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Knights avoid Mission misstep

Football: St. Francis High rallies to beat Harvard-Westlake in opener, avoids loss that could have doomed league hopes.

October 14, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
(Roger Wilson/Staff…)

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — In front of a jampacked homecoming faithful, the St. Francis High football team went from disaster to delirium.

On the strength of the fortuitous right foot of Billy McCreary, the Golden Knights culminated a 10-point, fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Harvard-Westlake, 23-20, when McCreary booted a 37-yard field goal with two seconds left to lift his team to victory in the Mission League opener for both teams.

“We, came away with the victory — and it was amazing,” said McCreary, who also had a game-tying 29-yard kick in the fourth and a 32-yard field goal in the first half before the Wolverines scored 20 straight points to take a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter.

With the win, the Golden Knights, ranked fourth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division and rife with league title hopes, improved to 6-0, while Harvard-Westlake dropped to 4-2.

“I gotta tip my hat to Harvard-Westlake,” said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team got touchdown runs from Austin De Los Santos and Jared Lebowitz. “For us to be down 10 points in the second half and [to come back] shows a lot of character.

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“I'm very proud of our guys for never giving up.”

The game-winning drive came to be when St. Francis took over with just 44 seconds on its own 13, but the drive began with a 22-yard De Los Santos run. A Christian Hess run two plays later notched 23 yards before a completion to Travis Talianko - who had seven catches for 81 yards - for 10 yards and a subsequent Lebowitz run for 13 yards set up McCreary's heroics.

Harvard-Westlake quarterback Chad Kanoff had three total touchdowns and threw for 323 yards on 25 of 40 completions, while receiver Clinton Hooks caught 14 balls for 167 yards and a touchdown out of the Wolverines' no-huddle, spread offense.

“It's a tough offense to prepare for,” Bonds said.

But the St. Francis defense, the catalyst in large part for the Golden Knights' undefeated start, was still stingy, forcing three turnovers, as Talianko and Jose Padilla had fumble recoveries and Raul Castillo had an interception.

“Our defense came up big again,” said Bonds of an effort that held down a Wolverines offense that had previously eclipsed the 30-point mark four times and 40 points three times.

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