MANHATTAN BEACH — It was wild. It was exhilarating. It was an instant classic.
St. Francis rallied for a thrilling 52-48 nonleague victory at Mira Costa on Friday night, beating the Mustangs for the sixth time in seven seasons, though most of the high-scoring matchups have been hotly contested and gone down to the wire.
“It felt good to come together like that as a team,” said St. Francis quarterback Jack Jacobs, who threw for 379 yards and five touchdowns on 19-of-34 passing. “Every time with them, it’s a nail-biter. I’m proud of how we responded.”
Down 10 points with 6:10 left, Mira Costa scored a pair of touchdowns, grabbing the lead when Matthew Kraskouskas capped a 78-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with one minute left. Reese Leonard then caught a two-point conversion pass from sophomore quarterback Nico De La Cruz for a 48-45 lead.
“When you put up 48 points on the board, you really can’t ask for anything more,” Kraskouskas said. “That’s a lot of points. It hurts to be on the other end of it.”
Jacobs rallied St. Francis.
Jacobs connected with Jeff McCullough for a 52-yard pass to move the ball to the Mira Costa 13.
Then Jacobs and McCullough connected again, and McCullough stretched just enough for the end zone with 20.2 seconds left to give St. Francis (1-1) the improbable victory.
“The receiver ran a great route, and the O-line did a great job blocking,” said Jacobs, who has nine touchdown passes in his first two games. “I just threw the ball, and the receiver did the rest.”
Mira Costa (0-1) tried to put together one final drive and got the ball to the St. Francis 48 before running out of time.
“You battled and battled and battled and battled – I’m proud of the effort,” Mira Costa coach Don Morrow said.
De La Cruz, a sophomore, put together an impressive debut for Mira Costa, throwing for 478 yards and four touchdowns on 32-of-51 passing.
Cole Crotty was his favorite target, finishing with 13 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard touchdown that shaved the deficit to 45-40 with 4:28 left.
“We don’t go away. We fight until the end,” Crotty said. “I thought we had it, but we have to learn not to let off the gas.
“Our quarterback put up 48 points in his first varsity start. I’m proud of him. He showed me he is a baller. We’ve just got to clean up some stuff and continue to grow.”
Kraskouskas rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and added five catches for 70 yards and a 14-yard touchdown catch in which he broke six tackles in the first half.
Leonard finished with eight catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.
St. Francis had its share of heroes.
Adam Sandoval had three catches for 150 yards and a touchdown.
Hank Foley had four catches for 68 yards. Antonio Merlos had four catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns. John Calmette had 16 carries for 81 yards and added three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Tyler Cofre had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave St. Francis a 45-34 lead with 6:10 left.