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Division II champion Saintsmen braced by South County talent Phillip Brents | Fri, Dec 06 2013 02:09 PM

During St. Augustine High School’s venerable 91 years, the all-boys school located in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood has maintained a noticeable South County presence among its student body.

That South County presence was quite noticeable in Monday’s San Diego Section Division II championship football game as local players combined to score five of the Saints’ seven touchdowns in their 49-0 victory against the Mission Bay Buccaneers.

In fact, the St. Augustine football team’s South County connections start at the top with head coach Richard Sanchez, a Sweetwater High School alumnus.

“We were close last year,” Sanchez said in reference to last year’s 35-21 Division IV championship game setback to eventual State Bowl champion Madison. “But we managed to come through this year — it’s just an amazing feeling for everybody.”

Monday’s division championship was the fourth overall in school history for the Saintsmen (11-2), and the first since winning back-to-back Division III titles in 2005 and 2006.

South County players figured prominently in the outcome at Qualcomm Stadium.

Senior quarterback Joe Joe Hudson completed touchdown passes to a pair of fellow South County products — junior receiver/defensive back Frank Buncom IV and senior running back/linebacker Tyler Herburger — while also rushing for a score.

Herburger also returned an intercepted pass 99 yards for a touchdown and Buncom recovered a fumble while also playing on defense.

Second-seeded St. Augustine led 14-0 after the first quarter and 28-0 at halftime. The game finished with a running clock as the eighth-seeded Bucs closed out the season 12-2 after recording a pair of stunning upsets against top-seeded Madison and fifth-seeded Rancho Buena Vista in the previous two playoff rounds.

Hudson hit Buncom on a 33-yard sideline touchdown catch-and-carry with 4:49 left in the opening quarter and then came back on the final play of the quarter with a 31-yard strike to Herburger, who broke through the Mission Bay defense on a similar sideline pattern.

The Saints defense set the tempo early on, holding the Bucs to zero offensive yards in the first quarter and finishing the game with five takeaways and six sacks.

When Mission Bay showed signs of life in the second quarter, St. Augustine’s offense — particularly its running game — proved too high-powered to deal with.

Hudson, pushing aside would-be blockers, scored on a 31-yard sideline scamper with 5:51 left in the first half to increase the Saints’ lead to 21-0.

After sophomore John Hickman recovered a fumble at the Bucs 17-yard line, Hudson then completed a scoring strike to teammate Ryan Harris on the next play.

When place-kicker Tyler Sepulveda split the uprights on his fourth extra-point conversion of the half, the Saintsmen had built a lethal 28-0 advantage on the scoreboard.

Hudson finished the first half with three touchdown completions overall and one rushing touchdown.

For the game, St. Augustine rolled up 405 total yards in offense and punted only four times.

“Our coaches prepared us really well,” said Hudson, who completed six of 14 passing attempts in Monday’s game for 133 yards. “It starts with practice. We wanted to win this game to give something back to our coaches for all the hard work they have put in.”

The Saints made all the big plays in the game.

Herburger’s return negated a drive that had reached the St. Augustine two-yard line. As Mission Bay signal-caller Nicholas Plum dropped back, Herburger intercepted the ball at the one-yard line and promptly broke through a maze of Bucs players to the far sideline, where he found no one in front of him and a free path to the end zone.

“That was a big play,” said Herburger, who entered Monday’s title tilt with 686 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. “We wanted to come out here and play hard. It feels great. I was looking up at the scoreboard; I knew then that no one could catch me.
“It feels amazing. The coaches have worked so hard. It’s great for us to go out and get this win for them.”

While Mission Bay was able to contain sophomore sensation Elijah Preston for the most part in the first half, Preston drove the final nail in the Bucs’ coffin by scoring on a 50-yard touchdown run to open scoring in the second half.

Preston’s score upped the Saints’ margin to 35-0; he later ripped off a 43-yard run to get his team out of the shadow of its own goalposts after the St. Augustine defense had regained control of the ball on a sack and fumble to end a Bucs’ potential scoring drive at the four-yard line.

Francoise Sims II closed out scoring on a seven-yard run in the third quarter to buttress Herburger’s pick-six score.

Preston, Hudson, Herburger, Sims and Marty Rascon combined to rush for 272 yards in the game. Preston had 14 carries for 160 yards while Sims rushed eight times for 46 yards, Hudson had three carries for 36 yards, Herburger had three carries for 16 yards and Rascon had four carries for 14 yards.

Other key South County contributors for the Saints this season include senior tight end/defensive end Ethan Sanchez and junior lineman Daniel Ramirez.

Both received extensive playing time in Monday’s championship contest. Sanchez had one catch for 23 yards and also recorded one tackle on defense.

The Saints’ previous CIF championships have come at the Division III (2005 and 2006) and Class 2-A (1970) levels. However, this season the section revised its playoff structure to group teams by competition level rather than student enrollment level.
Buncom, who contributed four tackles on defense, said he remains “impartial” to the new system.

“It’s something we, as players, don’t have any control over,” he said. “Our goal is to just go out and try to dominate whoever our opponent is that week.

“The most important thing for us this season has been our leadership, especially the leadership by our seniors.”

St. Augustine played three Metro Conference teams on its regular season schedule, defeating Mater Dei Catholic and Otay Ranch by scores of 61-20 and 36-7, respectively, before running into a brick wall against the Eastlake Titans on Sept. 27.

The Titans defeated the Saints, 26-0, to record their first-ever win against St. Augustine. It would be the last time the Saints would lose this season, which may be extended with a bid to compete in the Southern California regional playoffs.

Included in that eight-game winning streak is a 19-7 victory at arch rival Cathedral Catholic in the teams’ annual Holy Bowl on Oct. 25.

“It was so disappointing,” Sanchez said in reference to the shutout loss against Eastlake. “We regrouped and made some adjustments and our kids refocused. Hopefully, we’ll have a shot at a state championship.”

Extra points

Hudson entered Monday’s game with 1,666 passing yards, 16 touchdown completions and four rushing touchdowns.

Deric Vierra also recovered a fumble and had one pick in Monday’s game for the Saints.

Mission Bay’s Plum racked up 192 passing yards in the loss – 88 yards of which were collected by star receiver Andres Petties-Wilson. The Bucs totaled only nine net rushing yards in the game as Plum lost 36 yards on nine carries.

The Saints’ two losses were to Open Division teams this season. St. Augustine bowed, 47-28, to Oceanside in the season opener on Aug. 30. Oceanside finished runner-up to Mission Hills by a score of 36-14 in Monday’s Open Division title game; Eastlake earned the No. 2 seed in this year’s Open Division playoffs, dropping a hotly-contested 33-30 decision in the semifinal round.

Sanchez took part in Sweetwater’s section record 37-game winning streak in the mid-1980s. He retains ties to his alma mater. When asked about Sweetwater’s return to the CIF finals for the first time since 1984, his eyes lit up.

The second-seeded Red Devils (8-4) will play top-seeded Monte Vista (7-5) in Saturday’s Division IV championship game. Kick-off is 3:30 p.m. at Mesa College.

“I’m very proud of those guys,” Sanchez said in reference to the SuHi football team. “I’ve been waiting for them to get back on top. Congratulations go to coach Hay and his coaching staff. It’s great to see them believe in football. It means so much to National City and Sweetwater.”

Top-seeded Mission Hills (12-1) rebounded from a 14-10 halftime deficit to throttle third-seeded Oceanside, 36-14, in Monday’s Open Division title game while third-seeded Cathedral Catholic (11-2) had to go three overtime periods before outlasting top-seeded San Pasqual, 37-31, in Monday’s Division I championship game.

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