Servite Wins Pac-5 Showdown

The Friars hold off a valiant effort from Crespi, using a big start to keep the game in their favor...

Perhaps a 31-0 lead made things a bit too comfortable for Servite in the second half, but thanks to a fast start against a talented Crespi of Encino, the Friars came away with a 32-28 victory on Friday night in Cerritos, Calif.

Servite got huge performances out of their offensive playmakers: senior wide receiver Chris Nicholls scored three touchdowns, including a 90-yard kick off return, and sophomore running back Sean DeRosa ran for 97 yards and one rushing touchdown.

The Friars' first half scoring got off to a quick start, beginning with Nicholls' 76-yard return of the game's opening kickoff that put his offense on the Celts' twenty-yard line. After the Friars' opening drive stalled, Nicholas Echeverry nailed a 31-yard field goal to give Servite the early 3-0 lead.

The first half would prove to be a challenge for Crespi as they failed to sustain any significant offensive drives against a stifling Servite defense.

On their third offensive play of the game, Crespi's senior quarterback Bryan Bennett threw a pass into triple coverage and was picked off by junior linebacker Matthew Inman. Servite capitalized on the turnover and parlayed their good field position into a 7-yard touchdown run by DeRosa to give them a 10-0 lead.

The Friars went on to score three more times in the first half en route to a five-score lead: Nichols scored on runs of 6 and 27 yards and senior quarterback Cody Fajardo found his junior tight end Troy Niklas for an 11-yard touchdown strike right before halftime.

Although his team faced a seemingly insurmountable deficit, Crespi head coach Jeremiah Ross' locker room message to his team was clear in the second half: make big plays and finish strong so we can give ourselves a chance.

Crespi finally got on the board late in the third quarter, following an impressive eight-play drive from their own six-yard line that was culminated by a 44-yard touchdown pass from Bennett to junior wide receiver Devin Lucien.

Servite answered in dramatic fashion, however, as on the very next play, Nichols took the ensuing kickoff from his own 10-yard line all the way back for the score, once again making the deficit 31 for the Celts.

Undaunted, the Celts used big play after big play to give themselves a shot.

Early in the fourth, Bennett scored on a quarterback scramble from four yards out to make it 38-14, Servite. Then, following a blocked punt by junior Charles Washington, Crespi scored on the succeeding play on a big 39-yard touchdown pass from Bennett to Lucien. Junior running back Rhasheed Johnson converted on the two-point conversion to make the deficit 16 for Crespi with 7:29 left in the game.

After forcing a quick three-and-out, Crespi retained offensive possession and converted three straight first downs en route to another rushing touchdown from Bennett, this time from one yard out.

Crespi failed to convert for a second straight time on the two-point conversion, but with the lead suddenly shrinking to ten and considering the ease at which the Celts were finally moving the ball, a game that once looked like a complete blowout was suddenly getting very interesting.

After failing to retain possession on the ensuing onside kick, Crespi forced a quick three-and-out to give themselves a shot at a miracle with time remaining.

From his own 37-yard line, Bennett drove the Crespi offense into Friars territory, looking to make it a one score game. However, on 3rd and 7 from the 20-yard line, Bennett was flushed out of the pocket to his right and was forced to make an errant pass into good coverage.

Waiting in coverage was senior defensive back Michael Marcoux whose second interception of Bennett eased some nervous Friar fans and sealed with win for the Saints.

Servite remains undefeated at 3-0 and travel to Huntington Beach next Friday to take on the Edison Chargers (3-0). Crespi suffers their first loss of the season and fall to 2-1. Next week at home, they host the top ranked Seraphs of St. Bonaventure (3-0).

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