GOING FOR THE BLOCK — Devantie Johnson-Campbell, seen here earlier this Season, and St. Francis improved to 2 – 2 in league play. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
St. Francis played a dominant second half, using a running game and swarming defense, to coast to a 28 – 0 win against St. Mary’s on Oct. 25, to even its Monsignor Martin record at 2 – 2, going into the season finale this week.
Motivation at halftime, according to Red Raiders head coach Jerry Smith, came from a few inspirational words from newly elected captain, senior Mike Miller. Smith said Miller’s leadership traits were recognized leading up to the game.
With St. Francis locked in a scoreless tie with St. Mary’s, Miller who spoke of the importance of cohesively coming together as a team to take care of business in the Raiders’ home finale of the regular season.
“He said something to the [team ]at halftime that stressed the importance of finishing and playing together,” said Smith, whose 3 – 5 Red Raiders finish the regular season Friday, Nov. 1 on the road against rival Bishop Timon-St. Jude.
On the field, Miller, a defensive back, recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter that put the finishing touches on the defensive effort. But the senior had plenty of help, as junior defensive back Francisco Guzman was very active around the ball, recording a Red Raiders-high 11 tackles and a sack. Senior Elliot Buccieri contributed a punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, as well as an interception, which led to the team’s third score. And junior defensive lineman Connor Witman notched a second-half sack.
The Lancers were held to less than 100 yards of total offense for the contest, as running back Anthony Stitt gained 32 yards on 21 attempts. St. Mary’s senior Dione Strong recorded a game-high three catches for 35 yards.
With the offense struggling, the Raider defense came up, throughout the first half, to keep the game scoreless, stuffing the Lancers on a fourth-down quarterback sneak deep in St. Francis territory; then later on a fourth-and-goal, to end the first half.
In the third quarter, running from senior Brendon Misterman, who finished with a game-high 101 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns, and freshman speedster Jalen Montgomery (57 yards rushing, including a 52-yard run to pay dirt) got St. Francis rolling.
“He’s certainly a spark,” Smith said, about Montgomery. “He’s not a [disguised] secret weapon any more.”
The Red Raiders tallied 3 touchdowns in less than three minutes, as Misterman got the Red Raiders on the board with a 42-yard TD run. Junior Bryce Carmichael set up an ensuing score with a blocked punt on St. Mary’s 10-yard line, and Misterman followed with a 7-yard run to pay dirt. Each of the Raiders’ first two TDs were accompanied by two-point conversion runs, the first by quarterback Gerald Hickson and then by Misterman.
With Timon and St. Mary’s at 1 – 3, a win for St. Francis Friday, Nov. 1 would secure the three seed in the upcoming league playoffs.
“They’re always very tough and well-coached,” Smith said, about Timon. “It’s nice to have [the rivalry] sparked; we know we’ll have a test on our hands.”