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Big game has playoff feeling for St. Francis

Football: Golden Knights in must-win scenario against St. Paul

Spartans look to thump Blair.

November 01, 2011|By Charles Rich and Andrew Shortall, charles.rich@latimes.com and andrew.shortall@latimes.com

With two games left in the regular season, St. Francis High Coach Jim Bonds said now is the perfect time to treat the rest of the regular season like the postseason. The Golden Knights are on the outside of the playoff bubble, the result of two Mission League losses against powerhouses Gardena Serra and Chaminade, the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Western Division poll.

St. Francis will conclude its arduous three-game road trip with a league game against St. Paul at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Golden Knights and Swordsmen are 6-2 and 1-2 in league and tied for third place. The top two teams from the league earn automatic playoffs spots, making Friday's game even more crucial for St. Francis and St. Paul.

"We are going to treat this just like a playoff game," said Bonds, whose team fell, 31-13, to Chaminade on Friday. "If we can win our last two games, then we are 8-2 and CIF will likely give us an at-large berth in the playoffs.

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"We have our work cut out for us once again and we are going to play in a tough place."

The Swordsmen and Golden Knights are ranked sixth and ninth, respectively, in the division. St. Paul suffered a 21-14 loss against Serra, ranked third in the division, on Friday.

St. Francis has won three games in a row against St. Paul, including a 40-10 home win last season at Friedman Field.

Veteran St. Paul Coach Marijon Ancich said the rivalry has grown since it began in the 1960s.

"You are talking about two schools with a lot of tradition and passion," said Ancich, who has guided St. Paul to three CIF titles over three stints totaling 37 years. "These are two teams that are intense and St. Francis looks good."

The Golden Knights will rely on the offensive trio of quarterback Jared Lebowitz, running back Austin De Los Santos and receiver Travis Talianko to gain the upper hand against St. Paul.

Lebowitz had mixed results against Chaminade, completing 18 of 44 passes for 207 yards. He tossed a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.

De Los Santos rushed for 97 yards in 18 carries and the San Jose State-bound Talianko grabbed six passes for 83 yards and one touchdown.

"Talianko will probably be the key," Ancich said. "They have a group of sturdy guys up front.

"They also have a lot of defensive and offensive combinations that we are going to need to be aware of. For us, our quarterback will need to perform for us to survive."

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