SAN MATEO – There was a time when Serra couldn’t beat St. Francis.
For 35 games over 34 years in the early 1970s, Mountain View’s program dominated this series among West Catholic Athletic League schools.
That era is clearly long gone, a faint memory as Serra rose to the top under long-time coach Patrick Walsh.
Now the undisputed No. 1 team in Northern California, the San Mateo powerhouse did nothing to tarnish that prestigious label on Saturday as the Padres took advantage of a four-touchdown halftime and a 45-17 victory over St. Francis in a game one overtime. Which had the clock running for the entire fourth quarter.
Two years earlier in the same stadium, St. Francis had dominated the home team to capture the league championship as its running backs ran for 344 yards on 45 carries.
On Saturday, St. Francis trailed once in the first half due to an early trick pass play that covered 69 yards and could have led to the tying touchdown.
Instead, St. Francis settled for a short field goal, despite Serra having the ball inside the 5.
The tone was set: Serra was very strong on defense and very effective on offense, taking the normally balanced Padres to the air as offensive coordinator Darius Fautua Bell chose to throw the ball instead of running between the tackles.
The strategy worked like a charm.
Quarterback Maeliuki Smith had his best day of the season, passing for 321 yards and two touchdowns. The senior also scored on two sneaks.
“Offensively, I think Coach Bell had a great game plan,” Walsh said. “We have struggled year after year moving the ball against these guys. Obviously there’s a lot of history between us. We wanted to come out and establish the passing game. This is different for us. Usually it is the opposite.
“I think Coach Bell has done a great job studying some of the things historically that have troubled us and probably some of the things that he’s seen with Maeliucci and our receivers who are getting better week by week. I thought those guys did a great job.”
Serra (5-0, 2-0) scored on its first series, going 79 yards in 10 plays to take an 8-0 lead.
Smith completed four passes on a 55-yard drive and Nano Latu scored a TD from 4 yards out and then ran in the two-point conversion.
St. Francis (2-3, 1-1) tried to answer when running back Kingston Keenana caught a lateral near the sideline and threw a deep pass to Joey Paulson, who was wide open. The receiver caught the ball, turned and continued running until he was four yards short of the end zone.
Kinaina rushed for three yards three times, with the Padres getting more excited with each stop.
The Lancers lined up for a touchdown that could have given them big momentum but a false start sent the ball back five yards.
Christopher Hahn came in and kicked a 23-yard field goal to make the margin 7–3.
“This is a good football team that we just played,” St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno said. “They’re the No. 1 team in Northern California for a reason. He has earned it. They do a great job. Coach (Steven) Monsef does a great job on defense and obviously he is very dynamic on offense as well.
“Those guys are well trained. Great kids. Play their tail. It’s a great combination for the Padres right now.”
Serra completed its scoring when Smith connected with tight end Cole Harrison for a 70-yard touchdown to make the score 45–10 with 2:31 left in the third quarter. Harrison caught seven passes for 187 yards.
“It was nice to finish that game like that,” Smith said.
When St. Francis did not score to end the period, maintaining a 35-point margin, the entire fourth quarter was played with a run.
Serra also got a 1-yard TD reception in front of the pylon from Braden Agosta and an 8-yard TD run from Brooks Trimmer.
It was the Padres’ 14th win in 22 games since the 2006 win against St. Francis, their winningest win in more than three decades.
“There’s a long, painful history with Serra High School and St. Francis,” said Walsh, who has coached the Padres since 2000. “Very, very painful. When I got here I inherited a 28-year losing streak. I contributed to it lasting 34 years and 35 times. It’s tough.
“Just a few years ago, they ran for 370 yards against us. It keeps ebbing and flowing. They are a young team. They are going to be great. I have held those positions before. But Coach Calcagno does an amazing job. It’s always a good game.”