaining in the first half.
The Golden Knights did receive field goals of 32 and 37 yards from Kareem Zeenni and an interception from junior defensive back Mason Williams.