The No. 2-seeded Dons (10-2 overall, 4-1 Peninsula Athletic League) hosted No. 3 St. Francis (9-3 overall, 5-2 West Catholic Athletic League) on Black Friday. Playing under the Friday night lights, the Dons were unable to muster past the Lancers, falling 42-7.
“It’s disappointing,” said head coach Steve Sell. “They made plays in the pass game and we did not, and that is what it came down to.”
On the opening kickoff, senior wide receiver Donaven Robinson fumbled the ball, setting up St. Francis deep into the Dons’ side of the field. This turnover set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Lancers quickly capitalized with a 6-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Darrell Page.
“They came out and put seven on the board,” said senior linebacker Dante Pacini. “They just looked relentless. They were making plays that we weren’t.”
After the Dons punted, St. Francis struck again, this time from a 56-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Reed Vettel to junior wide receiver and cornerback Maurice Wilmer.
Trailing 14-0, senior quarterback Gabe Campos threw a pass to fellow senior wide receiver Davion Cox on a post route. Cox dropped the ball and it was subsequently intercepted by Wilmer, who would return it 80 yards for a pick-six that put the score to 21-0 in the Lancers’ favor at the end of the first quarter.
“That was the turning point,” Sell said. “[Cox] was open. It could have been 14-7, but that stopped there.”
The Dons responded with a long drive that took up most of the second quarter, getting the ball to the 1-yard line. On fourth-and-1, junior running back Paul Lautaimi was tackled in the backfield. The Lancers swiftly responded with a quick drive, setting up a 30-yard touchdown pass from Vettel to junior tight end Joshua Pakola.
“We just weren’t executing,” Pacini said. “We weren’t playing our assignments and I think that we were trying to do too much. We just had to play our game, and we did not do that tonight.”
Campos threw a second pick-six in the third quarter, this one returned for 60 yards by St. Francis junior strong safety Evan Williams. Campos finished the game going 7-13 for 103 yards, but with two interceptions.
The Dons ultimately got on the board with 30 seconds left in the third quarter through a one yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Camron Grant.
“Touchdowns in the second half of a game like that is kind of an empty score,” Sell said. “I was pleased that we were able to move the ball when the game was still in doubt.”
Although the game was a blowout, Sell was pleased with how his team competed.
“I was pleased that we got to a point that we were able to stand up physically to a strong team,” Sell said. “To be able to line up against a team like St. Francis, although the scoreboard is lopsided and they clearly outplayed us, it was not like a hot knife through butter. If you just watched the line of scrimmage, it was not as lopsided as the score turned out to be.”
This was the final game for 20 seniors on the roster, including Campos, Cox, Robinson and Pacini.
“This is a great group,” Sell said. “I love this group. I’m happy for them, they got to finish and have a great senior year and practice on Thanksgiving day and win 10 games. When you win 10 games, you had a fantastic season. I’m gonna miss them a lot.”
Despite the loss, Pacini is still able to reflect on a positive four years as a member of the football program.
“It’s been an honor playing for Aragon and being a Don,” Pacini said. “Being able to start and be part of this brotherhood, this is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
After Friday’s loss, the Dons finished their season with numerous achievements and events to reflect on, most notably their first double-digit win season since 2004 and their first playoff win since 2012.