St. Anthony head coach Raul Lara knew his team was in for a tough test on Thursday night in their season opener. The Saints were hosting the San Pedro Pirates–among the pre-season favorites in the LA City Section–at a neutral site game hosted at St. Pius X – St. Matthias Academy in Downey.
The Pirates imposed their will in a 42-0 victory, spoiling Lara’s coaching debut at St. Anthony. But even with the loss, Lara took positives from his team’s performance as he looks to build up a young program with a thin roster.
“Tonight obviously revealed a lot of stuff that we have to really work on,” said Lara after the game. “One is our conditioning needs to be a whole lot better. I haven’t had enough time with them to really work on their conditioning, the execution, just the simple stuff. So right now we have a lot of things to work on. But now we know where we’re at, and then we just build from there.”
St. Anthony was unable to find its rhythm on offense, playing without a few starters on the offensive line and also suffering some key injuries mid-game. Standout wide receiver Dre’londe Johnson was injured on the game’s opening drive and running back Daniel Franklin exited in the second quarter with an injury of his own.
Sone Aupiu was his typical hard-running self, but had a tough time finding running lanes against a swarming Pirates defense. Aupiu carried the ball 17 times for 59 yards to lead the Saints attack.
He and cousin Anakin Aupiu helped lead the Saints on defense as well; Anakin had three tackles for loss from his linebacker spot. Darius Davis and Eric Suluai also chipped in sacks for the Saints defense while Ryan Norried added a fumble recovery.
San Pedro’s offense went through quarterback Aidan Jackson, who was 13/17 passing for 145 yards and three passing touchdowns. He also ran the ball three times for 23 yards and another score. Running back Roman Sanchez ran for 60 yards on eight carries with a pair of touchdowns, including a 44-yard TD scamper on the first play of the second quarter.
The visiting offense also benefited from terrific field position in the first half as the game was tilted in San Pedro’s favor. There were no plays run in the Pirates’ half of the field in the first 20+ minutes of game time, when San Pedro had already taken a 29-0 lead.
Overall, Lara was pleased with his team’s effort throughout the game, even though the scoreboard wasn’t in their favor.
“That’s one thing we always talk about, I want you guys to give me 100 percent,” said Lara of his team’s effort. “The coaches and myself, we really tried to encourage the kids even though it wasn’t a very favorable score for us. But these kids since we got here, have made a drastic change, it’s just gonna take time. I haven’t been here long enough. But again, no excuses. I need to do a better job to prepare these kids for these games.”
St. Anthony will get back on the field next Thursday night at Mayfair, while San Pedro continues its season at Eagle Rock.