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St. Francis hosts Wildcats

Football: Golden Knights look to avenge last year's nonleague loss

Rebels back in action.

September 28, 2011|From Staff Reports, News-Press

St. Francis at West Ranch, 7:30 p.m. Friday: Just as it did last season, the St. Francis High football team is off to a 3-0 start. But it's likely the Golden Knights want the similarities with last season to stop this week.

Playing West Ranch for the first time a season ago, the Golden Knights were on the wrong end of a riveting 35-34 nailbiter in the Santa Clarita Valley.

This time around, St. Francis will host a showdown that will see the undefeated Golden Knights, ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division, face off with a similarly unblemished Wildcats (4-0) squad that is ranked seventh in the Northern Division.

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"West Ranch is well-coached and they will be a little different to play this year," said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose Golden Knights relinquished 287 yards through the air and 218 on the ground in last year's matchup. "They are now more of a running team, where as last year, they hurt us both ways [on offense]. Their running back [Jeff Coprich] is not a real big guy, but he's got that flow, so we are going to have to try to contain him."

Coprich has tallied six touchdowns on the ground and averages 10.58 yards a carry, rushing for 402 yards on the season.

Another drastic change, however, has been the play of St. Francis' defense. Led by a linebacking corps that includes Joey Dowling and Ryan McAleenan, the Golden Knights' defense has aided mightily in a 31-28 win over Arcadia in which two Arcadia touchdowns came on a kickoff return and an interception, a 35-0 shutout of Crescenta Valley and last week's 27-17 win.

However, St. Francis is likely to have to deal without All-CIF cornerback Parker Nieves, who was set to undergo an MRI on Wednesday to determine the severity of a knee injury incurred against Venice.

"He's been our go-to guy and he's a two-way starter, plus he's our punt returner and kickoff returner," said Bonds of Nieves, who leads St. Francis with 10 receptions on offense and also has three passes defensed. "Seeing him go down with that injury was very tough."

Still, the offense has been buoyed by the big-play ability of Christian Hess, as the receiver has averaged 38.6 yards on six catches, with five going for touchdowns and another coming on a kick return.

The game will also kick off a three-game home stand for the Golden Knights.

"We are going to be at home the next three games," Bonds said. "We want to make sure we are playing well and make it tough for the visitors."

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