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Knights hold back St. Paul, 28-22

Football: St. Francis holds on fourth down to preserve win and playoff hopes.

November 04, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

SANTA FE SPRINGS — On fourth down with a yard to go, the St. Francis High football team's season hung by a thread late Friday night.

So too did host St. Paul's, as the Swordsmen were not only feet from a first down, but 10 yards from a game-tying touchdown and most likely a game-winning extra point with less than a minute to go.

The Golden Knights defense, which had earlier come up with two first-half turnovers and a touchdown to provide a lead the team would never lose, protected that all-important patch of worn, muddy grass accordingly, with a host of Knights stuffing St. Paul running back David Cabral inches short of the first to preserve a 28-22 Mission League win and keep St. Francis' playoff hopes very much alive.

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"I think we did great," defensive lineman Matt Casciani said of the team's defensive effort. "Our stop in the end was probably the best part of the game. I'm so proud of my teammates."

St. Francis, ranked ninth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division, entered on a two-game losing streak in league, but by improving to 7-2 and 2-2 in league, stayed in contention for one of the league's two automatic playoff berth and also bolstered its case for an at-large CIF berth should it fail to clinch automatic entry.

Sixth-ranked St. Paul (6-3, 1-3) had scored a touchdown on a two-yard sneak by quarterback Paul Telles with a two-point conversion to pull within 28-22 with 7:37 left in the game before stopping St. Francis' ensuing drive at midfield and forcing a punt.

And a fine punt by Forrest Ascarrunz it was, pinning St. Paul back on its own 10 with just over five minutes left. But just as they had moved the ball 75 yards briskly in 13 plays on their previous drive, the Swordsmen reached the Golden Knights' 30-yard line in eight plays, seven of them running.

"We got a good idea early in the drive what their plan was," St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said. "It was going to be to pound us all the way down the field with their big run. Their linemen are good-sized guys and they were getting eight-10 yards a pop on those runs."

On fourth and five at the 27, Telles converted on a nine-yard pass to Zach Ramsay. After a run for a loss, Telles took a shot into the end zone that was high and slipped just off the fingers of Ramsay. His next pass, to Andrew Garcia, went for 11 yards, setting up the tense fourth and one.

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