From Top Clockwise: Blake Howard, Darius Perrantes, Elijah Washington, Isaac Cordova, Gabriel Grbavac, Kevin Armstead, Coach Jim Bonds, Greg Dulcich. By BRIAN REED-BAIOTTO, Sports Editor St. Francis is facing arguably their most balanced opponent of the season when they host Rancho Verde Friday night at 7, and with the CIF-SS Division 3 title at stake. […]
From Top Clockwise: Blake Howard, Darius Perrantes, Elijah Washington, Isaac Cordova, Gabriel Grbavac, Kevin Armstead, Coach Jim Bonds, Greg Dulcich.
By BRIAN REED-BAIOTTO, Sports Editor
St. Francis is facing arguably their most balanced opponent of the season when they host Rancho Verde Friday night at 7, and with the CIF-SS Division 3 title at stake.
And the Golden Knights would have it no other way.
If they are to earn the school’s first CIF title in 53 years, to a man, they’d tell you they want to face the most difficult opponent to reach championship level status.
And the numbers in this match up are almost identical when it comes to the two programs.
St. Francis has outscored Rancho Verde by 11 total points over the entire 2017 season, and the Golden Knights defense has allowed just 3 points less than the Mustangs.
They have one opponent in common, as Citrus Hill defeated Rancho Verde, 21-13, in Week 3, and St. Francis downed the Hawks, 30-20, in the quarterfinal round, and on the road.
Since that loss, though, Rancho Verde has won 9 straight games and by a total margin of 445-123, including last week’s 41-22 victory over top-seeded Charter Oak.
On the prep site, MaxPreps, Rancho Verde is ranked No. 36 in the state and St. Francis is 38.
The prep site CalPreps, who makes projections for every game all season, predicts Rancho Verde will win by a score of 33-31.
But thankfully for St. Francis, computer nerds don’t decide or alter games.
Whether the Golden Knights soar or crash, the only two to determine the D3 championship will be the St. Francis and Rancho Verde players.
In fact, the Golden Knights themselves are playing their best, most consistent and disciplined football of the season, and at the perfect moment.
Darius Perrantes is coming off a game in which he went 21 of 24 for 300 yards, and he threw 5 TD passes and ran for two more.
Perrantes now has 26 TD’s to 6 interceptions on the season.
Greg Dulcich has been nothing short of incredible lately, as the captain has 16 catches for 300 yards in just the past two playoff wins alone.
Dulcich enters Friday’s contest with 46 catches for 1,042 yards and 11 TD’s.
Blake Howard has 33 catches for 518 yards and 6 TD’s.
Isaac Cordova has been great all season, but last week’s pair of receiving TD’s and a fumble recovery played huge.
Cordova has 24 catches for 450 yards and 4 TD’s, while Andrew Monarrez is a big contributor with 24 receptions for 407 yards and 3 TD’s.
The Golden Knights’ rushing attack is led by senior captain Elijah Washington and his tag-team partner, Kevin Armstead.
Washington has 164 carries for 1,002 yards and 16 TD’s. He’s also caught 20 passes for 329 yards and two scores.
Armstead has gained 566 yards on 88 carries, and he’s scored 12 TD’s.
Defensively, Blake Howard leads the way with 65 tackles, Gabriel Grbavac is second with 60 tackles and Kevin Armstead has a team-best 5 interceptions, while Bobby Gazmarian has picked off three passes.
Howard and Grbavac have 4 sacks apiece to lead St. Francis.
And when it comes to special teams, Howard’s punts and kickoffs have been a huge advantage for the Golden Knights, and Nico Boschetti’s 7 of 8 field-goal attempts make them a very complete unit in the third phase of the game.
For Rancho Verde, offensively, Brock White leads the Mustangs.
The sophomore quarterback has completed 177 of 293 passes for 2, 734 yards.
He’s thrown for 35 TD’s and has picked 6 times. He averages 210 yards per game.
Running back Xavier Ugorji has carried the ball 106 times for 1,195 and 14 TD’s.
He has season long (run) of 85 yards, and he averaged 150 yards per game.
The Mustangs ground game has combined for 2,540 rushing yards and 34 TD’s.
