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St. Francis football gaining confidence, meets St. Mary's on Saturday (Nov. 3)

St. Francis senior quarterback Brian Melisz has helped run a more efficient Red Raiders’ offense over the past two weeks to finish the regular season with a pair of wins. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

The type of confidence expected from a St. Francis football team is beginning to return just as the playoffs begin this weekend after another good effort, which yielded a second straight win.

This win represented the high point of a 2-7 regular season as the Red Raiders beat Monsignor Martin rival Timon-St. Jude 28-7 on a muddy field and rainy night Saturday (Oct. 27) at St. Francis. Timon, who was locked into the No. 2 seed in the MMAA playoffs coming into the game, has been one the league’s top teams all season.

St. Francis hadn’t enjoyed anywhere near the same success but was starting to make strides — as strange as this might sound, during a 56-0 loss at Ohio-power and nationally-ranked St. Ignatius. Red Raiders’ head coach Jerry Smith said his team never looked to get back on the bus to go home during that game on Oct. 13 at Beyers Field and it has helped spawn the team’s first winning streak of the season.

“It’s just a continuation of how we’ve been playing since the St. Ignatius game,” Smith said. “We’ve been playing tough and there’s never been any quit in them. Now, we’re also executing the way we’re supposed to... The kids are really getting some confidence.”

St. Francis’ defense, along with the weather, kept Timon’s high-power offense relatively in check for most of the game, while the Red Raiders were led by senior Alex Misterman’s three touchdowns and 199 yards, which puts him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

Also offensively, senior quarterback Brian Melisz managed the game well, along with hitting Misterman on a pass for one of those scores, and running in a touchdown himself.

It was also the first time all season St. Francis had not turned the ball over at least once, according to Smith.

“We were able to do exactly what we wanted to do and the offense is going to dictate that,” Smith said. “We blocked the right people and played with a lot of enthusiasm. In most games, turnovers have been a problem ­— whether we were fumbling or throwing the ball to the other team, so to secure the ball was a very good for us.”

Misterman put St. Francis in the lead with a first quarter 66-yard run and then after Timon tied the game, he caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Melisz to answer. Jake Braunscheidal caught the two-point pass from Melisz to put St. Francis up 15-7 with 3:37 left before halftime.

Melisz’s one-yard scoring run and a second successful extra point in the game from Elliot Buccieri put St. Francis in the lead at 22-7 with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter. Misterman capped the scoring a little over three minutes later with a 30-yard touchdown run.

Melisz is back to taking most of the snaps at quarterback. St. Francis will being relying on his experience under center and ability to take what the defense is giving. He went 2 for 3 for 57 yards.

“We’re putting the ball on our players’ bodies a lot better,” Smith noted. “It helps the receivers make more catches and keep the ball from hitting the ground.”

Senior linebacker Jarrett Dolegala again led the defensive effort with a team-high 12 tackles. He leads the team with 65, nine of which are for losses. Misterman added 10 tackles in the game, including two for negative yardage. Mike Miller recorded seven tackles and an interception, while Tyrone Lawson also notched seven tackles and Braunscheidal, an interception.

Fifth-seeded St. Francis has a bit of a score to settle with No. 4 St. Marys but also something to prove to itself when it travels for a second time this season to the Lancers’ home field, this time for a MMAA quarterfinal game Saturday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.

Smith said his team did not put forth the same effort as St. Mary’s, who, in running away with a 33-7 victory that day, beat St. Francis for the first time since 1999 in a 16-14 game. The Red Raiders will attempt to stop a steady dose of the running game, which features St. Mary’s junior Nick Vallone, who ran for nearly 300 yards on St. Francis last time the two met.

“The biggest thing to do is stop their running game. Like us, they don’t throw too often,” Smith said. “They go the way their running game goes, and they’re very deliberate with what they do. They keep plugging away no matter what. We have to match how hard they play. I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that this time.”

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