(UPDATED 12:32 A.M.)
What should have been a momentum-swinging play midway through the first quarter proved disastrous for St. Francis High School.
The Golden Knights didn’t get off to the best of starts and Justin Sciarra’s frantic attack in the end fell short as Alemany pulled away with a 24-21 victory Friday night in Mission League play.
The victory gave the Warriors (8-1, 2-0) at least a share of the Mission League title. The loss puts the Golden Knights (6-3, 1-1) in a must-win game next week at home against
Chaminade if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive. Justin Sciarra came of age in the second half after a disastrous start that lasted only two minutes.
He led the frantic attack that got St. Francis to within striking distance after an impressive sequence of plays midway through the fourth quarter.
The rally would not have been necessary if not for a controversial call that negated Dietrich Riley’s 53-yard fumble return with 5:58 left in the first quarter.
What appeared to be a fumble by Alemany quarterback David Mercalf on an attempted handoff was later ruled a shuffle pass by the umpire.
Riley’s score would have tied the score, 7-7, and given St. Francis the momentum it had desperately needed. Instead, the ball was brought back, which prompted Golden Knights coach Jim Bonds to rush on the field in protest. He needed to be held back by three of his assistant coaches as he went after the referee.
Alemany didn’t score on that possession, but the damage had been done.
St. Francis didn’t get off to the best of starts.
Sciarra’s first pass slipped past Luther Walker’s hands and was returned 45 yards by Marabel to put the Warriors ahead, 7-0, just 22 seconds into the game.
The Golden Knights didn’t fare any better on their next possession. On first-and-15 at Alemany’s 39, Sciarra was backed out of the pocket and forced a pass that was intercepted by Brendon Costi.
Sciarra was immediately pulled out of the game and replaced by backup Justin Posthuma.
St. Francis trailed, 21-0, heading into halftime after Mercalf scrambled for a 32-yard rushing score with 9:08 left in the second quarter and his 1-yard run with 24.1 seconds left in the half.
Sciarra shook off the horrendous first half and played like a veteran, leading the late attack.
He guided an 11-play, 98-yard drive that lasted 4:42 and was capped on an 18-yard run by Riley with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter.
Sciarra went 6-for-7 on a nine-play, 87-yard drive that was capped on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Riley with 3:40 left in the game and St. Francis trailing by only 21-14.
Alemany marched down to the St. Francis 13 and after unsuccessfully drawing the Golden Knights offsides, Todd Kilroy converted a 23-yard field goal with 2:13 left in the game.
Sciarra again led the attack on a nine-play, 68-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard score from Evan King with 36.1 seconds left in the game to put St. Francis to within three.
The Golden Knights went for an onside kick but it was recovered by the Warriors, who kneeled twice to end the game.
Sciarra completed 11 of 19 passes for 185 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown to lead St. Francis. Riley rushed for 52 yards on nine carries.
Alemany was led by Mercalf, who completed 5 of 10 passes for 79 yards. But it was his work on the ground that tortured the Golden Knights defense, as he rushed for 128 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns.
During the third quarter there was an obnoxious St. Francis fan in that stands who irked me.
He was yelling at Luther Walker after a few dropped passes. It came on the drive where Dietrich Riley scored on an 18-yard run.
Sciarra’s wobbly pass to Walker was dropped. It was catchable but in Walker’s defense it wasn’t the best of passes. The fan started yelling at Walker. It was loud. Loud enough for Walker to hear.
Sciarra again threw to Walker. After a valiant effort where he dove to the sidelines, Walker came away empty. The fan laid in him again and yelled, “Luther, get back in the huddle!” Walker looked up to see who this guy was. I believe one of the assistant coaches looked up as well.
This fan should have kept quiet. Dude, let the coaches do the talking and you enjoy your hot chocolate in the stands. Riley went on to score on that drive, but the fan had his arms crossed while others cheered. He eventually clapped effortlessly.
This guy should have been ejected from the game.
ST. FRANCIS FOOTBALL COACH JIM BONDS
On the controversial call by the referee:
“You can’t appeal a call like that, once they’ve made the call it’s a call. That could be the difference in the game but there was a lot of things we didn’t execute. I was proud of the way we battled in the second half.”
On Justin Sciarra’s remarkable play in the second half:
“He’s a gutty guy. He’s a competitor. I thought the decision he made on the second interception in a league championship game (was his fault) so we had to give Justin Posthuma a chance. I don’t blame (Sicarra) for the first (interception). We didn’t get any points with Posthuma so we went back with Sciarra and (he) showed what a competitor he was in the second half.”
