For most of the season the St. Anthony football team has relied on its running game to carry it to success.
With a bruising runner like senior Sone Aupiu, no one can blame them. But over the first two rounds of the playoffs, that focus on the Saints’ running game has allowed senior Conor Hochberg to hone his feel for the game and understanding of what the team needs from him.
That was clear once again as Hochberg threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns as St. Anthony defeated Katella, 48-17 at Glover Stadium Friday night.
It was the senior’s second straight playoff game throwing for more than 300 yards as the Knights’ focus on Aupiu allowed Hochberg to pick apart Katella’s defense as he found his speedsters on the outside early and often.
“This really shows our versatility,” Hochberg said. “We can do everything, we are a high-powered offense without running the ball. We can still do it even if we are being ‘shut down.’”
Hochberg spread the ball to his receivers as Kweku Claybrook had four catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns, Darius Davis had four catches for 96 yards, and Ryan Norried had five catches for 92 yards.
On their opening drive the Saints went 83 yards as Hochberg connected with Norried for 20 yards and Claybrook for 34 yards to put St. Anthony inside of Katella Territory.
Aupiu capped the drive with a 2-yard run to give the Saints a 6-0 lead with 2:56 left in the first quarter.
Katella responded with running back Gabriel Dawson who took off for a 20-yard run, but the Saint’ defense didn’t break and the Knights settled for a field goal as Anthony Favila drilled a 33-yard field goal to cut the lead to 6-3 early in the second quarter.
The Saints then went on a 35-0 run to take a 41-3 lead late in the third quarter.
Lara credited Aupiu and the Saints running game in allowing the passing game time to develop throughout the season.
“We had to run the ball,” Lara said about the early season. “Our pass game had to get better and I feel like we’re gelling real well right now and a lot of that is credit to Conor. If your trigger man gets it, everyone comes together.”
With the victory the Saints will now have a Del Rey League rematch against Salesian next week.
“It says a lot about the Del Rey League,” Lara said about the rematch.