The562’s coverage of football in 2023-24 is sponsored in part by the MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center Foundation and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Foundation
They say it’s hard to beat the same team twice, which proved to be true Friday night when St. Anthony fell short at St. Pius X-St. Matthias in the CIF-SS Division 8 quarterfinals.
Although the Saints lost by a lopsided 35-7, it very easily could’ve been a much closer game had a pair of early fourth-down plays gone differently.
St. Anthony’s defense found themselves just one play away from ending two drives into their own red zone. A 4th & 20 in a scoreless first quarter and a 4th and 7 in the third quarter both plays ended in favor of the Warriors as St. Pius quarterback Brady Shaffer threw touchdowns to Dejour Menefee.
Those touchdowns felt like gut punches to the Saints, and to make things worse St. Anthony star running back Elijah Lolesio-Pua suffered a severe injury to his leg on their next drive in the third quarter, pausing the game for almost 20 minutes.
“(Lolesio-Pua) is one of our leaders, so obviously when he goes down it definitely affects the guys,”St. Anthony coach Raul Lara said. “And (our other running back Jojo Apisala) ended up hurting his shoulder too, and those are my two best guys, so without them it was kinda difficult.”
Apisala scored the only touchdown of the night for St. Anthony on a highlight run that tied the game 7-7 in the second quarter. Apisala needed just two carries on the drive, earning a 32-yard gain before running around tackles on the next play, taking it in for a 30-yard touchdown.
The Warriors went on to score 28 unanswered points while shutting out St. Anthony’s in the second half. After an outstanding performance on the ground just a week ago, Lara was impressed by St. Pius’s defense against his strong run game.
“I think (St. Pius) did a wonderful job, especially upfront,” he said. “They really stopped our running game and we had difficulties running the ball. To me that was the biggest difference. Their upfront guys played a lot harder than last time we played them.”
Three of the four St. Pius unanswered touchdowns came from quarterback Shaffer, who finished the night 12/21 for 247 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Chase Boxley also scored for the Warriors on a 46-yard scoop-and-score in the fourth quarter.
St. Pius will go on to play Jurupa Hills next Friday in the CIF-SS Division 8 semifinals.
As for the Saints, Lara shared a heartfelt message with his team as they concluded their season. He expressed how proud he was of all that they had achieved this season.
“I’m just so proud of these kids. I think people are forgetting that when the season started they had us projected at division 14. So for us to end up in division 8, that’s pretty incredible for us. So again, I’m so proud of these kids and this program. They elevated this program and I think it’s going to continue to grow and I’m excited about it.”