Publication Date: Friday, December 03, 2004
(December 03, 2004) St. Francis falls to top seed in semifinal game
By Scott Campbell
A bad snap on a Valley Christian punt gave St. Francis the opportunity to mount a late comeback in the CCS football semifinals. But, the fifth-seeded Lancers continued to be overwhelmed by the Warriors' defense, and saw their season end with a 21-0 shutout on Nov. 27 at San Jose City College.
By defeating St. Francis, top-seed Valley Christian advanced to play second-seed Los Gatos on Dec. 3 for the Open Division Championship.
Trailing 14-0 midway through the third quarter, St. Francis got a chance to turn the momentum in its favor as a high snap sailed over the head of Warriors' punter Justin Aguilera. Taking possession at the Valley Christian 9-yard line, the Lancers knew they had to score.
But the Valley Christian defense that had dominated its foes all year answered the challenge. An incompletion, a tackle for a loss and a sack by A.J. Alvarez forced St. Francis into an increasingly desperate situation. After Ali Kompanian's 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide, the Warriors knew they had squashed the Lancers' best chance.
"We had the chance to make it 14-7, still kick with the wind, and still hold them back there," said St. Francis Coach Mike Mitchell. "That was the series that probably decided it right there."
Valley Christian (11-1) entered this contest determined to atone for its only loss, a 17-14 St. Francis upset on Nov. 12. The Warriors' defense wasted no time in overwhelming its West Catholic Athletic League rival, recording third-down sacks on the Lancers' first two possessions.
"When a defense plays as well as our defense did today, it becomes a lot easier," said Valley Christian Coach Mike Machado. "The pressure was something their quarterback had to deal with all game."
Valley Christian began its first series on the Lancers' 18-yard line following a 24-yard punt return by Michael Moreno. Four plays later, halfback Dominique Hunsucker scampered outside for a 10-yard touchdown run.
"We didn't come out tonight and play the way we knew we could," said Lancers co-captain Mike Morales. "They came out ready, and we were flat and it showed."
St. Francis fell further behind after a Warriors' deception play midway through the second quarter. After faking a run, Valley Christian halfback J.R. Adams lofted a 47-yard pass over the confused Lancers defense to wide receiver Jason Cardinale, who was tackled at the 2-yard line. Fullback Travis Nilmeyer bulled through the St. Francis line for the touchdown.
"We finally busted a play loose," said Adams of his long strike to Cardinale. "I just threw it as far as I could and he caught it."
Behind 14-0 with just over two minutes to play in the first half, the St. Francis offense finally pieced together a drive to get to the Valley Christian 34-yard line. But quarterback Richard Scudellari, forced out of the pocket by a strong pass rush, was intercepted by Warriors defensive back Julian Castaneda.
"We just couldn't make the big play," said Mitchell. "We had a couple of opportunities and they just seemed to make big plays, big stops."
Valley Christian was just as unrelenting in the second half. In preserving the shutout, the defense didn't allow Scudellari to complete a single one of his seven pass attempts and prevented St. Francis from gaining another first down.
Adams ensured there would be no Valley Christian letdown in this game with a 38-yard run to the St. Francis 1-yard line on the Warriors' first drive of the fourth quarter. It was only fitting that Valley Christian's playmaker got the call at the goal line, bursting across for the final touchdown.
"It's tough, of course, because we knew we could beat them," said St. Francis co-captain E.J. Sao. "Just because we beat them before doesn't mean anything the second time because anything can happen."
St. Francis finished the season with a 9-3 record.
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