The562’s coverage of St. Anthony Football is sponsored by Wasco Development Corp in Honor of B.I. Mais
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
When Raul Lara says something like, “It’s one of the better drives I’ve ever had as a coach” you have to take notice.
The decorated Lara and his St. Anthony Saints rode the momentum of a game-opening 16-play, 93-yard, seven minute scoring drive to beat visiting Wilson 22-13 on Friday night at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy.
“That’s my kind of football,” Lara said of the run-heavy drive. “It’s grinding the football, and honestly I learned this kind of football from (coaching Long Beach Poly against) teams like Loyola, Mater Dei and controlling the game. That’s the beauty of it.”
St. Anthony running back Elijah Lolesio-Pua capped that drive with an eight-yard touchdown, and then he scooped and scored a fumble from 55-yards out in the second quarter to give the Saints the lead for good.
“We’ve played some tough competition and we just got better and better every week,” St. Anthony junior lineman Raymond Gomez said. “We knew it would eventually click just like last year.”
The Saints (1-3) celebrated their first win of the season with the “Battle For 7th Street” trophy in hand. This is the second consecutive year that St. Anthony has won the rivalry game. Wilson has won five of the eight meetings since these local schools started playing again in 2014.
Wilson (0-3) had four trips deep into St. Anthony territory after trailing 22-7 at halftime, however the Saints defense bent but didn’t break and the Bruins couldn’t find the end zone again until the final minutes of the game. Gomez blocked the extra point to keep it a two-score game, and St. Anthony was able to take a knee and run out the clock.
“They did step up, and some of that is from Wilson not executing, but our defense should feel proud of themselves because they got us a victory,” Lara said.
Lolesio-Pua only rushed the ball 13 times for 78 yards but his running style set the tone for St. Anthony. He converted a trio of third downs on the opening drive. Lolesio-Pua is a rugby player for the Belmont Shore 18U team, and Lara compared his running style to last year’s star running back Sone Aupiu.
“It kind of surprised me,” Lolesio-Pua said of getting the ball so much on the opening drive. “I have to thank the offensive line. They pushed hard for us tonight.”
“I love him to death,” Gomez said of Lolesio-Pua. “We’ve known each other for years, blocking for him is just like the love I have for a brother. I don’t want him to get hit and so I protect him anyway I can.”
Wilson running back Christian Chapman tied the game 7-7 with a short touchdown run with 4:06 left before halftime. He rushed for 130 yards on 24 carries.
St. Anthony quickly answered when quarterback Benny Burns hit receiver Remy Doering for a 28-yard touchdown 2:17 before the break.
The Bruins tried to get into a hurry up offense to respond, but quarterback Ian Bond fumbled on a run and Lolesio-Pua took the turnover back for a touchdown that put the Saints up 22-7 at halftime.
“We need to continue to work really hard at eliminating the costly mistakes we have been making,” Wilson coach Scott Meyer said. “Our guys never quit and I love that about them.”
While the Wilson defense held St. Anthony scoreless in the second half, the Bruins couldn’t convert on the early chances to get on the board again. St. Anthony senior Alex Cobbs made a great tackle on fourth down inside the 5-yard line, and junior Landon Washington had an interception late.
“I’m happy for them, but you know me, we need a lot of improvement if we want to take St. Anthony to another level,” Lara said.
St. Anthony will have a bye next week before taking on Marina and former Lara assistant coach Jeff Turley. Wilson starts Moore League play against Millikan next week.