Lancers get back on winning track

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
St. Francis High linebacker Tyler McCabe tackles Sacred Heart Cathedral quarterback Will Irons Friday night.

Friday’s football game between St. Francis High and Sacred Heart Cathedral showed that records can be deceiving. Although the Lancers came into the contest 2-2 and the Fightin’ Irish were 4-0, it didn’t take St. Francis long to establish that it was the superior squad.

The host Lancers crushed Cathedral 45-17, building a big enough lead by halftime to sit starting quarterback Reed Vettel for the rest of the West Catholic Athletic League game.

Running back Darrell Page joined Vettel on the sideline after carrying the ball on the first play from scrimmage in a second half that began with St. Francis ahead 38-10. The 2-yard run put Page at 155 yards rushing. The junior also scored a pair of touchdowns.

“Darrell’s explosive,” St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno said. “He bounced one outside where there really wasn’t much there.”

That was on a 73-yard touchdown dash that broke a 3-3 tie midway through the opening quarter. Page changed direction in the backfield, slipped a tackle at the line of scrimmage and veered right as he outran the defense to the end zone.

On most of Page’s runs, the Lancers’ offensive line opened holes wide enough for him to shoot through for big gains. Page had five runs of 10 yards or more. Guard Tyler Manoa played a prominent role in that, but the senior was quick to credit his teammates.

“I’ve got to give it up to everybody else,” he said. “We all work as a team. That’s all we really want to do – just work as a team and get these wins.”

The game marked St. Francis’ first win in nearly a month. After a 2-0 start to the season, the Lancers dropped back-to-back games – with a bye week in between them.

“We just wanted to get that bad taste out of our mouths after losing two in a row,” Manoa said. “This week we wanted to get that taste out and come out victorious.”

Although the Fightin’ Irish hadn’t tasted defeat before Friday, their schedule wasn’t nearly as tough as St. Francis’. The Lancers fell to nationally ranked De La Salle (5-1) before losing their league opener to vaunted Valley Christian (4-1). Only one of Cathedral’s victories came against a team that has a winning record.

But the Fightin’ Irish have excelled in the passing game all season and even did so in the first half Friday. They racked up 240 yards through the air by halftime.

“We definitely haven’t seen a team like this – we’ve seen some good run teams,” Calcagno said. “But we think we can rush the passer pretty well. We know they’ll hit some on us, but we’ve just got to stay in our lanes and keep doing what we’re supposed to do.”

The Lancers made it difficult for Cathedral quarterback Will Irons to do what he wanted do. They sacked him three times and intercepted three of his passes.

“This whole week, our defensive coaching staff told us that we can’t get up the field too much – stay along the line of scrimmage and look for those little screens and stuff,” said Manoa, an all-league defensive tackle who disrupted the Fightin’ Irish offense on several plays. “That was crucial.”

The St. Francis defense came up with back-to-back turnovers in the second quarter that the offense cashed in for touchdowns. Linebacker Joshua Pakola sacked Irons for the second time, causing a fumble recovered by defensive tackle Dante Giusti at Cathedral’s 18. Page crossed the goal line three plays later on a 1-yard plunge.

Two plays later, defensive back Christopher Senteno made a diving interception of an Irons’ pass at the Fightin’ Irish’s 27. Vettel soon turned that into an 18-yard touchdown to receiver Michael Leahy on a pass over the middle. Alessandro Maiulo’s extra point gave St. Francis a 38-3 advantage with 4:16 remaining in the half.

The Lancers are set to visit St. Ignatius (1-1 WCAL, 1-4 overall) 2 p.m. Saturday in San Francisco.

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