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Knights off to 3-0 start

Football: Defense forces four turnovers in 31-13 romp against visiting Venice.

September 25, 2010|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — In an intersectional matchup with Venice High that was predicted to be a shootout, the most potent weapon in the St. Francis football team's arsenal turned out to be a fire extinguisher.

Setting a tone of defensive dominance from the first quarter, the Golden Knights effectively cooled off the Gondoliers' high-powered offense to pick up a 31-13 nonleague win on Friday night at Friedman Field.

"I was so proud of our defense," said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team improved to 3-0. "Just the three and outs early in the game were huge against a high-powered offense. They did a great job. I commend our defensive staff for a great game plan and our guys for going out and executing it."

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When not bottled up completely, the Gondoliers' offense was spilling all over the field. St. Francis benefitted from three fumbles and an interception of quarterback Dean Sarabia, who was held to just 124 yards passing through the first three quarters before finishing with 228.

But by the fourth quarter, the Gondoliers, who finished with just 88 yards rushing as a team, were simply running out of time.

The final highlight of the defense's performance was a stand on fourth and 13 at its own 27-yard line at the 10:21 mark of the fourth quarter that would set up a 78-yard St. Francis scoring drive to essentially put the game on ice at 31-7 with just under seven minutes in the fourth quarter.

Austin De Los Santos rushed for 40 of his team-high 85 rushing yards on the drive, which was completed with a 16-yard pass from Brett Nelson to Travis Talianko.

"Easily, the defense made our game," said Nelson, who completed 12 of 18 attempts for 228 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to Talianko, who had 105 yards receiving on seven catches. "We expect the offense to operate very well and the defense just stepped it up for us tonight. We got great field position and momentum changes all night and that's what gave us the win."

While its only two lapses led to Venice's only two scores — a 50-yard gain on a slant from Sarabia to Frank Murray with 1:11 left in the first quarter and a short strike over the middle from Sarabia to Murray that went for 57 yards with 5:13 to play in the game — the St. Francis defense started strong and never relented.

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