SAN MATEO — The recent trend of down-to-the-wire games between the Serra Padres and St. Francis Lancers came to a screeching halt on Saturday as the visitors from Mountain View came away with a decisive 42-7 win and their first outright WCAL title since 2003.
For Serra, it was the program’s most lopsided home defeat in WCAL play since the league was formed in 1967.
After Luke Bottari connected with Malakai Rango on an 18-yard touchdown to get Serra (6-4, 5-2) within seven points with 1:26 left in the first half, St. Francis took advantage of two pass interference calls and a key drive-extending targeting flag to get back into the red zone.
Facing third-and-18 at the Serra 38, a hit at the end of Opeti Fangupo’s three-yard run drew a targeting flag, giving the Lancers a fresh set of downs. After the second pass interference flag of the drive, Ryan Daly found Michael Leahy for a 10-yard touchdown to give St. Francis (9-1, 7-0) a two-score lead heading into halftime.
Getting the ball to start the third quarter, the Lancers wasted little time in breaking things open. Daly found Evan Williams deep over the middle for a 63-yard score, and after a quick Serra three-and-out, the pair connected again for a 70-yard touchdown. It was the final pass the Lancers would throw on the day.
A thunderous hit by St. Francis linebacker Tyler McCabe on a foiled double pass play would lead to yet another three-and-out, and then the Lancers went back to playing vintage Lancer football, covering 73 yards on an 11-play drive over 7:08, which finished on Andre Bishop’s 8-yard touchdown run.
With reserves in the game, Serra would finally get over the 100-yard mark on the day, over the course of the following drive. Backup quarterback Daylin McLemore, running back Jarrell Laulusa and wide receiver Cory Endo led the Padres down the field, but when the drive ended with a turnover on downs, it sealed the largest margin of defeat in a home WCAL game in Serra history.
The previous high at home was a 41-7 defeat at the hands of the Lancers in 1992, when Tom Brady was a sophomore on the junior varsity team. Their worst home loss in program history came in 1965 in the old Catholic Athletic League, a 60-0 beatdown from Bellarmine.
It hadn’t looked like such a lopsided game in the early going. The teams traded early punts, with the Lancers going three-and-out on their opening drive, but a Maurice Wilmer fumble recovery gave St. Francis the ball back at the Serra 35. With fourth-and-5 at the 30, the Lancers wouldn’t even need to snap the ball to get the first down as Serra went offsides, but it still took 11 plays to cover the 35 yards for the game’s opening score, which came on a Fangupo 1-yard run.
The teams traded three-and-outs to open the second quarter, but the Lancers recovered a muffed punt at the Serra 23 and opened up a two-score lead with 4:48 left in the first half on Daly’s 7-yard touchdown to Williams, the first of three connections on the day between the pair. All three of Williams’ catches were touchdowns, as he totaled 140 yards. Daly, who transferred last year from Sacred Heart Cathedral, completed 9-of-12 passes for 215 yards.
“He did a great job,” said Serra head coach Patrick Walsh. “It felt like he was 20-for-12. Every ball he threw was fantastic, and they’ve got great receivers.”
With St. Francis only needing four pass rushers behind a size advantage in the trenches, the defense was able to handle Serra’s quickness at the receiver positions. The short passes that usually turn into huge gains for the Padres were shut down quickly.
“They’re big, strong, fast and talented,” Walsh said. “They’re a total defense, and we couldn’t get any rhythm going.”
Though Bottari completed 12 of his 19 passes, only two went for more than 10 yards, and he threw for just 51 yards total, hampered by a loss of 11 on the double pass play in the third quarter.
“They’re a really good team, but we shot ourselves in the foot on special teams and offense,” Bottari said.
Of Serra’s three run plays to go for double-digit yards, two were on the final drive, which was played with a running clock.
The lone Serra scoring drive did feature a clever trick play. After a poor spot left the Padres with fourth-and-1 at their own 44, E.J. Lahlouh, a linebacker who gets the call for occasional short-yardage runs, didn’t plunge into the line, but instead connected with Owen Tapang on a jump pass for a 13-yard gain. That keyed Bottari’s touchdown to Rango, but any momentum from that drive was quickly taken back by St. Francis before halftime.
The late-game stop left St. Francis with just 23 points allowed over seven WCAL games.
“It’s hard to go 7-0 in this league, and they did it,” said Walsh, whose team went undefeated in WCAL play last year to win its first outright league title since 1969. “I tip my hat to the Lancers.”
The teams could meet again in Mountain View in just two weeks in the CCS Division II playoffs. Seedings and pairings will be released on Sunday.