After suffering their third straight loss to start the season against Millikan last Friday, the St. Anthony Saints met for their usual Saturday practice. Every player showed up and first-year coach Raul Lara said the staff challenged the kids to focus in the weight room and pay attention to details.
Following their best week of practice during the Lara tenure, the Saints picked up their first win of the year on Thursday, beating Wilson, 23-13, to secure their first “Battle for 7th Street” trophy since 2017.
“These kids have been working hard,” said Lara, who earned his first win as the Saints coach. “We had a humbling situation the last three weeks (outscored 126-23).”
St. Anthony’s defense, in particular its defensive line and senior Eric Suluai, pressured the Bruins all night and held them to 23 carries for four yards.
“We have a lot of dogs on defense,” said Saints senior wide receiver Kweku “Q” Claybrook. “They were making a lot of adjustments.”
The Saints (1-3) also may have found their quarterback as senior Conor Hochberg took all the snaps at quarterback after splitting with senior Jacob Martinez during the first three weeks.
Lara said the team was waiting for someone to “rise” to be the number one receiver and Claybrook is becoming that guy.
He had three receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
St. Anthony moved the ball on its opening drive, going nearly 70 yards on a drive that was mostly run-centric (11 of first 15 plays were runs) but stalled on a 4th-and-goal incompletion.
Wilson (0-3) was held to three total yards in the first quarter and St. Anthony got a safety on a high-snap on fourth down late in the quarter and led 2-0 after one.
After Bruins junior defensive back Dominque Carter recovered a fumble, senior quarterback Alexander McLaurin connected with sophomore running back Dejon Harold on a screen pass. Harold ran 60 yards nearly untouched as Wilson took a 7-2 lead with 9:47 remaining in the half.
McLaurin injured his right leg in the third quarter and did not return.
St. Anthony junior running back Anakin Aupiu scored on a 13-yard run with a little over four minutes left in the half and Claybrook caught a 42-yard touchdown pass three minutes later and the Saints led 17-7 at half.
“We were tired of losing and we lost to Wilson our freshman year and wanted the trophy back,” Claybrook said. “We stepped it up.”
The Hochberg-Claybrook duo connected for a 33-yard touchdown early in the third as St. Anthony increased its lead to 16.
“He just looked at me and said “go”,” Claybrook said about the touchdown. “It’s our play.”
Sophomore quarterback Ian Bond found senior tight end Joshua Scott for a 33-yard touchdown late in the game for the Bruins.
St. Anthony is at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy next Friday while Wilson hosts Compton.