As the temperature dipped at Saturday night’s Central Coast Section Division II football final between St. Francis and Los Gatos highs, so did the Lancers’ offense.
After a stellar start, top-seeded St. Francis struggled to move the ball in the second half and the No. 2 Wildcats rallied for a 31-14 win at wintry Westmont.
“I don’t think we necessarily played a bad game – I honestly think it just came down to a couple of plays,” quarterback Will Fischer-Colbrie said. “I don’t think the score really reflects how good of a team we are.”
The defending champion Lancers (9-4) looked good early. They scored on the game’s opening drive, a string of successful runs highlighted by halfback Alex Andrighetto’s 32-yard scamper to the 1. The senior reached the end zone a play later.
St. Francis struck again just before halftime when Fischer-Colbrie plunged across the goal line on a 2-yard keeper. Patrick Fordham’s extra point pushed the Lancers’ advantage to 14-10 with 29 seconds remaining.
St. Francis carried that lead into the second half but not for long. On the second play from scrimmage, Los Gatos quarterback Nick Bawden heaved a 70-yard touchdown pass to speedy receiver Corey Olivet, beating one-on-one coverage in the middle of the field. That marked the longest play of the night, besting the 63-yard touchdown the pair combined for on a trick play in the second quarter.
The Wildcats’ 17-14 lead held up until the fourth quarter, with the Lancers failing to capitalize on a chance to tie the game. Facing a fourth-and-two situation at the Los Gatos 19, St. Francis opted for a 36-yard field goal attempt with 2:41 left in the third. Fordham’s kick was blocked at the line of scrimmage and the Wildcats recovered at their own 6.
This led to a devastating drive by Los Gatos (10-3), eager to avenge last year’s 17-0 loss to the Lancers in the CCS final on the same Westmont field.
Behind tough running by bruising halfback Joey Wood (137 total yards rushing) and five passes for first downs by Bawden (13 of 25 passing for 281 yards), the Wildcats marched 94 yards on 17 plays. They scored on Bawden’s 1-yard keeper, with the extra point extending the lead to 24-14 with 7:34 to play.
With time winding down, St. Francis had little choice but to pass – and Los Gatos knew it. They came after Fischer-Colbrie, who didn’t attempt a pass in the first quarter and completed only one in the second, sacking him on back-to-back plays on the Lancers’ next series to force a punt.
“We rely so heavily on our run,” said Fischer-Colbrie, who finished 8 of 16 passing for 96 yards. “I think our passing attack is extremely capable, but we just didn’t come up with big plays.”
Los Gatos scored eight plays later on a 9-yard run by Wood, leaving St. Francis with only 2:16 to overcome a 17-point deficit.
The Lancers produced half of their six first downs in the second half on the ensuing drive, their last of the game. Fischer-Colbrie completed five straight passes during the series – four to receiver Trillion Hebert – before St. Francis turned the ball over on downs.
After a few kneel downs to run out the clock, the Los Gatos celebration began. The Wildcats – winners of 10 of their last 11 games – were in no hurry to leave the field, despite the 39-degree temperature.
“Hats off to Los Gatos,” Fischer-Colbrie, said. “They’re a great team and they’ve had an extremely successful season – especially the second half. I played them for three years at Mountain View, so I know what they’re capable of.”
Fischer-Colbrie, who transferred to St. Francis from Mountain View this year, is proud of what the Lancers accomplished this season under new head coach Greg Calcagno– even if it didn’t culminate in the championship.
“There’s been such a huge learning process and we’ve come so far, especially with some really close losses to some of the best West Catholic (Athletic League) teams,” the quarterback said. “It’s coach Calcagno’s first year and he’s got a really bright future ahead of him for his career. ... It was a great season.”
2013 football: St. Francis High School vs. Los Gatos High School in the CIF Division II Finals - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier