Friday Countdown: St. Francis football hoping to end 53-year drought in title game

LA CANADA – St. Francis head coach Jim Bonds won a CIF Southern Section championship as a player with Hart High School in 1986 when Hart defeated Temple City 40-26 for the Northwestern Division championship. He was also named the Northwestern Division player of the year. To this day, those memories are still fresh in his mind.

“I remember the celebration after the game,” Bonds said. “I remember mostly, the locker room after the game, the hugging, my head coach (Rick Scott). I loved playing for him, he had our team so ready we would have run through a wall for him.”

31 years later, Bonds will lead his St. Francis Golden Knights (12-1) to what could be a historic evening at Friedman Field as they host Rancho Verde High School (11-2) for the Division 3 championship game on Friday at 7 p.m., a game that will be shown delayed on Fox Sports Prime Ticket at 8 p.m.

The Golden Knights have not won a section championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1963 and ’64, defeating Claremont for its last title 53 years ago for the Division 3AAA crown, 14-0.

“I feel good,” commented Bonds. “We’ve had a good week of practice – the kids are focused. I just want to continue playing our best football at the right time. We just want to pick up from where we left off last week.”

*RELATED: St. Francis quarterback Darius Perrantes overcomes obstacles to lead Golden Knights

While most teams might be intimated with all the distractions that come from playing a game of this importance, this team is different.
“They’ve played in big games,” Bonds said. “If anything about this group, it kinds drives me crazy, they’re gamers.

“They love the bright lights. Maybe it’s this generation that they’ve grown up watching, but they love the moment. I think they’ll be at their best tomorrow night.”

They’ll be facing a Rancho Verde team that is coming off a huge win over top-seed Charter Oak High School, 41-22.

The Mustangs are coached by Jeff Steinberg who had successful stints at Ridgecrest Burroughs, A.B. Miller and Corona Santiago, prior to joining the Mustangs.

*RELATED: St. Francis football more than just a high-powered passing team

“What makes this unique is that we are a pretty young team,” Steinberg said. “They’ve really grown during the season.”

The game will feature two of the top underclass quarterbacks in Southern California.

Rancho Verde’s Brock White, a sophomore, has thrown for 2,734 yards with 35 touchdowns and only six interceptions. According to Steinberg, there is a lot to like about his gunslinger.

“Brock has really grown during the course of the year,” commented Steinberg. “He’s a sophomore quarterback which everyone knows that when you have a sophomore quarterback, there’s a lot that goes with it. The thing that Brock has brought to the table, we always say that a quarterback needs to know his limitations. He knows what he does well, he will manage the game and manage the offense. He knows that he doesn’t have to go out there and do it all by himself.”

*RELATED: St. Francis football enjoying first championship week in 53 years

St. Francis features junior Darius Perrantes. A transfer from Crespi, Perrantes has been sensational during the playoffs. He has thrown for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in his last four games.

Both coaches agree the pace of the game will be key to their team’s success at the end of the night.

“We are different in styles of play,” Steinberg said. “You have two contrasting styles of offense and defense. We are going to have our hands full – that’s how should be going in for a championship.”

“I honestly thing we’re two evenly matched teams, just the way we approach the game,” Bonds said. “You can really tell that those guys are really well coached. They’re going to be ready to play. We’re fortunate that we get to play at Friedman Field at home. We going to have a packed house here pulling for us.”

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Damien will take on Bishop Amat in Friday’s Covina/Sierra Vista boys basketball tourney semifinals

Schedules for this week’s boys basketball tournaments for San Dimas and the Covina/Sierra Vista tournament. Scores will be updated at the end of the night. The knockout rounds begin on Thursday and conclude with Saturday championship games.

Sierra Vista/Covina Boys Basketball Tournament
Monday’s round robin
At Sierra Vista

El Rancho 78, Don Lugo 56
Claremont 63, Sierra Vista 31
Keppel 70, Locke 42
Walnut 65, Mountain View 27
At Covina
Covina 76, Garey 53
Bishop Amat 56, La Puente 31
Colony 92, El Modena 50
Adelanto 76, Gabrielino 53

Tuesday’s round robin
At Sierra Vista

Claremont 48, LA Roosevelt 43
Walnut 48, Alhambra 40
Colony 78, Schurr 51
Damien 105, Don Lugo 28

At Covina
Locke 62, Duarte 60
Bloomington 69, South El Monte 66, OT
Bishop Amat 71, Verdugo Hills 26
Monrovia 62, Adelanto 53
At Northview
Keppel 71, Northview 42

Wednesday’s round robin
At Sierra Vista

LA Roosevelt 51, Sierra Vista 32
Alhambra 63, Mountain View 57
Garey 46, South El Monte 40
Damien 94, El Rancho 48
At Covina
La Puente 61, Verdugo Hills 36
Gabrielino 63, Monrovia 58
Schurr 59, El Modena 40
Bloomington 71, Covina 66
At Northview
Duarte 63, Northview 34

Thursday’s Quarterfinals
At Sierra Vista

Keppel 57, Claremont 36
Colony 61, Walnut 53
At Covina
Bishop Amat 62, Adelanto 26
Damien 105, Bloomington 38

Friday’s semifinals
At Covina High

Damien vs. Bishop Amat, 6 p.m.
Colony vs. Keppel, 7:30 p.m.

San Dimas Boys Basketball tournament
Monday’s round robin
Diamond Bar 77, Kaiser 69
Villa Park 62, Rowland 58
Rancho Cucamonga 87, Alta Loma 48
San Dimas 60, West Covina 53

Tuesday’s round robin
Murrieta Valley 79, West Covina 52
Rowland 62, Patriot 57
Downey 63, Diamond Bar 60
South Hills 54, Alta Loma 41

Wednesday’s round robin
Downey 64, Kaiser 45
Villa Park 92, Patriot 47
Rancho Cucamonga 93, South Hills 47
Murrieta Valley 57, San Dimas 48

Friday’s semifinals
Downey vs. Villa Park, 6:30 p.m.
Rancho Cucamonga vs. Murrieta Valley, 8 p.m.

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St. Francis more than just a passing team

When most observers think about the offensive attack of the St. Francis football team, they point to the passing game under junior quarterback Darius Perrantes.

However, the Golden Knights can run the ball too. It’s one of the key components that has St. Francis (12-1) playing Rancho Verde (11-2) on Friday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship at home.

St. Francis has rushed for 2,300 yards while averaging six yards per carry. At the forefront of the attack is senior Elijah Washington. Last year, Washington rushed for 582 yards and scored six touchdowns. It’s been a different story this season as the senior has rushed for 1,000 yards (which includes his 226 yard performance with five touchdowns against La Salle) while scoring 16 touchdowns.

“I’ve been a team player at St. Francis since day one,” Washington said. “I am not surprised on what I do any night. I just love going out there and winning as a team. That the good part about what we are doing.”

It’s a family affair for the Washington family at St. Francis. Elijah’s older brother Zachary played football at the school from 2010-2013 and his father Kyle is currently the head Junior Varsity coach for the football program.

“I watched my brother go through the program – I am all about the program and all about the team,” commented Washington.

It was the 2013 season that made a huge impact on Washington.

“That team might have been the closest team I’ve ever seen at St. Francis,” Washington said. “They lost to Serra in the semifinals. Joe Mudie in the backfield and I learned a lot of stuff from him. He gave me some pointers on how to succeed in high school and I’ve just taken it from there.”

It’s all come full circle for Washington as he mentors his fellow teammate in the backfield, Kevin Armstead. A sophomore transfer from Chaminade, Washington sees a lot of potential in Armstead.

“He’s a great athlete and he’s only a sophomore – he’s got his whole future ahead of him,” Washington said. “Bringing him in, I had to show him the ropes and he had to learn the playbook, -so I taught him a lot about that.”

The long drought is over

The last time St. Francis made a CIF Southern Section football championship game was in 1964. The Golden Knights defeated Claremont 14-0 to repeat as Division AAA champions. One of the members of that team was Terry Terrazone, who is currently the assistant athletic director at St. Francis. He also has served as Athletic Director for the school along with a stint as head football coach.

“In those days, you had to win your league to make the playoffs,” Terrazone said. “The game is so much different than today. It was a more physical game with less throwing.”

Terrazone said the game was all about having a punishing running game and winning the field position battle.

“We did a crossing pulling with our lineman,” Terrazone noted. “A more misdirection type of running attack.”

State playoffs?

If the Golden Knights win on Friday night, they’ll qualify for the CIF State Playoffs. According to Mark Tennis of Cal Hi Sports, he has the Golden Knights projected to play in the Division II-AA regional final against Tulare Union High School. The Tribe just won the CIF Central Section Division 2 championship last week, defeating Dinuba 49-21.

“If Valencia wins in Division 2 and Paraclete wins in Division 5, those two are pretty close to each other so there would be interest in the CIF for that similar to San Clemente and Edison last year,” Tennis explained. “It’s certain St. Francis wouldn’t be higher than CIFSS Division 2 or LA City (Narbonne) or San Diego (Helix or Mission Hills) and probably Paraclete (CIFSS Division 5).

“That’s four teams in front and there you have it with Tulare in next division which is D2-AA. I would think St. Francis would be ahead of CIFSS Division 4 (Downey vs. Cajon) and San Diego Division 2 (Ramona) champion. I would have Tulare with home game (CIF Central Sec D1 team is likely traveling) but they could look at computer ranking and give it to a higher ranked team.”

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Like father, like Son, Covina’s Nin Burns II trying to win a championship like his father

When Covina High School won its last championship in 1995, beating Lompoc 23-21 for the CIF Southern Section Division 7 football title, then coach Dick Sheehan had a simple reason why the Colts won and ran the table that year to finish 14-0.

“We had Nin Burns on the team and they didn’t,” Sheehan said.

Burns was the Division 7 player of the year that season and earned a scholarship to the University of Utah.

After 22 years, Covina (11-2) returns to the championship on Friday against Katella (12-1) at Covina District Field for the Division 11 title, and guess who’s leading the way?

Burns’ son, Nin Burns II, the sophomore quarterback who has thrown for 2,440 yards and 30 touchdowns.

When Covina won its last championship in 1995, it also was at Covina District Field.

“It’s kind of cool I guess,” Burns II said.

Burns II isn’t the only sibling on the team. His younger brother, Damon Burns, is a freshman receiver/defensive back that has been called to varsity for the playoffs, and his time will come.

Burns II, however, has been the difference maker for the Colts all season, and he’s managed to take it up a notch in the playoffs, particularly the last two games.

He threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown in a quarterfinal win over Westminster, and he was at it again in the semifinals, throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a wild 57-56 overtime victory over Culver City.

He’s so young and so experienced that Covina coach Joe Brown just shakes his head sometimes.

“The kid just understands football,” Brown said of Burns II. “His football IQ is phenomenal and he wants to make every play, every time. It’s hard for him to just throw the ball away because he’s super competitive.

“One of the things I told him at the beginning of the year is that we’re really young. We have a couple sophomore receivers and a sophomore in the backfield (Erik Cuellar) and at times Nin gets frustrated. I just told him, not everyone is at your level yet, that’s your job to bring them to your level, and he’s done a great job of that.”

Sheehan has kept tabs on the Colts this season and see’s the similarity between father and son. They were different players. Burns, the dad, was a do-it-all receiver that returned punts, kickoffs and was a monster on both sides of the ball.

“The similarities are how elusive both of them are,” Sheehan said. “And they both seem to have that extra gear that when people think they’re closing in they are able to kick it into a higher gear and separate themselves from others.”

Colts assistant coach Kevin Glaspy is the only person on the Colts staff who was an assistant with Sheehan in 1995 and remembers how special dad was.

“He was so electrifying,” Glaspy said of Burns. “His game-breaking ability was phenomenal. People held their breath every time he touched the ball. Sometimes he only touched it five times a game, and those touches would be a punt return, kick return or an interception for a touchdown. He had that ability to change a game all by himself.”

Glaspy remembers Burns II on the freshman team last year. He was later called in at the end of the season because the Colts starting quarterback was injured and he led the Colts to a playoff victory.

What Glaspy remembers is what Brown also shared, that he understood the game far beyond his years. That, along with his ability is what makes him so dangerous.

“He was one of the smartest freshman players I’ve ever seen and to be a quarterback, that’s special.” Glaspy said. “He had some games where he’s calling his own audibles and making plays for touchdowns. He could call a game all by himself. It’s amazing he’s only a sophomore and doing what he’s doing.”

And if he can do it one more time he’ll have what his dad earned two decades ago, a championship ring.

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St. Francis, Covina reach titles games; Charter Oak, South El Monte bow out

St. Francis headed to first title game since 1964: After a 53-year hiatus, the St. Francis football team is back in the CIF Southern Section Final.And they can thank junior quarterback Darius Perrantes. The transfer from Crespi was 21 of 25 for 273 yards and four touchdowns as the Golden Knights (12-1) defeated El Toro 52-17 in a CIF-SS Division 3 semifinal. The Golden Knights will play Rancho Verde next Friday night at a site to be announced.“It was an unbelievable performance by our whole team tonight,” St Francis coach Jim Bonds said. “We scored on every one of our possessions in the first half. Darius was hot, our running backs were hot and our defense did a sensational job.”

