Football St. Anthony

PREVIEW: St. Anthony vs. St. Pius X-St. Matthias, CIF Football

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We’ve got a rematch in the CIF Southern Section Division 8 quarterfinals on Friday night as St. Anthony visits St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy in Downey. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Back on Sept. 29 in Downey, St. Anthony came back to beat St. Pius X-St. Matthias in overtime 21-14. It was the first Del Rey League game of the season, and it ended up being the win that clinched a league title for the Saints.

“We know what’s ahead of us,” St. Anthony coach Raul Lara said. “We were fortunate to win that first game so I’m pretty sure they want payback. So we’re just trying to gear up and be ready.”

After their overtime clash, both St. Anthony (9-2) and St. Pius X-St. Matthias (5-5) went on four-game winning streaks to reach this quarterfinal round with a lot of positive momentum. 

“If we stick together like we did (in the first game against St. Pius X-St. Matthias) and we just play hard, good things will happen,” Lara said. “I think that’s what they learned in that game, because we were down for a while (in that game) and you just keep on fighting until the end. We learned so much from that game. It also helped us in the first round of the playoffs. The kids never quit, and if we never quit we’ll be alright.”

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Last week in the first round against Tahquitz at Clark Field, St. Anthony’s old school ground-and-pound offense carried the Saints to a dramatic 35-34 win.

St. Anthony trailed by five points with 6:19 left to play, but put together a 5:33 drive that consisted of 13 straight runs by Jojo Apisala and Elijah Lolesio-Pua. Apisala capped it off with a 4-yard touchdown to give his team a one point lead with 46 seconds remaining. The Saints defense was then able to hold on in the final seconds thanks to a sack and a pass deflection on back-to-back plays to clinch the win.

“It’s an honor to be counted on in those moments, but also give credit to my cousin Elijah Lolesio-Pua,” Apisala said last week. “He’s the one that puts in a lot of work and gets us down to where we need to be. I was just the one to help him out at the end. He’s a hard runner and hard worker and I truly model myself after him.”

St. Anthony has averaged 44 points per game since beating St. Pius X-St. Matthias, but the Saints know they’ll have their hands full with a Warriors squad that keeps getting better every week.

“They like getting the ball out to their athletes and obviously they create some good stuff,” Lara said of St. Pius X-St. Matthias. “And they’re big up front… I feel like I’m playing against a Poly team.”

St. Pius X-St. Matthias has outscored its last three opponents 104-28, and beat Barstow in the first round last week 42-21 thanks in large part to a great game from quarterback Brady Shaffer.

In their first meeting, it was a touchdown pass from St. Anthony quarterback Adrian Perez to Jahsiah Lolesio-Pua that proved to be the difference in a hotly contested game. Lolesio-Pua ended the night with five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

The Saints are also very familiar with the facility at St. Pius X-St. Matthias after playing home games there while Clark Field was being renovated.

PODCAST: CIF Football Quarterfinal Previews For Long Beach Poly, St. Anthony
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.