Vista Murrieta 15, St. Augustine 13
The St. Augustine Saints made the hour-long trip north to Murrieta and found game-ending heartache as they lost by two points to the Vista Murrieta Broncos in confusing fashion.
An illegal procedure call on the Saints’ offense as it tried to spike the ball with 2 seconds remaining on the clock — with the Saints trailing 15-13 and with a potential game-winning field goal in their sights — left just 1 second remaining after the referee’s clock stoppage. After the ball was placed 5 yards back on the penalty and the Saints’ line was set — now out of field goal range — Saints senior quarterback Thomas Goodridge tried to get off one final snap. But the referees determined that after the line was set, the 1 second remaining had elapsed, before the snap exchange.
It was a disappointing loss for St. Augustine (2-4), last year’s San Diego Section Division II champion. The team’s coaches calling the plays from up top said that if the illegal procedure call had never been a factor, the field goal try would have been good for three points, and a different outcome. But it was a factor, and it was a loss.
Highly competitive through all four quarters, the game featured a Saints offense largely absent anything significant in the air attack. Down its top receiver — junior Elijah Preston suffered an ankle injury in Week 5 against Madison and wasn’t active against the Broncos — St. Augustine pushed through the game on the legs of 230-pound junior running back Francoise Sims, who scored both the Saints’ touchdowns on runs.
The Broncos (3-2) put points on the board first, on a 2-yard run into the end zone by quarterback Kyle Williams. St. Augustine followed with Sims’ touchdowns — one in each of the first two quarters — but lost the lead late in the second quarter on game-tying quarterback keeper from the Broncos’ Williams. Vista Murrieta finally flipped the lead in the third quarter as St. Augustine was forced into punting from back in its own end zone. Doubling as the Saints’ punter, Goodridge received the punt snap near the back of the end zone, only to have the Broncos’ Brandon Worthy get a hand on the ball just after Goodridge was able to get the kick off. The blocked punt gave the Broncos a safety for two points, and ultimately, the win.
It wasn’t until that fateful final drive Friday that St. Augustine was forced to search for yards by way of the pass.
From deep in their own territory, the Saints drove across into Broncos territory and into field goal range on a series of passes that included a 20-yard pass from Goodridge to receiver Frank Buncom. A senior, Buncom has been successful as a receiver this season, but he also plays defense for the Saints, making Saints Coach Richard Sanchez reluctant to double his reliance on Buncom in Preston’s absence.
Enter the heavy reliance on Sims and the constant runs each drive, when it might appear otherwise that it was time to pass for more than a few yards.
Sanchez knew early in the week that he’d be facing a challenge in the Broncos, who like the Saints hold a top-100 ranking statewide. He predicted a battle, saying that despite a few injuries, his team would compete.
“We’re gonna try to slow the game down a little bit,” he said. “We’ll rotate guys in at the running back position, bring a couple tight ends in the game, and hopefully just get first downs without turning the ball over,” Sanchez said. “I would say, two months ago, that I thought we had a good chance of winning. But right now, it’s gonna be a very difficult battle with the amount of injuries we have.”
He couldn’t have been more right.
The Saints will be back in San Diego in Week 7, when they’ll face Eastern League rival Mira Mesa at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 for St. Augustine’s 2014 homecoming game.