Covina reaches championship for first time since 1995 with thrilling overtime win: Covina didn’t want to give Culver City’s high-powered offense another shot. The Centaurs (11-2) scored on their first play of overtime on a 25-yard run by Kevin McGuire to defeat Culver City 57-56 in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 semifinal game Friday night.
When the Colts got their shot, they fed Erik Cuellar, who rushed for 292 yards and five touchdowns and the senior delivered again by punching it in from 1 yard out on Covina’s possession in overtime. Then, that’s when Covina coach Joe Brown faced a big decision. He got some help from senior running back Ailaoa Tauvao, who told Brown that the Colts should go for the two-point conversion and the victory right there and then.”
Covina didn’t want to give Culver City’s high-powered offense another shot.
The Centaurs (11-2) scored on their first play of overtime on a 25-yard run by Kevin McGuire to defeat Culver City 57-56 in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 semifinal game Friday night.
When the Colts got their shot, they fed Erik Cuellar, who rushed for 292 yards and five touchdowns and the senior delivered again by punching it in from 1 yard out on Covina’s possession in overtime.
Then, that’s when Covina coach Joe Brown faced a big decision. He got some help from senior running back Ailaoa Tauvao, who told Brown that the Colts should go for the two-point conversion and the victory right there and then.

Charter Oak loses quarterback, then game: Charter Oak’s misfortune continued in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, losing quarterback Jalen Palacios in the third quarter with everything unraveling after that.
Rancho Verde (11-2) pulled away following Palacios’ injury to end Charter Oak’s undefeated season, knocking off the top seed 41-22 to advance to next week’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship against St. Francis, a 52-17 winner over El Toro.

Fight after Charter Oak game:

South El Monte falls in semifinals for second straight season: The South El Monte High football team found itself in familiar situations again this year. The team hosted a second straight CIF-SS semifinal game and, like last year, found itself within striking distance of the championship game to start the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Eagles, this year’s game ended in defeat like last year as Santa Maria surged to a 35-14 win in the Division 12 semifinal on Friday night.
“The season was a great year,” said South El Monte coach Frank Gallardo. “The boys showed a lot of character all year long. Tonight was just meant to be the end.”

Friday’s High School Football Semifinals and Predictions
Division 3

Rancho Verde 41, Charter Oak 22
St. Francis 52, El Toro 17
Division 11
Covina 57, Culver City 56
Division 12
Santa Maria 35, South El Monte 14

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Feel good stories on Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar and St. Francis tight end Greg Dulcich

Legendary coach Lou Farrar talks about retirement and his love for Charter Oak football: When you’ve been around as long as Charter Oak football coach Lou Farrar, the rumors and whispers are obvious.
After more than four decades in coaching, will the 72-year-old Farrar finally hang it up after the season?
“I’m still enjoying it too much,” Farrar said. “I have one grandson (Louis Farrar) on the team who is graduating and his little brother coming in next year as a freshman.”There’s your first hint.

St. Francis receiver Greg Dulcich shows why he’s the ultimate team player: When Greg Dulcich arrived for his first summer of football at St. Francis High School, coach Jim Bonds remembered a couple of things.
“He was a curly-haired freshman when he registered,” Bonds said. “And his size made him stand out from the rest of the others in his class.”
Fast forward four years, and it is a more physically mature Dulcich, now a senior, who has added mental maturity to his repertoire. That combination of skill and toughness has helped lead the Golden Knights (11-1) to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinals, where it will be home on Friday against El Toro (8-4), hoping to advance to the championship after five straight semifinal losses since 2000.

Friday’s High School Football Semifinals
Division 3

Charter Oak at Rancho Verde, 7 p.m.
El Toro at St. Francis, 7 p.m.
Division 11
Covina at Culver City, 7 p.m.
Division 12
Santa Maria at South El Monte, 7 p.m.

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Last week was a wild night of survival of the fittest, and now just four remain in semifinal football playoffs

Last Friday was survival night for area football teams from the San Gabriel Valley, Whittier and Pasadena during the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals, leaving few teams to practice on Thanksgiving day.

When the night started there were 15 area teams vying for semifinal spots in eight different divisions, but when it was over, just three advanced to Friday’s semifinal games along with Covina, who punched its ticket on Thursday night.

There were heartbreakers all over the place.

