By Brian Reed-Baiotto
When Saturday night rolls around, St. Francis will leave La Canada and make the 43-mile trip eastbound to Rancho Cucamonga on the 210 Freeway, and the Golden Knights will battle Etiwanda for the CIF-SS Division 5 championship.
The kickoff is set for 7:30.
It’s the second consecutive deep postseason run for both programs.
In 2021, the Eagles lone loss came in the semifinal round of the D-3 playoffs.
Serra would claim a 34-27 victory in overtime at EHS, and the Cavs would go on to smack Apple Valley around, 31-3, to wrap up a CIF-SS championship.
And as far as St. Francis goes, a brilliant formula allowed a perennial Division 1 program (Long Beach Poly) to compete in the D-4 playoffs.
The Jackrabbits cruised to a 38-7 victory at SFHS.
There are other similarities, including the fact that both the Eagles and Golden Knights faced off with Aquinas, and neither of these proud programs got off to ideal starts to the 2022 season.
Etiwanda fell, 28-21, to the Falcons in the season opener.
And just this past Friday, St. Francis earned its spot in the finals with a 52-35 victory over visiting Aquinas.
The Eagles would start the year 0-2, but they went 8-3 the rest of the way.
St. Francis began the 2022 season 1-3, and the Golden Knights defense surrendered a combined 210 points in losses to West Ranch, Millikan and St. Pius.
They would edge Mira Costa, 52-48, in a week-one shootout.
Weeks later, St. Francis got word that Millikan would have to forfeit their September 2nd victory in Long Beach after it was revealed that MHS had competed with an ineligible player.
Since the first four games of 2022, however, the Golden Knights defense has tightened its belt, and allows an average of 23 points per game, as compared to 52 in weeks zero through three.
Along with winning the turnover and penalties battle, on paper, it would seem that Etiwanda’s ability or lack thereof of stopping/slowing down the St. Francis high-powered offense would be paramount in an Eagles’ championship.
SFHS has a 536-342 advantage in total points scored, but the EHS defense has allowed exactly 100 (415-315) fewer points than their counterparts from St. Francis.
If SFHS leaves Rancho Cucamonga as the Division 5 champs, it would almost certainly mean that Devyn Turner had a big night in leading the Golden Knights ground game.
Turner transferred from Allen, Texas, but he got injured early, and missed a number of games.
In 10 games played, Turner has 1,174 yards on 132 carries.
Turner averages 118 yards per game, and he’s scored 24 rushing TD’s.
He’s also tallied 22 receptions for 356 yards and three TD’s.
You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to extrapolate that a successful night for Turner also means SFHS quarterback, Jack Jacobs, will have an effective night through the air.
Jacobs has been invaluable in St. Francis’ success, especially when it came to keeping the program afloat until Turner was able to rejoin his teammates.
One year after throwing for 1,927 yards and 10 TD’s, Jacobs has taken his game to the next level.
Jacobs has completed 185 of his 299 pass attempts for 3,083 yards, and that includes 34 TD’s & five interceptions.
The lanky 6-foot-4 senior has deceiving speed, and it’s allowed him to run for over 800 yards and 16 rushing TD’s since 2021.
Jett McCullough (34 catches for 782 yards & 12 TD’s) and Antonio Merlos (47-for-745 & eight TD’s) have led the Golden Knights receiving corps throughout this season.
As far as Etiwanda goes, the offense runs through quarterback, Demaricus Davis.
Davis has completed 207-of-338 for 2,742 yards.
He’s thrown for 16 TD’s and five interceptions.
Jaiden Moss anchors the Etiwanda ground game.
Moss has carried the ball 194 times for 692 yards and 16 rushing TD’s.
Zivan Ardines (25 carries for 119 yards & four TD’s) and Jaymiere McDowell (36-279 & 2 TD’s) have also contributed big things for the Eagles ground game.
Jaden Landrum will be a priority for the SFHS defense.
Landrum has 75 receptions for 967 yards and six TD’s.
Zivan Ardines (37-444 & two TD’s) and Aiden Geye (21-398 & two TD’s) are both big-play receivers for EHS.
