Perhaps it was a bit closer than the St. Francis High football team expected.
Nonetheless, within the grasp of Parker Nieves and Keith Enterante, the Golden Knights found a sigh of relief and a first-week nonleague victory against Arcadia, 42-27, on Friday night at Friedman Field.
"[I'm] always happy to get the first win out of the way," said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team, ranked fifth in the CIF Southern section Western Division, opened up the season with a win over Arcadia for the third straight year. "There's always uncertainties in the first game so I'm happy with the win."
Last season saw St. Francis open with a 40-0 drubbing of the Apaches (0-1). Thus, the Golden Knights came into the game a bit overconfident.
"We definitely underestimated them," said linebacker/running back Michael Melnick, who had 146 yards and a touchdown in 24 carries. "We went in overconfident.
"We won't make that mistake again."
Melnick ran 15 yards off left tackle for a 7-0 lead with 6:59 to go in the opening quarter.
A 41-yard touchdown catch by Ian Hamilton from quarterback Brett Nelson later made it 14-0 and a 21-7 lead was had when Travis Talianko hauled in a 9-yard fade.
But Arcadia kept coming until Nieves and then Enterante finally secured the game.
After Arcadia cut the score to 35-27 with 2:01 left, it lined up for an onside kick, one that was cradled perfectly by Nieves.
Three plays later though, St. Francis was staring at a third-and-six situation, needing a big gain to salt away the contest.
The Golden Knights got the big gain and then some. Nelson, who went seven for 13 for 156 yards and three touchdowns to two interceptions, faked off tackle to Melnick, rolled out and found his tight end, Enterante. Enterante broke a tackle and then juked right to stay inbounds, but found some stellar downfield blocking and went 46 yards for the game clincher.
"I have no problem putting the ball in [Nelson's] hands when the game is on the line," Bonds said. "I give a lot of credit to Keith Enterante. He made some nice moves down the sideline."
Fullback Luke Anderson also had a one-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
St. Francis' most emphatic drive was a 14-play 69-yard march that took 6:29 off the clock and culminated with a one-yard Nelson sneak. It was Melnick who carried six times for 48 yard on the drive, though.
"I just wanted to get the tough yards and that's what I did," Melnick said.
The defense had its share of problems, though, giving up 305 yards passing to Arcadia quarterback Myles Carr and 13 catches for 152 yards and two scores to Taylor Lagace.
"He's a player," said Bonds of Lagace, who also had two interceptions and returned one for a score.
Still, the Knights had three sacks, got an interception and a fumble recovery from Ted Williams and another pick from Ryan Jenkins, who also had a 79-yard kickoff return.
Nevertheless, Bonds is well aware that there's plenty of improvement to be made.
Said Bonds: "I told the guys there's gonna be a lot to learn from this."