SAN JOSE—St. Francis High was selected as the final team to earn an at-large bid for this year’s Central Coast Section football playoffs.
The underdog Sharks—which they’re used to hearing by now—was awarded the No. 5 seed in the Division IV field, hoping to get back to the title game after last year’s successful postseason run.
However, the season came to a close for them following a 31-10 loss to No. 4 Santa Teresa in Friday night’s quarterfinals.
Despite the early exit, senior quarterback Kyle Dyer said it was a great year after they jumped from the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Santa Lucia Division up to the Cypress.
“We were able to compete to the hardest of our capability and get better each and every week,” Dyer said.
The Sharks finished with a 9-2 overall record and they were runner-up to Soledad in PCAL’s Cypress Division, going 5-1 in league play.
Santa Teresa (6-5, 2-3)—fourth place finisher in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Mt. Hamilton Division—advances to the D-IV semifinals against top-seeded Sequoia.
The Ravens survived a scare after edging No. 8 Overfelt in a 51-50 double overtime win Friday night.
Dyer, who completed 12-of-29 pass attempts for 82 yards and threw one interception late in the game, credited Santa Teresa for playing a good all-around ball game.
He mentioned the defense is big up front, which gave the Sharks issues running the ball throughout the evening.
“They brought those middle linebackers down a couple of times and they’d stop the run,” he said. “They were pretty good on the [run, pass, option] we have on our run play, they brought the middle linebacker and they covered that, too.”
The Saints’ defense held senior running back Diego Wolfe—who came in with a team-leading 733 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns—to 64 yards on 26 carries and forced him to lose a fumble in the fourth quarter.
He was also held out of the end zone for the first time since St. Francis’ non-league win against Stevenson on Sept. 3. The Sharks finished with 119 yards rushing on 43 carries.
“If we execute then we have a chance,” St. Francis coach John Ausman said. “We didn’t completely execute and good teams take advantage of that.”
Ausman said he was worried the Saints would also go big in the big packages on offense and begin running the ball, which they did in the second half.
“That was a good adjustment but we felt like we had a good game plan,” he said. “We were confident, we have a good team. I think it was two good teams going at it.”
Ausman mentioned there were a couple of situations where things didn’t bounce their way, including a no-call on what he believed was a holding penalty in the third quarter.
The Saints converted a 4th-and-goal situation when senior quarterback Jayden Arevalo connected with senior receiver Noah Gardere for a touchdown.
“Besides the officiating, which for the most part, the whole game was very clean,” he said.
Arevalo completed 6-of-9 pass attempts for 116 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, including a 42-yard strike to Jeffrey Kerr just a little more than a minute into the game.
“It was a designed hitch and go,” Arevalo said. “There was the pressure, but I knew my guy was going to beat the other guy. I trusted [Kerr] and put it out there.”
Arevalo was drilled by the Sharks’ defensive line, but he managed to stay in the pocket long enough to connect with Kerr for the opening score. Kerr finished with two receptions for 55 yards.
St. Francis responded right back with an 18-play, 76-yard drive capped off with a 1-yard touchdown by junior Gavin Valencia that tied the score at 7-all.
After a hot start, both offenses began to sputter including three-straight punts for the Sharks and a pair of three-and-outs for the Saints.
The Sharks’ defense came alive late in the first half starting with one sack by Valencia that forced Santa Teresa to punt.
Wolfe added one more sack after taking down Arevalo at their own 37-yard line to stall a Saints’ drive just before halftime.
Santa Teresa was able to add three points, however, with a 25-yard field goal from senior Casey Carr that gave them a 10-7 lead at the break.
“We felt great after that first drive, we didn’t execute a lot of the plays we had,” Dyer said. “They did a hell of a job adjusting and we just made a couple mistakes on offense, that’s it.”
Late in the third quarter, Arevalo connected with Gardere on a quick bubble screen for a 6-yard score, putting the Saints ahead 17-7 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
St. Francis answered with a promising drive and was in position to score from the red zone. Instead, the drive stalled and they settled for a 26-yard field goal by senior Gabriel Rivera-Corona that cut the deficit at 17-10.
And just as St. Francis was starting to gain some momentum, the Saints stole it right back in a matter of seconds.
On the ensuing kickoff, Senior defensive back Richard Salazar found an open hole and broke a couple of tackles down the sideline for an 85-yard return into the end zone.
“It’s a close one, we get that field goal and now we’re down by a touchdown,” Ausman said. “And then 24-10, just like that. That’s huge to go from one touchdown to two.”
Senior running back Evan Smith had 22 yards on seven carries, but none of them was more important than a touchdown from 1-yard out that sealed the deal late in the fourth quarter.
“We played unselfishly in this game and it’s a team effort overall, everybody got each other’s backs,” Arevalo said.
Fellow teammate Joshua Reyes finished with a team-high 63 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Ausman said something that plagued them toward the end of the season was they didn’t have a full edge execution like they have in the past.
The Sharks fought all the way through just like they have all season long. Yet, in the end they wound up chasing points, which is always difficult against a good team, Ausman said.
“Wins or losses, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m just going to miss my boys. I spend a lot of time with them…they’re as important as my family.”
Central Coast Section Football Scoreboard
Aptos 38, Christopher 7
Santa Teresa 31, St. Francis 10