SFHS junior Preston Jernegan is having a monster season on the defensive side of the ball.
Jernegan has a team-high 107 tackles, including three for loss.
Jernegan has 54 more tackles than his next closest teammate, Julian Navarro, who’s tallied 53.
McCullough (5) and Jernegan (4) have combined for nine of the Golden Knights’ 18 interceptions.
Matthew Vazquez leads the Etiwanda defense with 85 tackles, including five for loss.
Michael Harrison has 62 tackles (two for loss).
Sivaj DeJurnett-Simmons has a team-best five sacks, and Josiah Wash and Harrison have three picks apiece.
Etiwanda’s Justin Ludovico is 35-of-36 on extra-point attempts, and 10-of-11 on field goals.
St. Francis’ Clint Geryak has made 41 of 44 PAT’s, & 5-of-7 on his field goal attempts.
Last but not least, this game is even more intriguing, because of the head-to-head matchup of two of the southern section’s most successful coaches, St. Francis’ Dean Herrington, and Etiwanda’s Nick Baiz.
Just below is a statistical comparison, the full 2022 schedule and results for both programs, and their league standings.
Here’s wishing both sides a competitive and injury-free championship game.
By the Numbers:
Records: SF (10-3); E (8-5)
Points Scored: SF (536); E (342)
Points Allowed: SF (415); E (315)
Average Margin of Victory: SF (41-32); E (26-24)
Most Points Scores in a Game: SF (52 vs Mira Costa & Aquinas); E (69 vs Canyon)
Most Points Allowed in a Game: SF (61 vs West Ranch); E (49 vs Canyon)
Passing Yards per Game: SF (240); E (211)
Rushing Yards per Game: SF (127); E (106)
Total Offense (Yards) per Game: SF (367); E (296)
St. Francis Road Record: (4-2)
Etiwanda Home Record: (4-3)
League Finish: SF (Angelus co-champs); E (tied for second in Baseline)
Current Win Streak: SF (3); E (4)
MaxPreps State Ranking: SF (68); E (66)
CalPreps Prediction: Etiwanda 38, St. Francis 35
2022 St. Francis’ Schedule-Results:
8/19: West Ranch 61, St. Francis 41
8/26: St. Francis 52, Mira Costa 48
9/2: St. Francis win via forfeit over Millikan
9/9: St. Pius 47, St. Francis 22
9/16: St. Francis 41, Muir 0
9/30: St. Francis 45, Paraclete 14
10/7: St. Francis 48. Cathedral 39
10/14: St. Francis 48, Crespi 21
10/21: St. Francis 49, St. Paul 20
10/28: Loyola 28, St. Francis 27
11/4: St. Francis 48, Silverado 20
11/11: St. Francis 35, Villa Park 28
11/18: St. Francis 35, Aquinas 35
11/26: St. Francis at Etiwanda at 7:30
2022 Etiwanda’s Schedule-Results:
8/18: Aquinas 28, Etiwanda 21
8/26: Ayala 28, Etiwanda 7
9/1: Etiwanda 45, Rancho Verde 7
9/8: Etiwanda 44, Jurupa Hills 21
9/16: Etiwanda 18, Glendora 14
9/23: Cajon 37, Etiwanda 9
9/30: Etiwanda 26, Chino Hills 20 (OT)
10/7: RCHS 21, Etiwanda 6
10/13: Upland 35, Etiwanda 7
10/28: Etiwanda 30, Damien 27
11/4: Etiwanda 38, Yucaipa 7
11/11: Etiwanda 69, Canyon 49
11/18: Etiwanda 22, Leuzinger 21
11/26: St. Francis at Etiwanda at 7:30
Angelus League Standings:
St. Francis (10-3, 4-1)
Cathedral (10-3, 4-1)
Loyola (7-6, 4-1)
St. Paul (4-6, 2-3)
Paraclete (1-9, 1-4)
Crespi (0-10, 0-5)
Baseline League Standings:
RCHS (9-3, 4-0)
Upland (9-4, 2-2)
Etiwanda (8-5, 2-2)
Damien (3-7, 2-2)
Chino Hills (4-6, 0-4)