On Alemany QB David Mercalf:
“He’s a better runner alive than he was on film. We saw him play a couple games live and he didn’t do much on the ground as he did tonight. They get us unconscious on the power pitch and they sneaked him down the middle.”
On Mercalf’s 32-yard scramble for a score:
“We had some injuries. We were having some troubles getting lined up. Matt Vidales went out with a broken leg, we think; He’s our starting fullback and inside linebacker and the guy that was starting on the defensive line had to take his spot at linebacker (Eric Dowling) and he got banged up late in the game so he’s on the bench. We just got thin and it was just a case of being misaligned and the quarterback caught us off guard.”
ALEMANY COACH DEAN HERRINGTON
On his QB David Mercalf
“He’s a very good athlete just like the St. Francis QB. We told him to be ready to tonight. You don’t expect him to go 60-yard on a quarterback sneak. We had the game under control and to let them come back it was just… ”
On the controversial call:
“It was a pass. I told the refs before the game that when they come there we pass the ball. Why he didn’t blow the whistle is because he didn’t know that it hit the ground. Once he found out it hit the ground there’s no play.”
On Mercalf’s mobility that surprised Bonds:
“He’s ran the ball well all year. He hasn’t busted 60-yarders but he’s ran for first yards. He’s a very good athlete and that’s why he’s back there.”
On the playoff scenario:
“We have a tie for a championship, it all depends on St. Paul and Chaminade. If St. Paul wins and St. Paul beats us it’s a three-way tie and with a coin flip you can be out. If Chaminade wins we clinched the first spot.”
(St. Paul defeated Chaminade, 35-28, OT)
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Friday,’s Games with Thoughts
Alemany 24, St. Francis 21 — You have to feel for the Golden Knights. This really was the refs blew, and it wasn’t just that call. There were numerous calls that didn’t go in favor of St. Francis. But Jim Bonds, classy as always, didn’t point any fingers.
Temple City 21, San Marino 10 — OK, I’m ready to hear it from all of you. I’m going to use my “I’m a rookie” card. Either way, the Rams proved all the doubters and I’m sure that only included me. Max Ruckle rushed for 177 on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns. First play of the game Ruckle sprinted for a 77-yard touchdown score. The Rams were not messing around. They went for an on-side kick and though nothing came of it, it showed they wanted to take over and do it early. Coach Randy Backus had a mouthful of quotes after the game. “We responded with a great defensive effort tonight,” Backus said. “They intercepted one and then we got one right back. Then we had that great stop down there at the goal line at the end of the first half which turned out to be huge, because if they score there, they’re down by one score and they were getting the ball to start the second half. “But we responded and got that stop on fourth down to hold them where they were.” If the Rams don’t win next week and San Marino beats Monrovia, La Caada can get in, so this was like Temple City’s first playoff game.
Schurr 14, San Gabriel 7 — How does this happen? Really? Matadors head into the Alhambra game huffing and puffing only to be on the verge of missing the playoffs.
Burbank 29, Arcadia 22 — Todd Golper gives it his all and he paid the price. The senior linebacker tore his ACL bad and is most likely done for the season. What a career for this kid. On to bigger and better things at UCLA.
Muir 47, Hoover 0 — Bring on the Bulldogs!
Monrovia 48, Blair 12 — DJ Coles and Marquise Williams combined for 233 yards and six touchdowns. The Wildcats can clinch the Rio Hondo League title outright at home next week with a win over San Marino.
Crescenta Valley 35, Pasadena 6 — It’s all about pride now for the Bulldogs.
Bell Gardens 24, Alhambra 20 — I’ve said it all season long: the Moors are an enigma.
Duarte 54, Bassett 0 — Falcons roll while Coach Wardell Crutchfield serves a mandatory suspension.
Rosemead 36, Gabrielino 6 — Patiently waiting for the Panthers…
Montebello 34, Keppel 16 — Aztecs played inspired.
Cantwell Sacred Heart 50, La Salle 7 — Oh man.
Maranatha 39, Calvary Chapel — Minutemen finally win big as they should have been all season.
Pasadena Poly 34, Viewpoint 6 — This win creates a showdown for a shot at the Prep League title next week against Rio Hondo Prep.
Rio Hondo Prep 28, Webb 6 — Kares ride Antonio Alaniz and Tim Esguerra for a shot at the crown.
St. Bernard 44, Bosco Tech 20 — On to next season for the Tigers…