As Salesian lined up for the game-tying point after attempt with 20 seconds left, St. Anthony senior lineman Taoipu Laulu had a decision to make:
“Should I run up or stay back?” Laulu said.
Well… Laulu made the decision to run up and blocked the extra point, all but securing the victory for the Saints.
“It’s the Samoan in me,” Laulu said when asked about how he was able to get high in the air to block it.
The Mustangs attempted an onside kick but the ball didn’t go far enough as the Saints held on for a wild 49-48 victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 10 Semifinals.
“It’s surreal,” Laulu said. “All I want to do is celebrate.”
St. Anthony will travel to Covina District Field to face Northview in the final next week. The time and date will be announced on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of excitement around the school,” Saints coach Raul Lara said. “It’s an enjoyable moment.”
St. Anthony led 49-28 with 10:28 left in the game before the Mustangs (9-4) began to fight back behind senior quarterback Marcus Martin.
Martin struggled for much of the game before throwing three fourth quarter touchdowns, including two to senior wide receiver Marvin Denson, the last one being the would-be tying touchdown.
“There’s a lot of things we have to learn,” Lara said.
Lara said he was trying to get his team’s attention after the late touchdown because he knew a blocked extra point would win the game.
Saints (9-4) senior Kweku Claybrook said the team doesn’t practice blocking field goals, only formation.
“It’s something we should practice more,” Claybrook said with a chuckle.
St. Anthony got off to a strong start as senior quarterback Conor Hochberg connected with Claybrook for a 73-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.
Claybrook had a 24-yard receiving touchdown later in the quarter and added a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second as St. Anthony led 35-14 at half.
“That was my first pick-six,” Claybrook said. “My first interception was also against them (in their 43-41 loss on Oct. 14 to Salesian).
Saints senior running back Sone Aupiu had back-to-back touchdown runs (42 and 55) in the second half as St. Anthony tried to put the game away before Salesian countered.
Aupiu finished with 25 carries for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
The championship appearance will be the Saints’ first since 2016.