Bay Area football: Riordan’s defense comes up clutch in WCAL victory over upset-minded Mitty
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Mikatoa Scanlan was exhausted, huffing air with his hands on his hips in between plays.
But, with Archbishop Riordan in need of a stop late in the fourth quarter, the beefy 280-pound defensive tackle jumped in front of and intercepted a screen pass to end Archbishop Mitty’s potential game-tying drive. Two plays later, Riordan’s offense added an insurance touchdown to seal the West Catholic Athletic League victory.
In a game in which Riordan and Mitty traded touchdowns for 48 minutes on Riordan’s senior day, it was only fitting that a Crusader senior sealed the 56-42 victory for the San Francisco school.
“Even though we gave up a lot of points in the first half, we still fought to the end of the game,” said Scanlan.
Riordan’s program, which has now won three consecutive games, will not have time to rest after the exhausting victory. On Saturday, the team will travel to San Mateo to face back-to-back CCS Division I champion Serra.
“They’ve got a lot of ballers on that team,” said Riordan quarterback Mike Mitchell of the Crusaders’ next opponent.
Mitty entered Saturday having lost two of its previous three games, both of which were blowouts to WCAL schools. Meanwhile, Riordan had won by double digits against its previous two opponents.
However, the teams couldn’t have been more evenly matched in the first half.
After a 35-35 tie at halftime, defense dominated the final two quarters. Mitty took over at the start of the second half and led 42-35 on a 10-yard pass to receiver Toju Maku.
The Monarchs had a chance to take control after forcing Riordan to punt.
“Offensively, we create issues for our opponents,” said Mitty coach Danny Sullivan. “But with how talented they are on the other side, they make you have to be perfect.”
As the San Jose school drove downfield, the Crusaders forced a fumble on a 15-yard run to keep the deficit at seven points.
Riordan tied the game late in the third quarter with an 11-play drive capped by a four-yard touchdown run by Charlie Johnson. Johnson rushed for 246 yards on 26 attempts.
Riordan finally broke through after a Mitty interception, a Riordan fumble, and a Mitty punt.
Johnson scored on a four-yard run behind a massive offensive line that included studs like Peter Langi and Tommy Tofi, giving Riordan a 49-42 lead with 2:21 left.
Scanlan intercepted the pass on the next drive, Johnson scored his fourth rushing touchdown, and Riordan won in dramatic fashion.
“Our line works extremely hard,” Johnson stated. “They’re the hardest workers on the team.”
Given the wild first half, Riordan finishing the game with a great defensive play was a plot twist.
Johnson scored on a short-yardage run to cap a nine-play drive to start the game. Mitty immediately responded with a six-play, all-run series that ended with Elijah Bautista running into the end zone from 12 yards out on a jet sweep around the right side.
“I tell everyone that I think that’s one of the best and most underrated coaching staffs in the section and probably Northern California,” said Riordan coach Adhir Ravipati of Sullivan’s program.
Mike Mitchell, Riordan’s outstanding sophomore quarterback with Pac-12 offers, threw a 65-yard screen pass to Chris Lawson, another outstanding college football prospect who beat multiple defenders on his way to the end zone.
“They should give him his fifth star,” Mitchell said of the four-star receiver, who had 115 yards and three touchdowns on the day.
Mitty tied the game at 14-14 with two minutes left in the first quarter when tight end Caden Allard hauled in a 40-yard touchdown on fourth down. On Riordan’s next play, Allard intercepted a screen pass and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown, putting his team up 21-14.
That was one of the few great defensive plays of the first half, and Riordan quickly responded with a nine-play touchdown drive that Lawson capped with a 20-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Following the only other defensive stop of the first half, Lawson returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown, giving Riordan a 28-21 lead with 9:26 remaining in the half.
Mitty, on the other hand, seemed unfazed. The Monarchs relied on A.J Cenizal for 174 yards on a seven-play drive, and wide receiver Billy Hutton cut the deficit to one point when he ran free down the seam and caught a 38-yard touchdown.
Riordan took a 35-28 lead on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to Judge Nash, but Mitty tied the game at 35-35 at halftime on a Jonah Kroenung run on a QB sweep from two yards out.
Riordan emerged from the locker room at halftime as a different team, one that hit hard, filled gaps, and forced turnovers.
Its coach believed that the team overcoming a challenge for the first time in weeks boded well for the program’s upcoming game against Serra, a behemoth that has not lost to a WCAL school since 2021.
“Did we play the cleanest football we’ve ever played?” “No,” Ravipati replied. “But I think it was good that our kids saw some adversity and that they had to battle through it.”