By Chris Burton / Town Crier Editorial Intern
The St. Francis High football team wouldn’t let history repeat itself Saturday. (Dec. 16). Two years after falling short in the state Division 2-A final, the Lancers took care of business this time, defeating Grace Brethren 22-13 for the program’s first-ever state championship.
“We were so close (two years ago), and in the same situation this year, we were able to get it done,” St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno said. “It means a ton.”
Senior quarterback Reed Vettel started both state title games for St. Francis, as a sophomore in 2015 and as a senior Saturday at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium. His coach said Vettel’s veteran experience – in the 2015 state championship game and over two years as St. Francis’ starting quarterback – proved valuable Saturday afternoon.
“Pretty good to have us play in two state championship games, and have Reed start both of them as our quarterback,” Calcagno said. “I think he’s just gotten better and better.”
Vettel threw two touchdown passes Saturday, both to receiver Evan Williams.
St. Francis (11-4 overall) found itself in a hole early. Freshman Seven McGee’s 43-yard rushing touchdown capped Grace Brethren’s first drive, and St. Francis struggled to move the ball, amassing only 30 yards of offense in the first quarter.
As the cliché goes in football, though, the best offense is a good defense. The St. Francis defense, led by seniors Lucas Andrighetto and Tyler Manoa, made two key stops early in the second quarter, not allowing Grace Brethren (Simi Valley) to pass their own 29-yard line on either drive. Capitalizing on starting field position well within Grace Brethren territory, St. Francis quickly struck for two touchdowns – a 29-yard pass from Vettel to junior Williams and a 1-yard run by junior fullback Opeti Fangupo.
Although his 26-yard rumble helped set up that latter touchdown, halfback Darrell Page, a staple of the St. Francis offense this season, was largely held in check. The junior, who broke St. Francis’ single-season rushing record this year, tallied 88 yards on 25 carries Saturday.
“It’s more of a credit to Grace Brethren and their guys than anything,” Calcagno said. “We knew it was going to be a battle… We did throw the ball a little bit off play action, and because we give (Page) the ball so much, it opens up play action a lot.”
After halftime, St. Francis’ defense continued its dominance. Grace Brethren (13-3 overall) didn’t score after a touchdown in the second quarter, and was held under 50 yards of offense in the entire second half.
“We’re pretty darn good defensively. That’s where we focus in our program,” Calcagno said. “Lucas Andrighetto, as a senior, he had a heck of a game. He had the pick at the end that sealed it for us.”
Andrighetto, Vettel, Manoa and the rest of St. Francis’ seniors can hold their heads high. The win was a fitting send-off to a group who has been an integral part of the team’s success.
“I think this is huge for (our seniors),” Calcagno said. “You’re a winner…You won the biggest thing you could when you were a senior in high school.”