If St. Francis High football fans were told its team would only score in one quarter and would be shutout in the second half, many would likely guess it must have been a rough game to start the new season.
That’s exactly what happened to the Golden Knights but the result was far from rough. St. Francis utilized ball control in the second half as its defense tightened up to pull off a narrow 23-21 win over Mira Costa on Friday night in nonleague action.
“Plenty of mistakes but a lot of positives to build on,” said St. Francis coach Jim Bonds. “I’d much rather be 1-0 and make a lot of those corrections than 0-1.”
St. Francis (1-0) got the win breaking in a new quarterback who stepped into the role admirably. Junior Jack Clougherty, taking over for Darius Perrantes who graduated last year, completed 20 of 34 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
He had a big first half, throwing for 238 yards. His first touchdown toss came with 7:48 left in the second quarter when he found Evan Jernegan over the middle for a 30-yard score that gave the Golden Knights a 14-7 lead.
Clougherty’s second touchdown came with 1:19 left in the second quarter when he hit Tanner Tomko over the middle for a 20-yard score that tied the game, 21-21.
Clougherty engineered what turned out to be the final go-ahead drive of the game right before halftime.
After Mira Costa punted, the Golden Knights took over at their own 48 with 47 seconds left. Clougherty hit Bryson Reeves for a 26-yard gain on the first play. He then found Reeves again for a seven-yard reception that put the ball at the Mira Costa 19. Three plays later, Jake Smith nailed a 37-yard field goal that put St. Francis up 23-21 with five seconds left in the first half.
“I thought for a junior starting his first game under the lights on Friedman Field he did a pretty good job,” Bonds said of Clougherty. “I got to watch the film and see everything he did but I thought he did pretty well, especially in the first half.”
The Golden Knights’ defense and special teams made big plays in the second half while the offense focused on rushing and ball control.
Mira Costa drove to the St. Francis 16-yard line midway through the third quarter but a Thomas Southey’s 33-yard field goal was blocked by Jernegan.
The Mustangs had two chances in the fourth quarter to take the lead. The Mustangs drove down to the St. Francis 15-yard line but a holding call pushed them back 10 yards. Three plays later, Mira Costa faced a third-and-22 at the St. Francis 27-yard line. Sam Whitney’s deep pass was intercepted by Reeves.
The Golden Knights then used a steady run game to milk the clock before punting the ball into the endzone with 30 seconds left. Mira Costa had one final drive. The team marched down to the St. Francis 48-yard-line but a last gasp backwards toss following a pass completion was stolen by the Golden Knights to seal the victory.
St. Francis senior running back Kevin Armstead rushed for 69 yards on 21 carries. He scored the team’s first touchdown early in the second quarter when he plunged over the offensive line for a three-yard score that tied the game 7-7.
Reeves had a big game for St. Francis. Not only did he have that interception, but he caught nine passes for 119 yards.
Mira Costa (0-2) was led by Whitney. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Southey caught seven passes for 103 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter to give Mira Costa an early 7-0 lead.