The St. Francis football team had been hearing all week about its defense. Coming into their game against Muir, the Golden Knights were allowing an average of 52.5 points a game. But St. Francis tuned all that out, buckled down and shut out Muir 41-0 in a nonleague game Friday night.
St. Francis coach Dean Herrington said the defensive improvement didn’t just start. He said it’s been ongoing despite the points allowed.
“The last two weeks you could see signs of us getting better and better, but then we’d give up the big play,” Herrington said.
St. Francis (2-3) forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, and didn’t give up any big plays against Muir (1-4). The Mustangs had one run of 21 yards and one pass of 20 yards and that was it.
“I thought the kids played hard,” Herrington said of his team. “We tackled a lot better in this game than we have all year so that was a nice sign.”
The defense set the tone early by holding Muir to a three-and-out on the game’s first drive. It then proceeded to only give up 151 total yards.
While the defense finally showed it can be stout, the offense continued to score plenty of points. The Golden Knights are now averaging 37 points a game led by quarterback Jack Jacobs. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 230 yards and five touchdowns.
Jacobs threw four of those touchdowns in the first half. He didn’t waste any time either. On St. Francis’ first possession of the game, and only its third play, he hit Hank Foley deep over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown strike to put St. Francis up 7-0.
Jacobs hit DruShun Phillips later in the quarter on a wide receiver screen that Phillips took to the end zone for a 20-yard score that put the Golden Knights up 13-0.
Jacobs threw up a fade in the end zone with 1:58 left in the second quarter that Jett McCullough caught on the left side for a 2-yard scoring pass that gave St. Francis a commanding 27-0 lead.
Jacobs and the St. Francis weren’t done before the half. The defense forced a Muir punt that gave St. Francis the ball at the Muir 48. Jacobs scrambled for 23 yards on the first play of the drive, then found McCullough over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown with 1:16 remaining that extended the Golden Knights’ lead to 34-0.
Muir had scoring opportunities in the first half but the Golden Knights defense forced three turnovers and stuffed the Mustangs on a fourth-down play. The first turnover was an interception by Jamie Lawyer in the first quarter at the St. Francis 42 that stalled a Muir drive.
The second turnover killed the Mustangs’ momentum midway through the second quarter. Muir had the ball at the 50 trailing 20-0 following a 15-yard run by Jachai Pulley and a facemask penalty on St. Francis. But an errant snap was recovered by Racin Delgatty at the Muir 46.
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The third turnover stopped Muir’s best scoring opportunity of the first half. The Mustangs got the ball with 1:16 left and moved down to the St. Francis 14 with 15 seconds remaining. But quarterback Brandon Valencia’s pass to the right side of the end zone was intercepted by McCullough when he leaped up in front of the receiver to come down with the ball.
Muir was led by Pulley on offense. He rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries. Alexander Miller caught four passes for 43 yards for the Mustangs while Mahki Clark caught four passes for 29 yards.
Herrington credited Muir.
“Coach Lance Mitchell is doing a great job and is going to get them going,” Herrington said. “I’m very impressed (with Muir). They play hard and I think they’re going to have some success down the road.”
Muir will face Arcadia in two weeks. St. Francis also plays in two weeks, taking on Paraclete.