The St. Francis High defense held Keller Chryst – one of the area’s top passers – in check to easily defeat Palo Alto in Friday’s Central Coast Section Division II semifinal game.
Winning the final will likely require doing the same to one of the section’s best runners – Los Gatos’ Joey Wood.
In a rematch of last year’s title game, the defending champion Lancers are set to take on Wood and the Wildcats 7 p.m. Saturday at Campbell’s Westmont High.
“I’m super excited to play them again,” said St. Francis’ standout running back/defensive back Alex Andrighetto, whose team prevailed 17-0 a year ago on a wet Westmont field. “There’s a rivalry with Los Gatos.”
The top-seeded Lancers and No. 2 Wildcats are both 9-3 and coming off blowout wins. St. Francis pounded Paly 45-21 Friday night, while Los Gatos mauled Menlo-Atherton 35-6 behind Wood’s 213 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Andrighetto’s effort wasn’t too shabby, either. The senior made a rousing return from the shoulder injury that had sidelined him for three games.
Andrighetto rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns, punctuated by a 54-yard scamper midway through the third quarter that put his team up 35-21 after Patrick Fordham’s extra point.
“I’m feeling great – especially after that win right there,” Andrighetto said when asked how his shoulder held up in Friday’s home game.
Andrighetto made an impact on defense as well, intercepting a Chryst pass in the second quarter. The Stanford University-bound senior tossed another interception on Paly’s next drive, this one snared by safety Conor Thane.
“We picked off a great quarterback a few times,” Andrighetto said. “We took it as a personal challenge – a DI (college) quarterback coming into our stadium – and we didn’t want to lose.”
Chryst – who threw for five touchdowns a week earlier in the Vikings’ playoff opener – had his struggles against a stingy St. Francis defense. He finished 15-of-34 passing for 291 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half. The Lancers sacked Chryst three times and broke up six of his passes.
Chryst wasn’t helped by his ground game; Paly rushed for -5 yards Friday. The quarterback accounted for the Vikings’ longest run of the night – a 10-yard scramble in the fourth quarter.
St. Francis, meanwhile, had little trouble running the ball. Behind its big and physical offensive line, the team rushed for 362 yards on 57 carries.
Andrighetto wasn’t the lone Lancer to surpass 100 yards on the ground. Halfback Landon Baty totaled 121 yards, scoring on a 28-yard run on St. Francis’ first play from scrimmage. The senior broke through the middle and high-stepped into the end zone.
Baty fumbled on the Lancers’ next drive, however, and Paly (6-6) scored six plays later on Chryst’s 71-yard bomb to Eli Givens.
St. Francis produced the next two touchdowns on 5-yard runs by Andrighetto to lead 21-7 early in the second quarter.
But the Lancers fumbled the ball away on their following two possessions and the fifth-seeded Vikings took advantage of the second one. Chryst connected with Keesan Johnson on a 28-yard pass into the left side of the end zone. The extra point cut St. Francis’ lead to 21-14 with 1:56 remaining in the half.
That turned out to be plenty of time for the Lancers to respond. Less than a minute later, quarterback Will Fischer-Colbrie completed his lone pass of the night (he only threw three) to receiver Trillion Hebert for a 68-yard score.
St. Francis’ 28-14 lead didn’t last long. Paly’s Malcolm Davis returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
That’s as close as the game would get. The Vikings mustered only one first down in the second half, while St. Francis added touchdown runs by Andrighetto and Devin Hurtado, along with Fordham’s field goal for good measure.
2013 football: St. Francis High School vs. Palo Alto High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier