August 26, 2017
SAN JOSE, CA – While the debate may fume over whether the best defense is a good offense or vice versa, a team which possesses prowess in both tends to bring in results. On Friday night, in its season opener, Saint Francis had both working in a 35-0 win over Oak Grove.
Following a last minute victory by the Eagles in the 2015 Central Coast Section Open Division II Championship, Oak Grove and Saint Francis have sparred in a series of heated season openers. In 2016, the Lancer defense proved stingy, holding the Eagles off the scoreboard until the 4th quarter on their way to a 24-7 victory at home. On Friday, the 2017 season opener moved to Oak Grove.
The Lancers began the game deep in their own territory, as a swarm of Eagles tackled kick return specialist Maurice Wilmer II at his own 14 yard line. However, strong runs by Darrell Page and Lucas Andrighetto charged the Lancers into the red zone, where Opeti Fangupo fought his way through the final five yards and converted on third down, putting the Lancers up 7-0 with 6:15 remaining in the first quarter.
“It's all about patience,” said Page. “I gotta give a lot of credit to my offensive line, and we also gotta give credit to the wide receivers, because without them I don't think us as runningbacks could have got through that hole and got the touchdowns that we had.”
“I know our line really focuses on staying on their man, not jumping, and sticking with their blocks,” added Wilmer. “I know our runningbacks, they're not selfish, they work so hard on where to go, where to cut, all of it.”
As possession shifted over to the Eagles, Oak Grove attempted to play the rush game as well, with runningbacks Jashiri Harvey and Gave Chavez powering their team to two consecutive first downs. However, as the Eagles approached midfield, key tackles by the Lancer defensive line forced an Oak Grove punt to start the second quarter.
Once again, Saint Francis began from behind their own 20 yard line, but the Eagles defense once again was unable to contain the Lancers' ground game. After almost connecting on a breakaway pass to Maurice Wilmer II earlier in the series, quarterback Reed Vettel completed passes to Darrell Page and Joshua Pakola for a combined 48 yards to bring Saint Francis back into the Eagles' red zone. From there, Page marched the Lancers into the end zone, making the score 14-0 with 5:23 remaining in the half.
“We are gonna be difficult, and we are gonna be unpredictable,” said Wilmer regarding the Lancer offense. “As long as we keep doing that, we should expect games like this. We work on passing and we work on rushing; but as wide receivers we work on blocking 80% of practice.”
A series of sacks by Joshua Pakola and Tyler Manoa on the following possession led to a four-and-out, but with less than two minutes remaining in the half, a snap off the mask of Vettel resulted in a fumble recovery by the Eagles for their first possession in Lancer territory. However, quarterback Isiah Esparza was unable to connect with targets Isaiah Fernandez, Moon Ashby, and Jose Diaz, returning possession to the Lancers on downs to end the half.
At the half, Saint Francis posted 110 yards on 20 carries, compared to Oak Grove's 0 yards on 6 carries, and 63 yards overall. Last season, Oak Grove had relied on star running back Jarmar Julien, who transferred over the summer to McClymonds High in Oakland. The Eagles also had the prospect of adding King's Academy standout Maurice Washington III to the roster last season, but he was deemed ineligible to play and would later move to Texas to continue his high school career. Now, it remains clear that the Eagles have a hole to fill before the start of league play.
Heading into the third quarter, Eagles were once again unable to convert first down after a Saint Francis kickoff, and a deep run by Sebastian Carillo put the Lancers in position to go ahead 21-0 on a 1-yard run by Page. The Eagles began to heat up in the middle of the quarter, with receptions by Fernandez, Ashby, and Diaz bringing the Eagles back into Lancer territory. However, a long pass intended for Diaz was intercepted by Wilmer at the edge of the red zone and brought back to the Oak Grove 38. With 4:15 remaining in the quarter, however, a deflected pass resulted in an Oak Grove interception.
The Eagles were unable to push for positive yardage, and a high punt resulted in a Lancer possession at the Eagles 48. Andrighetto would post his first touchdown of the night on a 26-yard run in the final minute of the third quarter, giving the away team a 28-0 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Following an abbreviated Eagles drive, the Lancers regained possession and Chris Smith would tack on a touchdown of his own with 3:48 remaining, settling the score at 35-0.
“It was a tough loss, we've got to regroup, but we've got to give credit where credit is due,” said Oak Grove assistant coach Garcia following the game. “Saint Francis came out, they were a powerful team, and we got our work cut out for us. It was a learning experience, and hopefully we get back on track next week.”
The Eagles (0-1) continue their season on the road against Salinas High on September 1st at 7:30 P.M, While the Lancers (1-0) return home for their match against Palma on September 1st at 7:00 P.M.