LANCASTER — The St. Joseph Knights came to the end of the road Friday night in Lancaster.
Their season ended with a 55-30 loss to the Paraclete Spirits in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 football playoffs.
“There was a brief time in the first half I thought we were going to be practicing on Thanksgiving,” said St. Joseph interim head coach Jim Chvala.
“You have to give credit to St. Joseph,” said Paraclete head coach Dean Harrington. “They had some great offensive schemes that really hurt us. We knew we were going to have to score a lot of points against them to win — luckily we did.”
St. Joseph (7-5) got on the scoreboard first.
After a Paraclete (11-1) punt, the Knights had the ball on the Spirits’ 49.
Nate Guzman took a pitch from quarterback Dino Maldonado for a quick 14 yards down the right side.
Maldonado hit Guzman with a pass over the middle that was good for seven more yards.
Then Jayden Vargas broke through a hole in the middle of the line and sprinted 27-yards for the game’s first score — a three-play drive that took just 1:02 off the clock.
After Brock Marcois’s point after kick, the Knights led 7-0 with 8:23 left in the first quarter.
The Spirits, however, have a high-powered offense of their own.
Paraclete, after all, is the defending CIF-SS Division 6 and CIF State Division 3AA champion. Their quarterback Brevin White is headed to Princeton next year and they have two wide receivers that will be off to big time college football programs.
And they came right back to even the score.
Freshman running back Amir Bankhead got the ball rolling with a 16-yard gain.
White hit USC commit Andre Hunt with a strike that was good for a 38-yard gain.
Jayson Haywood capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and, with William Burgo’s point after, the game was tied 7-all at 6:40 of the first.
“We forced them to do things they haven’t done — forced them to go to the run,” said Chvala. “The problem was, we couldn’t stop what we forced.”
“We really like to throw the ball around a lot,” said Harrington. “But they kind of took that away from us tonight and forced us to go to the run. We handed the ball to Banked 31 times tonight (for 254 yards and two touchdowns). I’ve called offenses for 30 years and I’ve never given a running back the ball 30 timed – until tonight.”
The Knights burned the rest of the quarter on a 17-play drive that finally stalled at the Paraclete 11, setting up a 28-yard field goal attempt.
For the Knights’ Nathan Halsell, that’s a chip shot which he knocked through for a 10-7 St. Joseph lead as the second quarter began.
But the Spirits caught, then slowly moved away from the Knights.
White found Haywood open on a crossing pattern and threw a dart that hit Haywood in stride and he was off for a 50-yard score and a 14-10 lead.
Paraclete was driving again and looked as though it was about to score when St. Joe’s Joe Doud intercepted White at the 1.
Although Maldonado hit Mike Ramirez with a 22-yard pass to get St. Joseph out of that hole, the drive stalled.
Paraclete’s Dawit Wasse looked like a human pinball on the punt return, bouncing off St. Joseph players for 48-yards, returning the ball to the Knights’ 38 before finally being knocked out of bounds.
Haywood finished the drive with a 1-yard TD run and a 21-10 lead.
The Knights had one more shot in the first half.
With a third-and-three from the Paraclete 41, and just 3-seconds on the clock, Halsell came on and booted a spectacular 58-yard field goal as the horn sounded to end the half with Paraclete leading 21-13.
Paraclete opened the second half with a highlight reel play off its own when White found Melquan Stovall wide open and lofted a perfect 68-yard touchdown strike.
The Knights answered with Maldonado hitting Joseph Miller with a 12-yard TD pass.
But the Spirits were moving at a higher speed.
Bankhead ran for a 22-yard score and the Knights could only answer with a Halsell 36-yard field goal.
Stovall then caught two touchdown passes — covering 22 and 41 yards — and Paraclete was up 48-23 early in the fourth quarter.
Both teams would score once more, with Maldonado hitting Miller with a 20-yard touchdown pass to finish the scoring.
“It was a tough loss,” said Maldonado. “We really wanted to win tonight but things didn’t go our way so we are disappointed.”