Arroyo’s undefeated season came to an end on the road at Rancho Mirage in Division 11, losing in overtime, 27-21, against the same team it defeated in overtime last year to win the Division 12 title.

Also in Division 11, Arcadia blew a three touchdown lead to Katella, losing in overtime, 27-21.

Nogales, the second seed in Division 13, lost in double overtime on the road at Silver Valley.

South Hills, ranked No. 1 in Division 7 and Schurr, ranked No. 1 in Division 12, both had its seasons come to an unexpected end.

But the night wasn’t a total loss.

READ MORE: South El Monte’s versatility big reason to teams’ success

Charter Oak, St. Francis and South El Monte survived, and nothing was more gut-wrenching and exciting than Charter Oak’s incredible come-from-behind victory at Westlake, rallying from a 21-0 deficit to pull out a 39-28 victory to advance to Friday’s semifinals at Moreno Valley’s Rancho Verde.

Why was Charter Oak’s win so special? The Chargers are the top dogs in Division 3, are undefeated, and coach Lou Farrar, who has been around for four decades and won five championships, has never won coming behind like this.

Farrar said afterward this team has more heart than any team he’s ever been part of, and even for his longtime assistant like defensive coordinator Roger Lehigh, who has been there for more than 20 years, it was an emotional night he’ll never forget.

“It was the most dramatic game I’ve ever been a part of,” Lehigh said. “You saw us wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re an emotional group, a passionate group and we used words like ‘I love you’ and ‘fight the good fight.’

“The faith and belief in our program was tested like never before. It took every man, woman and child from the sidelines to the stands because part of the panic is you don’t want this journey to be over with. You’re fighting to live another day because you know what the struggle to get here is all about.

“You know, you want to be tested because adversity reveals character, and what we went through was powerful.”

Lehigh said the only positive following behind 21-0 was time.

“There was a lot of time left which allowed us to find a rhythm,” Lehigh said. “We made our adjustments then it was convincing the guys not to panic, just go one play, one series at a time and don’t get caught up trying to do it all at once, and that’s how we got back in it and gave ourselves a chance.”

St. Francis overcame an even bigger obstacle in the Division 3 playoffs, knocking off second seed Citrus Hill, 30-20, on the road thanks to a gutsy call by coach Jim Bonds in the fourth quarter to earn a home game in the semifinals on Friday against El Toro.

Leading 23-20, St. Francis lined up for a field goal on the nine yard line and faked it with Isaac Cordova throwing a touchdown pass to Conor McGrory for a 30-20 lead.

“That was a monster call,” Citrus Hill coach Eric Zamalt said afterward. “I thought we were going to hold them to a field goal and we’re going to go down and score and win 27-26. And this guy calls a fake? It was a great call.”

It was almost a call that never happened.

“We practice those fakes for several weeks and we watched film and we liked our chances if we got in the situation to go for it,” Bonds said. “The funny thing is, after we decided to go for it I didn’t like how they (Citrus Hill) lined up and I was starting to get cold feet. The ball is about to snap, and I was thinking are we do the right thing? I went to look for the side judge and was about to call timeout when the ball was snapped. We got away with one.”

For St. Francis and Bonds, the Golden Knights will play in their sixth semifinals since 2000, where Bonds will hope to end his 0-for-5 streak. St. Francis hasn’t played for a title since winning back-to-back championships in 1963 and ’64.

“We’ve hosted a few games Thanksgiving weekend,” Bonds said. “We’ll try to use this final home game to get it done. I’ve already started getting text messages from alumni and we’re expecting a huge crowd.”

And now, if Charter Oak and St. Francis both win on Friday, it will face each other in the championship with Charter Oak already winning the coin flip and being able to host the game at home or a nearby venue.

How about South El Monte in Division 12?

The Eagles’ season ended last year in the Division 13 semifinals to Rancho Christian and found themselves in another dogfight with the same team in the same situation, only in Division 12.

It went back and forth all night and South El Monte fell behind 35-28 entering the fourth quarter.

But quarterback Daniel Olmos not only threw two fourth quarter touchdowns to put the Eagles in front, but he also sealed the deal with an interception with 1:56 left to preserve a 42-35 victory.

Now all that stands in the way from South El Monte’s first championship appearance is Santa Maria, who has to make the long trip to South El Monte and beat the Eagles at the Swamp, which is no easy task.

All in all, it was a wild night. And if you were at the games or following on social media, you were probably talking about it all weekend.

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