The cannon placed in the corner of St. Francis High’s football stadium was primed to fire early and often Friday night against De La Salle. But the blast – which accompanies every Lancers touchdown – didn’t come until late in the third quarter and again in the fourth, with the game out of reach.
St. Francis fell to the nationally ranked Spartans 33-15 in a game in which De La Salle gave the Lancers opportunities just as quickly as they failed to capitalize on them. The St. Francis defense forced four turnovers, but the offense scored just once off of them.
“We have to take advantage of those turnovers,” Lancers coach Greg Calcagno said. “They certainly did on ours. That’s the frustrating part, but that’s why they are who they are.”
Although the cannon seldom fired, Friday’s game wasn’t devoid of fireworks. De La Salle’s Shamar Garrett had the type of game that turns recruiters’ heads: the junior rushed for 148 yards and two scores, and added an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Lancers (2-1 overall) found themselves with chances from the beginning. On the second play of the game, senior James Dinneen recovered a botched De La Salle snap at the Spartans’ own 19-yard line. But the De La Salle defense – led by top linebacker prospect Henry To’oto’o – refused to give, and in four plays the Lancers turned the ball over on downs.
“Henry is probably the best guy I’ve ever coached against,” Calcagno said. “He’s unbelievable. He flies everywhere. ... Anything we tried to do, he was right there.”
Four plays later, Garrett scampered up the right sideline for a 65-yard TD – the first score in a game in which St. Francis never led.
The Lancers threatened again before halftime, when an Evan Williams interception kicked off a drive that brought St. Francis to the De La Salle 16-yard line – a series that ended in Garrett’s monster interception touchdown.
St. Francis didn’t put points on the board until late in the third quarter when Williams hauled in a 30-yard TD toss from quarterback Jack Perry.
Williams was a bright spot for St. Francis. The senior receiver caught six passes for 113 yards and scored both of the Lancers’ touchdowns.
His second touchdown brought the score to 26-15 with 9:36 to go in the fourth quarter. St. Francis, now down by just 11 points, seemed to be on the verge of a comeback. But De La Salle (4-0) responded with a grueling 14-play drive that bled nearly seven minutes off the clock, effectively ending all hopes of a comeback win for St. Francis.
Although the Lancers didn’t come away with the win, Williams and his coach noted that at this point in the season, the team will learn from the experience.
“It always feels good to win, but I feel like these are the ones you learn from,” Williams said. “These are the bumps in the road that … you really benefit from.”
Calcagno added, “We competed against a very good team. We know we’ve got work to do, and that’s why you play those teams (like De La Salle).”
St. Francis has a bye this week and is scheduled to open West Catholic Athletic League play 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at home against St. Ignatius (0-3).