SANTA FE SPRINGS — For a time, it seemed quite possible that the St. Francis High football team would honor its head coach, Jim Bonds, with a point for every victory in the veteran’s career.
With St. Francis having scored 50 points in the first half alone, such a feat seemed possible.
Even so, the Golden Knights delivered Bonds his 100th career victory in an absolute romp, 63-18, Friday evening in the Mission League opener at Monsignor Cranham Stadium.
“It’s neat to win 100, but it’s more about these kids and this coaching staff,” said Bonds, who replaced Bill Redell before the 2000 season and has compiled a 100-56 record.
“This is about the players who have come out of this program over the last 14 years. This is about a great coaching staff, guys like Joe Monarrez and Mark Gibbons, who have been there with me. I have to thank those guys and others who helped me along the way.”
The contest was all but over in the first quarter, as CIF Southern Section Western Division fourth-ranked St. Francis (6-0, 1-0) forced five of six total turnovers and led, 29-6.
Golden Knights junior defensive lineman Andy Cesta, who scored two defensive touchdowns, and sophomore defensive back Avery Williams proved catalysts for a dominant and opportunistic St. Francis defense.
Cesta was credited with a six-yard interception return for a touchdown on a pass from St. Paul’s Jacob Maier that wobbled after the quarterback was hit by Joe Mudie. The touchdown gave St. Francis the lead for good, 8-6, after a two-point conversion with 7:35 left in the first.
“I just tried my best to catch the ball,” Cesta said. “I wasn’t sure if I should just go down with it, so I’m happy I ran with it and scored.”
The Cesta score was part of a Golden Knights’ defensive avalanche, as St. Paul (0-6, 0-1) committed turnovers on four straight possessions, the second a fumble caused by Cesta that was recovered by Williams, but led to no points, and the third a 60-yard interception return touchdown from Williams.
The fourth turnover was a fumble recovered by Williams that led to a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ty Gangi (five for nine for 135 yards and two touchdowns) to John Carroll with 3:18 left in the first that put the Golden Knights ahead, 22-6.
After a St. Paul punt, St. Francis scored again in lightning fashion when Areg Nazarian turned a short gain into an electric 75-yard scoring run as he deked three defenders en route to the end zone. The touchdown gave St. Francis a 29-6 advantage with 19.8 seconds left.
Even though less than 20 seconds remained in the first quarter, the Golden Knights picked up their fifth takeaway when Mason Williams intercepted a pass and returned it to the Swordsmen’s’ 26 with 9.7 seconds left.
The turnover translated into a one-yard touchdown run, via a Statue of Liberty play, from Matt Gonzalez that gave St. Francis a 36-6 lead six seconds into the second quarter.
“We thought we matched up well with St. Paul and we could get after them,” Bonds said. “Nobody expects six turnovers, but it’s nice.”
St. Francis tacked on additional first-half scores on a 61-yard punt return touchdown from Gonzalez and a last-second 73-yard touchdown pass from Gangi to Dylan Crawford.
St. Francis’ 50 straight points were in response to St. Paul opening the game with a successful onside kick and then scoring on the first play on a 46-yard double-pass touchdown from Maier to Nicholas Delgado to Brandon Garcia.
Both the Swordsmen and Golden Knights added two touchdowns each in the second half, with St. Francis scoring a 19-yard fumble recovery touchdown from Cesta and a one-yard plunge from backup quarterback JT Ingram.