A hot start and a stressful finish delivered a Homecoming win for St. Anthony football at Clark Field on Friday night. The Saints scored the first three touchdowns of the night against visiting La Salle, and then held off a late charge by the Lancers in a 27-21 victory.
“We hung on,” St. Anthony coach Mario Morales said. “For us to get better as a team we have to win those big games, in those tough conditions late. Our guys made plays when they had to.”
St. Anthony running back Sone Aupiu scored a 54-yard touchdown on the second offensive play of the night for the home side. After La Salle muffed a punt, quarterback Lucas Lehmar connected with receiver Riley Jenkins on a perfect fade rout in the end zone on the very next play.
Senior linebacker Sam Korban picked off La Salle freshman quarterback Richard Munoz on the first play of the ensuing drive, and five plays later Lehmar snuck in from 4-yards out to give St. Anthony a 20-0 lead after running only eight offensive plays.
“It kind of reminded me of the opener here against Valley Christian,” Lehmar said. “We came out fast, excited and amped up for this game. It was good to get ahead, but we have to understand that it’s all gas and no breaks for the whole time. We need to keep that up for four quarters.”
La Salle got on the board late in the first quarter on a touchdown pass from Munoz to Giovanni Butteri. Both defenses then dominated the second quarter so the score stayed 20-7 until halftime. Korban, Ryan Norried, Justin Wilson, Devante’ Pollard, Cade Ignacio and Keali’i Tuufuli all made big plays for the Saints defense.
Lehmar led St. Anthony on a seven-play touchdown drive to start the third quarter. Aupiu capped it with his second score of the night, and fifth touchdown in two league games. He rushed for 157 yards on 19 carries.
It looked like the Saints would cruise to victory until Munoz found junior receivers Marcus Powe and Isaac Mora for second-half touchdowns on back-to-back drives. The freshman Munoz was 24-for-39 passing with 212 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Mora had a game-high 10 receptions for 67 yards.
St. Anthony was able to eat up nearly six minutes of the fourth quarter clock on the ensuing drive thanks to clutch runs by Lehmar, who finished with almost 200 all-purpose yards.
“We did a good job of holding the ball and getting yards,” Lehmar said. “I’m always ready to use my feet and I’ll take the ball any time (Morales) wants me to take it. I was just trying to get first downs and make plays.”
It looked like the Lancers would have one last chance to take the lead in the final minute, but a big pass play was called back on holding. La Salle was whistled for 11 penalties and over 100 yards.
St. Anthony (4-4, 2-0) travels to St. Genevieve for another league battle next week.
“Overall we’re feeling pretty good,” Lehmar said. “We just have to keep it up. We knew our preseason was tough, but it was preparing us for this and we know we can compete in this league. We just have to come out on top.”
If the Saints beat St. Genevieve that would set up a league championship game at St. Paul the following week.