The St. Anthony football team had one way to guarantee a playoff spot – beat Harvard Westlake Friday night in the regular season finale.
The Saints (6-4, 3-1) did just that as they defeated the Wolverines 53-23 to secure a second-place finish in the Del Rey League and playoff spot.
Senior Sone Aupiu was a heavy component of that victory as he rushed for 294 yards and four touchdowns to cap a senior night to remember.
“Tonight was about playing for the guy I’ve played with for the last four years,” Aupiu said. “These past four years have been amazing, and all these seniors put their heart in it and I had to keep the same mentality as them.”
It was a heavy dose of Aupiu on St. Anthony’s first drive as he carried the ball for 50 yards on five carries and scored on a 3-yard touchdown to put the Saints up 6-0 with 8:39 remaining in the first quarter.
The game looked like a shootout early as answered right back as Harvard-Westlake scored on the next drive when Aidan Greenfield connected with AJ Holmes for a 20-yard catch and run to give the Wolverines a 7-6 lead with 6:34 left in the fourth.
Aupiu once again gave the Saints the lead as he carried the ball all four plays and capped the 64-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown to give the Saints a 12-7 lead after another failed two-point conversion.
After the Saints’ defense forced a punt, the Saints’ drove 70 yards and went up 19-7 after Conor Hochberg scored on a 29-yard touchdown less than a minute into the second quarter.
After back-to-back fumble recoveries, St. Anthony scored on consecutive drives to take a 32-7 lead to take a commanding lead.
The Saints didn’t get a running clock, but had an answer and had a response for every Wolverine score.
The win for the Saints after coach Raul Lara took over the program in July with a short offseason to get the team prepared.
“Even when we were 0-3 the team never gave up,” Lara said. “They kept working, they kept believing in us. Obviously us coming in July, they literally had to forget everything they had learned already and they had to learn a whole new system.”
That system panned out as the Saints went on a 6-1 run to end the season. The Saints will now await their playoff position when the brackets come out on Sunday.