It finally hit most of the St. Anthony football team on Saturday morning.
“Being there at practice (on Saturday), it finally felt like we were going to the title game,” Saints senior running back/ linebacker Anakin Aupiu said.
After a near disastrous ending in their CIF Southern Section Division 10 Semifinal game against Salesian, the Saints had somehow… advanced to the title game, barely with a 49-48 victory.
On Monday, a few members of the coaching staff and team got their first taste of championship week as they took part in the annual banquet at the Grand.
The banquet honored the 28 participants in the 14 title games as well as the Div. 1 8-man champion (Cate) and Div. 2 8-man participating teams.
“It’s great,” Aupiu said. “I’ve seen some of my youth football teammates that I used to play with.”
St. Anthony will face Northview on Friday at 7 p.m. at Covina District Field for the championship.
The keynote speaker was former San Diego Chargers running back and NFL Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.
“It feels good (to be here),” Saints senior defensive back/wide receiver Tyler Henry said. “Awesome to hear a former NFL player talk.”
Tomlinson spoke about his career, including mentioning how he didn’t play running back until midway through his senior year.
“What would be your greatest moment?” Tomlinson told the coaches and players.
For the Saints, they almost had their moment taken away when a 49-28 lead was cut to one but a blocked extra-point saved the day.
“That fourth quarter was crazy,” Saints senior lineman Eric Suluai said.
Seated next to St. Anthony on both sides were Compton (Division 12 Finalist) and Jordan (Division 11 Finalist).