LA CAÑADA — St. Francis High soccer Coach Glen Appels has seen Loyola soccer teams that may have had better individual players, but this year’s squad might be the deepest and most balanced Cubs team that his Golden Knights have come across in the 25 years that he’s been at the helm.
The Cubs, the top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division I, showed off their strength and depth in the second meeting between the longtime rivals this season.
Loyola scored a goal six minutes into the contest and added two more within the first four minutes of the second half en route to running away with a 5-0 Mission League victory Wednesday at St. Francis’ Friedman Field.
“They’re good,” Appels told his team after the loss.
“They’re always good,” he later said of a Loyola squad that has won a share of the past five league titles and improved to 20-0-5, 6-0-3 in league while dropping the Golden Knights to 5-8-2, 3-5-1. “It’s a balanced team and a really deep team.”
Loyola’s strengths on offense and the Golden Knights’ shortcomings were on display early in the match.
Lucas Hodges scored the first of his two goals when he took a pass from Antoine Laurient on the right side of the box and fired a shot to the lower-left corner of the net for a 1-0 Loyola lead.
The Cubs kept applying pressure, as they finished with 11 first-half shots to St. Francis’ two. Ricky Francia took both of St. Francis’ shots, each a few feet from the goalkeeper, but the senior’s shots just sailed above the crossbar.
“We had flashes when we’re a very good team,” Appels said. “We’re only going to get limited chances against a very good Loyola team. We have to take them when they come.”
An own goal in the 42nd minute frustrated the Golden Knights. Hodges’ second score two minutes later disheartened St. Francis.
“The second goal was a letdown,” Appels said. “The third goal piles on.”
Loyola’s Elliot Smith-Hastie scored in the 51st minute, allowing the Cubs to begin inserting their substitutes in a lopsided match that had both squads looking ahead to the final three matches of league.
St. Francis entered Wednesday’s match tied for fifth in league, four points behind Harvard-Westlake for fourth place and the final automatic playoff berth.
The Golden Knights play Harvard-Westlake at 5 p.m. Friday in their final home match before ending the regular season with matches against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on Monday and Chaminade on Wednesday. Notre Dame was tied with St. Francis for fifth place in league and Chaminade was in last place.
Said Appels: “They’re all must-wins now.”