Varsity football falls to St. Francis narrowly in Mission League opener

By Luke Holthouse

 Although last Friday’s loss at St. Francis for its first league game of the year was a tough pill for the varsity football team to swallow, it had one silver lining: Harvard-Westlake is back in the Mission League.

After the 23-20 loss capped off by a game-winning 37-yard field goal by St. Francis with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines are still looking for their first league win since 2009. Last year’s team had an 0-5 league record and missed the playoffs, but Head Coach Vic Eumont is confident that if the Wolverines can improve their strength and conditioning, they can win all four of the remaining games in league this season to make the playoffs.

“We have to get physically stronger and better conditioned so we can finish these games off,” Eumont said. “Every week, we’re going to have to play well, play hard, not make silly mistakes and finish.”

The Wolverines took a 13-10 lead into the locker room at halftime. They took the lead off a 19-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chad Kanoff ’13 on a fourth-and-12. Offensive coordinator Scot Ruggles elected to try to take the lead on the fourth-and-long situation rather than attempt a 36-yard field goal with under a minute left in the half.

St. Francis took the ball inside the Wolverines’ 5-yard line on the following possession but was stopped on the last play of the half when the Knights elected to run the ball up the middle rather than attempt a field goal. The Wolverines’ goal line stand stole momentum from a packed homecoming crowd at St. Francis, but the Wolverines couldn’t maintain that momentum for the rest of the game, surrendering 13 points in the last 10 minutes.

“We were playing hard at the end of the game and I’m very proud of how we played and we stayed in there but we have to get stronger,” Eumont said.

Not only was last week’s game an improvement from last year’s 34-14 defeat against St. Francis, but the Wolverines had won four straight non-league games before the loss. At 4-2 overall a little more than half way through the season, the Wolverines have already surpassed their win total from last year’s team that went 2-7-1.

“We just have more experience, more guys that played longer,” linebacker Richard Chung ’12 said, “we’re just playing better as a team. We have a good offense and a good defense going.”

After losing their first game of the season to Venice 34-27, the Wolverines beat Sylmar 51-14 then won at Leuzinger 49-0. In both wins, the Wolverines defense outscored its opponents record a safety in both games and returning two turnovers for touchdowns against Fairfax. The Wolverines then won at Sylmar 49-13 before a 39-31 win against El Camino Real on homecoming.

Kanoff has led the Wolverines’ no-huddle offense with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has connected with six different receivers for touchdowns this year, throwing out of the shotgun formation on the majority of the team’s plays this year. He said the key to their success this year was good preparation in practice and executing their game plans.

Chung said that both of the team’s losses this year have come against pass-heavy offenses while their four wins have come against run-heavy offenses. He attributed the defense’s success against the running game this year to the fact that they just have more experience defending running games.

The Wolverines are on the road for their next two games playing at Chaminade this Friday, Oct. 21 and at Cathedral Oct. 28. They then close out their regular season with a two-game homestand, hosting Serra Nov. 4 and St. Paul Nov. 11.

“We have four more games so the best we can be is 4-1,” Eumont said, “but next week should be another challenge against Chaminade. The first three games are away so we have to find a way to win some of these away games and then win the ones at home.”