The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 13, 2013

Team effort lifts Red Flash over Hawks


LORETTO — The stats may not have shown a dominant performance Saturday, but the St. Francis football team made splash plays in all three phases in the first quarter to beat old-NEC rival Monmouth 28-10 and end a two-game losing streak to improve to 2-4 on the season.

“It was badly needed,” St. Francis coach Chris Villarrial said about Saturday’s victory. “The team came out and started quick, that’s what we’ve been stressing to these guys and we’ve been stressing all week to finish the game. We got slowed down a little bit there offensively, but we just did enough to get by. We came out fired up and it held up. I think if we can keep improving each week, there’s a lot of good things to happen for us.”

The Red Flash got going right out of the gates on the opening kickoff. Monmouth kick returner Tevrin Brandon was met by Lorenzo Jerome with a perfect form tackle that forced the ball onto the ground. Bishop Neal picked up the ball and raced 8 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game.

Special teams was a big factor in the game as St. Francis won the field position battle by forcing the Hawks to start at their own 14-, 8-, 11-,

15-, and 5-yard lines and having six punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

“It was a big emphasis,” Villarrial said about the special teams’ advantage throughout the game. “Our special teams has been up and down all year. It’s been a topsy-turvy thing, this was a big week for our guys to step up special teams wise and they really did. I can’t say enough other than the miscue on our field goal, that’s been kind of an Achilles heel for us but we’re going to keep working and get better.”

It was the offense’s turn to make plays on its second possession of the game. SFU drove 49 yards on 8 plays, balancing four runs and four passes. Terrell Smith caught an 18 yard fade route in the end zone from Max Ward for a 14-0 lead.

The defense made its presence known with a pick-six on the next drive. Greater Johnstown graduate DaQuan Minter made a leaping interception at the 44 yard line and galloped down the left sideline to give the Red Flash a 21-0 lead with 5:18 left in the first quarter.

“It was just a blown play and I just stepped in front, read the quarterback’s eyes and just took it down the sideline,” Minter said about his fourth interception of the year.

The St. Francis defense forced six three-and-outs on the day and held Monmouth (3-4), who was on a three game winning streak, to just 81 yards through the air and 191 total yards.

“Our coach made a point to shut everything down and we just went out there and did exactly what he said to do,” Minter said.

Monmouth’s Eric Spillane capped an 11-play drive with a 46 yard field goal for a 21-3 SFU lead at the half.

Monmouth scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a Thaddeus Richards 8 yard run on a reverse to cut the lead to 21-10. The Hawks blocked a 42 yard field goal to stop a St. Francis scoring chance to begin the drive, its lone mistake on special teams.

St. Francis answered two drives later to cap the afternoon’s scoring. Kyle Harbridge converted a third and 5 with a 23 yard touchdown on a counter play to take a 28-10 lead.

Harbridge was held to just 94 yards on the day, down from his 186.4 yards per game and coming in with an FCS leading 932 rushing yards. Harbridge broke the school’s rushing record last week and now has 3,533 career yards.

“It’s a great record to have under my belt but it’s not mine, it’s the team’s,” Harbridge said. “I’ve been blessed with great offensive players the past four years that I’ve been here. It’s a team effort, that’s not just my record, it’s our record.”

Jerome picked off his fourth interception of the year late, one of five turnovers forced by the Red Flash, who put together a collective team effort.  

“It was a complete game in all three phases: Offense, defense, and special teams,” Harbridge said. “This was the first game that we really had all three phases come together and when you have all three phases coming together, you get a win.”

After a bye week, St. Francis homecoming game against Sacred Heart for a noon kickoff.