Finishing strong: Lancers beat Bellarmine to cap football season

Arona Mata’u
R. Alan Hwang/Special to the Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Arona Mata’u returns an interception for a touchdown in Saturday’s 38-20 win over rival Bellarmine.

Delayed nearly a month for coronavirus-related reasons, Saturday’s showdown between rivals St. Francis High and Bellarmine was the final football game of a shortened season that ended a week earlier for the rest of the Central Coast Section. For St. Francis, it was worth the wait.

The host Lancers beat the Bells 38-20 behind stellar play from their offense, defense and special teams.

“Playing your rivals at the end of the year at home – and we were the only guys playing tonight – it was great, especially for our seniors,” said St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno, whose team finished the season 3-2. “And they played well. That was fun.”

Maybe not so fun for Bellarmine, however, which lost the annual game known as The Holy War for the fifth consecutive time. The Bells (2-3) turned the ball over three times, with each interception leading to a St. Francis score.

Lancers defensive back Anay Nagarajan came up with the first pick, diving to snare a short pass by Tommy Anderson on Bellarmine’s initial play from scrimmage.

Starting at the Bellarmine 27-yard line, the St. Francis offense needed just four plays to score the first touchdown of the West Catholic Athletic League game. Running back Camilo Arquette cut left and dashed into the end zone from 16 yards out.

The junior added two more plays to his highlight reel before the quarter was over. Arquette rushed for an 11-yard touchdown on the Lancers’ next drive – reversing field to reach the left side of the end zone untouched – and then on defense dove to intercept a tipped pass just seconds later.

With another short field (the Bells’ 23), St. Francis added to its lead four plays later when receiver Johnny Tarantino caught a 13-yard pass from quarterback Joshua Perry in the back-left corner of the end zone.

“We were running this bubble scheme and we noticed that the corners were coming up, so we thought it would be a good play – kind of like a fake block and go for a touchdown,” said Tarantino, who earlier in the day went 2-for-3 with an RBI in St. Francis’ 12-1 rout of Bellarmine in baseball. “Once we noticed that, we knew it would be wide open.”

Matthew Karic’s extra point extended the lead to 21-0 with 10:59 left in the second quarter.

The Bells cut their deficit to 21-13 early in the third quarter, but that’s as close as they would get. Arquette – who had just blocked Bellarmine’s extra-point try– returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to set up another St. Francis touchdown. Starting at the Bells’ 11, St. Francis breached the goal line on halfback Adonis Hernandez’s 5-yard run to the left side.

“It all starts with the big guys up front,” Calcagno said of his offensive line. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can handle the ball behind them, too.”

Entering the fourth quarter up 28-13, St. Francis consumed nearly seven minutes of clock with an 11-play drive culminating in Karic’s 39-yard field goal that just cleared the crossbar.

The Lancers sealed the victory less than a minute later when linebacker Arona Mata’u returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown.

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