NORTH HOLLYWOOD — Trailing by 26 points with less than 11 minutes remaining, the St. Francis High football team finally got back on track.
A couple of recovered onside kicks led to two touchdowns. And the Golden Knights had one last chance to complete a miraculous comeback, but saw their bid fall short in the closing seconds.
“It was a valiant effort and they fought to the end,” said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team suffered a 41-36 road Mission League loss against Harvard-Westlake on Friday night. “We tried our hardest to get back into the game and continued to move the chains, but we fell a little short.”
St. Francis, ranked No. 8 in the latest CIF Southern Section Western Division poll, dropped to 3-4, 0-2 in league. Harvard-Westlake, which beat St. Francis for the first time since 1992, won its sixth game in a row to improve to 6-1, 2-0.
Harvard-Westlake got six touchdown passes from quarterback Chad Kanoff, including four to Clinton Hooks and two to Garrett Robinson to build a seemingly comfortable 41-15 lead early in the fourth quarter. Kanoff completed 36 of 46 passes for 384 yards.
The Golden Knights, who have lost their four games by a combined 18 points, didn't fold.
St. Francis quarterback Jared Lebowitz tried to rally the Golden Knights. He threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Gonzalez to bring St. Francis to within 41-22 with 6:59 remaining.
Matt Bayle recovered Mark Verso's onside kick at the St. Francis 48-yard line before Lebowitz tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez with 6:29 remaining. Lebowitz then connected with Tommy Scheper on the two-point conversion to make it 41-30.
JT Ingram of St. Francis recovered Verso's ensuing onside kick at the Harvard-Westlake 47-yard line. Daniel Kawamura scored on a two-yard run to bring the Golden Knights to within 41-36 with 3:56 left. The Golden Knights failed on the two-point conversion.
St. Francis stopped the Wolverines, ranked No. 5 in the division, on their next drive and took over at its own 21 with 1:30 remaining. However, St. Francis’ bid to complete the comeback stalled at the Harvard-Westlake 40- yard line with 10 seconds left.
Lebowitz completed 32 of 56 passes for 366 yards and tossed three touchdown passes.
Harvard-Westlake took a 7-0 lead when Hooks caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Kanoff with 5:22 remaining in the first half.
Lebowitz then scored on an 80-yard keeper and Ty Gangi tossed a pass to John Carroll to give the Golden Knights an 8-7 advantage with 32 seconds left in the first stanza.
Robinson caught a 20-yard pass from Kanoff to give the Wolverines a 14-8 lead with 6:32 remaining in the second quarter. Kanoff lofted an 11-yard touchdown pass to Hooks to extend the lead to 21-8 with 1:10 left in the first half.
The Wolverines, who entered Friday's contest 0-11-1 against the Golden Knights since 1992, made it 27-8 when Robinson caught a 12-yard pass from Kanoff with 7:14 left in the third quarter. St. Francis cut the deficit to 27-15 when Lebowitz tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Scheper with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter.
Hooks, who caught 11 passes for 136 yards, gave the Wolverines a 34-15 lead when he grabbed a 12-yard pass from Kanoff with 1:49 remaining in the third stanza.
“Their quarterback did a good job directing traffic and smelling out our blitzes,” said Bonds, whose team will next face visiting Gardena Serra in a league home game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.