Knights Slay Gladiators
There was extra incentive for running back Dietrich Riley on the St. Francis High sideline last Friday night at Friedman Field.
Just before kickoff of the Golden Knights’ CIF Southern Section Western Division opening-round playoff game with Gahr, UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisel made himself visible, and had to be impressed as Riley finished with 100 yards rushing on 16 carries, and snared three passes for 12 yards, as the Golden Knights used a 25-point second half to subdue the Gladiators, 55-34.
“I saw Coach Neuheisel, and I wanted to show him what I could do,” said Riley, who is in the middle of an intense recruiting war that includes USC. “I didn’t want to take any plays off.”
Gahr features a potent aerial attack led by quarterback Casey Nielsen, who came in with nearly 4,000 yards. Nielsen accounted for 467 passing yards, while hitting 37 of 55 attempts.
“We throw the ball 30 to 40 times,” said the senior, who had three touchdown passes and an interception. “It would be nice to have a running game, but our short passes are like runs.”
St. Francis (9-2) piled up 435 total net yards to 486 yards for Gahr (6-5). Quarterback Justin Posthuma exploited Gahr’s porous defense with nifty runs and effective passes.
Posthuma (11 of 17 for 205 yards) ran for 69 yards on 15 carries, with three second-half touchdowns that included two from four yards out, and a 27-yard burst that gave St. Francis a 21-point lead.
Posthuma had scoring passes of four, 30 and 33 yards. The four-yarder to tight end Travis Talianko cut Gahr’s lead to 14-13 with 7:19 left in the second quarter, and they teamed up on a 33-yarder late in the fourth quarter that pushed the Golden Knights’ advantage to 48-34.
Posthuma found wide receiver Ryan Jenkins with a 30-yard pass that made it, 34-31, with 32 seconds showing in the third quarter.
St. Francis led, 20-14, at the half, when Ian Sternau converted two 40-yard field goals, and reserve quarterback Brett Nelson’s one-yard sneak with 5:16 left in the second quarter.
Gahr made it 7-3 with 3:34 remaining in the first quarter when Nielsen hit Brenton Allen with a 33-yard toss, and then spotted Josh Perkins with an 80-yard bomb early in the second quarter to make it 14-6.
“That’s a great football team with a lot of great athletes,” said Riley, who had three runs over 10 yards, with a best of 39 yards, and also stands tall in the secondary. “They can score from anywhere on the field but we responded in the second half because we’re in great shape, and we wanted to get after it.”
Posthuma’s four-yard trot made it 27-17 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
Shaan Johnson then returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to make it 27-24, and Gahr took a 31-27 lead on Nielsen’s 70-yard screen pass to Allen late in the same quarter.