Football: Riordan and Lewis shock St. Ignatius in thrilling fashion

Riordan senior A.J. Lewis breaks away from a St. Ignatius tackler on Saturday at Archbishop Riordan High School. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

By Jeremy Balan

In a football season where so many things have gone as planned in San Francisco, the first considerable upset of the year came from the most unlikely source — Archbishop Riordan High School.

Behind the play of standout senior wide receiver and defensive back A.J. Lewis, the Crusaders stunned rival St. Ignatius 21-14 on Saturday.

Riordan’s struggles have been well documented this season and the win is the first for the Crusaders and first-year head coach Bryan Blake, a St. Ignatius graduate, who was visibly emotional after the game.

“I’m just so happy for our kids,” Blake said. “They work so hard all year long and everybody picks them to lose. They just don’t care. I’m just so proud of them and how they can have this feeling.”

Lewis began the day by returning the opening kickoff 85 yards for the touchdown and the Crusaders (1-4, 1-1) carried that 7-0 lead into the half, but St. Ignatius scored twice in the third quarter to take the 14-7 lead.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Lewis made his presence felt again when he intercepted a pass from St. Ignatius quarterback Jeff Farlow and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown with 6:43 remaining in the game.

Riordan junior wide receiver Trejon Bolden celebrates with teammates after catching the game-winning touchdown on Saturday at Archbishop Riordan High School. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

“We played all four quarters, we never stopped going,” Lewis said. “I try to keep it to myself and be humble, but I feel like if I go hard I can be unstoppable.”

The score was quickly forgotten, however, as Riordan kicker Henry Soto missed the ensuing extra point, allowing the Wildcats (1-3-1) to cling to a 14-13 lead.

But the Crusaders forced St. Ignatius to punt on their next drive, and junior quarterback Ismael Orozco had just under five minutes to complete the game-winning drive from the Riordan 45-yard line.

Orozco ran for 17 yards and completed 3-of-4 passes for 33 yards on the drive, including the eventual game-winning score on an 11-yard pass to Trejon Bolden with just 1:32 remaining.

“He took control of the team, made some great reads and put the ball where it needed to go,” Blake said. “He gave us an opportunity to win the game.”

Lewis was also a considerable presence on the last drive, catching a pass for a crucial first down and drawing a pass interference call to set up the game-winning score.

Lewis finished with 61 yards on five receptions and led the Crusaders with a team-high nine tackles as a defensive back.

“A.J. Lewis is a big-time player,” Blake said. “The kid makes big plays when everybody knows he has to make a big play. He’s a special kid.”

St. Ignatius advanced the ball to midfield on their last drive, but faced fourth-and-long from their own 45-yard line. Zac Shuller broke open deep up the middle of the field, but Farlow overthrew his receiver, and Orozco kneeled to end the game.

For St. Ignatius, the loss was more than discouraging. Riordan had lost its first four games by a combined 197-71 and the Wildcats won last year’s meeting 34-16. The Wildcats also outgained Riordan 260-139

“I can’t [describe how I feel],” said St. Ignatius head coach Steve Bluford. “It’s just not good. We have to play better defense, run the ball better, pass the ball better, block better and tackle better. We’re just not doing very well right now.”

St. Ignatius appeared to take control of the game and momentum in the third quarter, driving easily down the field for back-to-back scores on 18 consecutive running plays.

St. Ignatius senior running back Zac Shuller weaves through the Riordan defense on Saturday at Archbishop Riordan High School. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

The Wildcats then recovered a Riordan fumble the the Crusaders 17-yard line on the first play after their final score. But the Riordan defense forced St. Ignatius to turn the ball over on downs.

Riordan punted on its next drive, setting up Lewis’ interception.

After running the ball at-will throughout the third quarter, St. Ignatius decided to go to the air and Farlow’s ill-advised pass turned the momentum back toward the Crusaders.

Farlow has had a difficult season under center and Saturday was no exception, as he completed 5-of-15 passes for 43 yards and two interceptions.

“Jeff’s a good quarterback, but he’s a young quarterback,” Bluford said of the senior. “He’s been up for a couple of years and is finally getting a chance to play quarterback. At the end of the day, is he becoming a better football player? Yes he is. Is he making mistakes? Yes he is.”

Senior running back Zac Shuller had a standout performance with 132 yards on 22 carries, including a 36-yard score in the third quarter, but the Wildcats were without senior running back/linebacker Jacob Brisbane, a starter on both offense an defense.

“It did hurt [not having Brisbane], but he’s not the reason we lost the game,” Bluford said. “There are a lot of other holes that we have to fix.”