Jasiah Richard-Lewis is the Rancho Verde go-to receiver.
The senior has 49 receptions for 822 yards and 15 TD’s.
Jaxen Turner leads the Mustangs defensive backfield with a team-high 6 interceptions and he also has a team-best 80 tackles.
St. Francis, playing in its first title game since 1964 expects a huge crowd and suggests to its fans to get to the game early.
The home-field advantage could very well be an x-factor that puts St. Francis into the title of ‘slight favorite’ for this huge match up.
If the Golden Knights don’t turn the ball over like they haven’t the last two playoff games, and if they limit mistakes and do not commit any personal fouls, St. Francis will go home Friday night as the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 champions.
St. Francis coach Jim Bonds: “Rancho Verde is a very well-rounded team. They run the ball well, pass the ball well, and play great defense. I guess that’s why they’re in the CIF championship. We need to take advantage of any mistakes they might make in coverage or alignment. They like to pressure their opponents with different blitz packages so we will need to be ready for the test. There is definitely a different buzz around campus this week. Everyone is excited and can’t wait for the game Friday night. We are expecting a great turn out. Friedman Field should be a great atmosphere Friday night. We need to play great team football like we have the last two weeks. Anyone is capable of stepping up and being the difference at any time throughout the game. You never know when those key plays are going to take place throughout the course of the game, so we all need to stay focused and be at our best.”
SF captain Matt Barriga: “I think up front, the key is to really just do our jobs and don’t try to do too much. We are a solid unit and we all have the trust to know that we will get our jobs done.”
SF captain Greg Dulcich: “For receivers, we have to run deceptive routes and make big plays happen down field, and definitely get some runs after the catch.”
SF captain Elijah Washington: “I feel like our running game is going to be strong against any team. Kevin and I are a strong duo and without our speed and strength, we are a huge aspect to the game. We feel like our line can get the job done, and we just have to run through the holes.”
By The Numbers:
Records: St. Francis 12-1; Rancho Verde 11-2
League: St. Francis: 2nd in Angelus; Rancho Verde: Inland Valley League champs.
Points Scored: St. Francis 575; Rancho Verde 564
Points Allowed: St. Francis 217; Rancho Verde 220
40-Point Games (Offensively): St. Francis 8; Rancho Verde 9
High Points: St. Francis 77 (vs Harvard-Westlake); Rancho Verde 75 (vs Canyon Springs)
St. Francis Home Record: 6-1
Rancho Verde Road Record: 4-2
Current Win Streak: St. Francis 3; Rancho Verde 9
CIF-SS Division 3 Poll: St. Francis 5; Rancho Verde 6
Rancho Verde Schedule-Results:
August 25: Rancho Verde 45, Redondo Union 25
September 1: Rancho Verde 42, Carter 16
September 8: Burroughs 33, Rancho Verde 19
September 15: Citrus Hill 21, Rancho Verde 13
September 29: Rancho Verde 18, King 10
October 6: Rancho Verde 75, Canyon Springs 0
October 13: Rancho Verde 65, Valley View 28
October 20: Rancho Verse 42, Arlington 0
October 27: Rancho Verde 76, Riverside Poly 28
November 3: Rancho Verde 45, JW North 0
November 10: Rancho Verde 28, Oak Hills 8
November 17: Rancho Verde 55, Hart 27
November 24: Rancho Verde 41, Charter Oak 22
December 1: Rancho Verde at St. Francis at 7
St. Francis Schedule-Results:
August 31: St. Francis 48, Mira Costa 21
September 8: St. Francis 42, Pasadena 0
September 15: St. Francis 49, La Serna 20
September 22: St. Francis 49, Saugus 20
September 29: St. Francis 39, Buena Park 14
October 6: St. Francis 24, St. Paul 7
October 13: St. Francis 49, La Salle 16
October 20: St. Francis 69, Salesian 0
October 26: St. Francis 77, Harvard-Westlake 27
November 3: Cathedral 28, St. Francis 16
November 10: St. Francis 31, La Serna 27
November 17: St. Francis 30, Citrus Hill 20
November 24: El Toro at St. Francis at 7
December 1: Rancho Verde at St. Francis at 7 in CIF-SS Division 3 championship