With a long string of success that includes making the NorCal finals last season and winning a state title in 2017, the St. Francis High football team isn’t big on moral victories.
But this season – in which the young Lancers have taken their lumps playing a brutal schedule – finding victory in defeat seems to have more value.
St. Francis found plenty of positives in Friday’s 35-21 home loss to undefeated Serra, which dropped the Lancers to 1-3 in the West Catholic Athletic League and 2-5 overall.
Coach Greg Calcagno said he was “100 percent pleased with the effort, just not the result,” applauding St. Francis for not giving up after falling behind 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
It’s that kind of resolve that has Calcagno believing that the Lancers’ season is far from over.
“The last couple years, knock on wood, we haven’t been in a situation like this, but we’re battling together as a team and nobody’s jumping off the boat,” he said. “We’re all rowing in the right direction, so we’re OK.”
Count senior receiver Joey Schott, who caught a pair of touchdown passes Friday, among those paddlers.
“We’re for sure all in,” he said. “We’re a really young team and at the beginning of the season, we weren’t the best together, but we’ve bonded really well and we’re getting better. I think we’re going to be a whole new team coming up these next four or five weeks.”
Graduation gutted St. Francis, which lost nine all-leaguers – including those voted the WCAL’s best player, linebacker and fullback – leaving quarterback Ryan Daly as the only returning starter at the skill positions. Daly missed the previous three games with a shoulder injury, replaced by Schott, and the senior signal-caller showed signs of rust Friday. He threw three interceptions, two of which led to Serra touchdowns in the first quarter.
But Daly also made a pair of textbook TD tosses to Schott, both to the right side of the end zone. The first came with 15 seconds left in the opening half when a soaring Schott plucked the pass out of the air just inside the goal line. The second occurred in the fourth quarter, a 14-yarder that – coupled with Nick Ritchie’s extra point – cut the Lancers’ deficit to 14 points with 2:10 remaining.
“That one was just a streak from a little farther out (than the first pass) and Ryan back-shouldered me,” Schott said. “We have that connection. … He’s one of my best friends and we practice that all the time, so we know he’s going to lead me or back-shoulder me.”
Daly finished 17-of-32 passing for 157 yards. Schott totaled a team-high six catches for 44 yards in his return to receiver.
“When Coach asked me to fill in at quarterback those three weeks, I knew Ryan was going to come back, but we never knew when, so I just had to switch my role right away and quickly change to quarterback,” said Schott, a QB as a freshman and sophomore. “It was hard this week because we didn’t know if Ryan was going to be back for sure, so the first few days (of practice) I was playing quarterback, then I switched to quarterback and receiver in the reps.”
Halfback Camilo Arquette accounted for St. Francis’ other touchdown, weaving his way into the end zone on a 16-yard run late in the third quarter. The sophomore racked up a game-high 126 yards on 23 carries.
The Lancers trailed 28-14 after the TD and PAT, which came with 3:04 left in the quarter.
The score remained that way until late in the fourth when the Padres sealed the win with a 53-yard TD run by Vince Poni. Damon Lewis’ extra point made it 35-14 with 2:57 to go.
Although St. Francis allowed five touchdowns, Calcagno was pleased with how his defense performed against a Serra squad averaging nearly 43 points per contest.
“It was outstanding,” he said. “They’ve been lighting up scoreboards, and 35 is more than we’re used to giving up anywhere, but I thought we did a good job against a team that’s as explosive as they are. (The defense) put us in good positions to compete.”
The Lancers forced a fumble early in the second quarter – recovered by cornerback Logan Espiritu – but they failed to take advantage of it. St. Francis went three-and-out, and the Padres (4-0 league, 7-0 overall) scored on their next possession to go up 21-0 with 6:38 left in the half.
St. Francis is slated to visit Mitty (3-1, 5-2) 7 p.m. Friday.