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
R: 11:47 — A.J. Lewis 85-yard kickoff return (Henry Soto kick)

Third Quarter
SI: 6:14 — Zac Shuller 36-yard run (Will McKee kick)
SI: 0:47 — Albert Waters 38-yard run (McKee kick)

Fourth Quarter
R: 6:43 — Lewis 55-yard interception return (Soto kick missed)
R: 1:32 — Trejon Bolden 11-yard pass from Ismael Orozco (Lewis pass from Orozco on conversion)


Slideshow by AJ Canaria

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13 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    What a better way to celebrate homecoming and honor the 2000 WCAL Champions! Great win for the fighting Crusaders. We are all so proud of the young men who have played through adversity as well as all the naysayers! And to beat SI only makes it more special. Congratulations and enjoy!!!!

  2. RABBIT says:

    YEAH! Beat SI!
    Coach Blake, great job and congratualtions to the team, we are proud of you!

  3. Mark says:

    As a graduate in 2007 and staff for the band since, this has been one of the best games I have attended as a proud Crusader! I must say, this article has it down right. Every time people have pinned us to be on the losing end of games. These guys played like no other and never let that fighting spirit die! Bumped into a guy at BJ’s in Tanforan after the game that night and he saw my Riordan band jacket. He was a graduate of 2000 and I told him about how the 2000 WCAL Team was honored and that Riordan beat SI. I’m sure every Riordan grad is proud to hear that! Go CRUSADERS!

  4. READER says:

    SI Quaterback has been under the tutelage of Bluford for three years now… Young Quarterback or bad coaching skills ? Is three years enough ? SI need help on the coaching end not the hard working players.
    I comment all players at SI for keeping it up and having their heads up. What a remarkable group of athletes. But the coaches ? Need some changes …quick…

  5. SunsetDistrict415 says:

    @ Reader, Interesting take on the game. What I saw was a group of young men accept, what was thought to be an insurmountable challenge, start strong, lose and regain the momentum. In doing so they showed their opponents (and themselves) their courage, intestinal fortitude and character.

    Oh yeah, I also saw SI climb back on the rented luxury coach for, what must have been an extremely long fifteen minute ride back to 37th Avenue.

    To the Riordan players, you did what every “expert” (http://www.sanfranpreps.com/2010/10/07/football-sanfranpreps-com-week-5-pick-%E2%80%98em/) on the SFPrep page said was not going to happen, you defeated SI and did so in a fashion that will be discussed for years to come. Congratulations.

    Now get ready, because the rest of the WCAL wants to do what SI couldn’t.

  6. theman89 says:

    People may say it was luck, people may say it was only AJ lewis, people may say that SI wasnt playing good. Well, I say it was hardwork and a group of 29 guys wanting to prove the naysayers wrong and never giving up on themselves or their supporters. Congrats Crusaders! and Coach Bryan Blake. Show the rest of the league that it wasn’t a ‘fluke’

  7. Reader says:

    Riordan played well, I will give that to them. Their receiver Lewis is quite fenomonal to watch. However I seriously question the head coaching skills of this Saint Ignatius squad. Anyone who knows anything about football can tell when watching the wildcats play that they are a talented group of boys. I have seen Schuller and Brisbane (who was not suited for Riordan for some reason) play and they are both great backs. At this point I must question the coaching of st. Ignatius, there is no way a team with thst much speed and skill should be losing games like these. Once again congradulations to the Crusaders, way to prove everyone wrong. SI… Maybe u should start looking for a new head coach.

  8. MAX PREP inside add says:

    TREJON BOLDEN game winning touch down put him on the map to become the nexts great receiver nexts to a.j. lewis thats coming out of roidan high shcool. He is over look due to fenomonal lewis but watch out for trejon bolden he is riordan up coming star.

  9. Reader says:

    SI needs a new head coach pronto!

  10. Doody says:

    Tre Ma lil Cousin

  11. Alumni says:

    Lewis and Bolden won that game it had nothing to do with Riordan’s coaching staff!!!!!!!

  12. RABBIT says:

    Once a Crusader always a Crusader:

    Of course AJ and Trejon had great games, no doubt about it, but the coaching staff did a really good job getting these guys focused and ready to play. Having the 2000 team present was no accident, anyway ‘Alumni” whats up with you? Once a Crusader always a Crusader, the credit goes to everyone, not just to Lewis and Bolden, but to everyone.

  13. Alumni says:

    Did you watch that game if Lewis didn’t take that inter to the house the score would have been 21-7 but I know football is a team game so one person can’t win it but I feel like take Lewis out that game and there is no way Riordan wins. Coach Blake and his staff need to find a way to get that Lewis kid the ball maybe they would have more than just one win.

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