One step forward, two steps back.
It was a constant theme on Saturday that defined Riordan’s performance in a 38-0 loss to St. Francis, the Crusaders’ fourth straight defeat and second in a row to finish with a running clock.
“Football is a game of rhythm and momentum, and we never really were able to get into a rhythm,” head coach Adhir Ravipati said. “We just didn’t do enough of the little things consistently, and we got worn out.”
Whether it was drive-killing penalties, turnovers or missed tackles, something went awry every time it looked like the Crusaders were about to make a push. Riordan (3-5, 1-4 West Catholic Athletic League) converted three straight first downs and caught a break when lineman Michael Langi recovered a fumble in the second quarter, but the hosts ended up punting on fourth-and-44 after a Brayden Ellis sack and three flags; one for a false start, one for an illegal forward pass and a third for unsportsmanlike conduct.
St. Francis (5-3, 4-1) avoided a trap game situation by punishing the Crusaders on the ground with the mix of Keala Keanaaina (12 carries-62 yards) and Bryce Luna (8 carries-108 yards), a 5-foot-6 spark plug of a junior who’s committed to wrestle at Army. There was never any fear of a letdown in between rivalry games against Valley Christian and Bellarmine as the Lancers led 17-0 at halftime and 31-0 after three quarters. Kamau Julien’s 3-yard touchdown broke the 35-point barrier and ensured that the final 11:18 would be played with a running clock.
Davion Smith ran six times for 55 yards and freshman quarterback Michael Mitchell Jr. finished the day 14-of-34 passing for 106 yards despite misfiring on his first seven attempts, the last of which was intercepted by Sawyer Hughes. The Lancers recorded all three takeaways on the day; Mack Mrowka intercepted Mitchell in the final minutes and Declan Quinn returned a Smith fumble for a 58-yard touchdown.
The Crusaders didn’t complete a pass until the first minute of the second quarter, by which time St. Francis led 10-0 on Christopher Han’s 39-yard field goal and Matt Dougherty Jr.’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Adkison. It was the only reception of the day for Adkison, who entered averaging 65.1 receiving yards per game.
“He’s a guy who really pops on film, and stopping him was definitely a big point of emphasis,” Ravipati said of Adkison.
The Lancers threw for just 66 yards on the day and were hampered in the passing game when Dougherty left with a head injury, but it hardly slowed them down as they averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Keanaaina took a screen pass from sophomore Aaron Knapp for an 11-yard score to extend the lead to 17-0, and Isaiah Tuiono’s 2-yard fullback dive made it 24-0 barely two minutes into the second half after Luna gained 45 yards on a toss.
Defensive tackle Mikatoa Scanlan was one of the few bright spots for Riordan, with two tackles for loss.
“He may not have all the measurables, but he’s one of the best linemen in the Bay Area,” Ravipati said. “He may not have the height that people are looking for in a top-tier lineman, but he plays like one.”
Zachary Jones looked fully up to speed in his third game back from an ankle injury, with six catches for 47 yards. Tyrone Jackson also had six catches, finishing with 43 yards.
Despite losing four straight games by a combined 120-20, including two by shutout, Riordan’s season is far from over. Should the Crusaders finish sixth or better in the WCAL, they’ll be headed to the Central Coast Section (CCS) Playoffs. Keeping a sense of optimism after getting soundly beaten by the league’s top two teams, though, is a challenge.
“They’ve been through the ringer the last couple weeks,” Ravipati said. “We’ve shown flashes of being able to play with those teams, but not consistency. Us being thin has contributed to that. The hardest thing for them is we’ve gotten better, but it’s hard for the guys to see the improvement they’ve made when it’s not showing up on the scoreboard.”
The Crusaders host Sacred Heart Cathedral (5-3, 3-2) at 2 p.m. next Saturday for the Stanfel Cup before finishing the regular season at St. Ignatius on Nov. 4 in a game that will likely decide the WCAL’s sixth and final playoff bid.
“One of the things we did in our Built for Life program was reading the book Pound the Stone, and we’re just telling them to keep swinging,” Ravipati said. “Keep pounding the stone. It’s gonna crack at some point.”
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