BELLFLOWER -- Servite coach Troy Thomas and quarterback Cody Pittman both knew it: There was no way the Friars could out-athlete St. John Bosco. It takes a lot for competitors to admit that others are faster and quicker but neither Thomas or Pittman shied away from doing so Friday night.
Instead, they ran right at the supposed mismatch. Time after time after time.
Servite, No. 1 in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football top 25, used its strong running attack to earn a hard-fought victory against St. John Bosco, 35-27, at Braves Stadium. The win gave the Friars sole possession of first place in the Trinity League.
"We figured the only way we could get it done was to try to beat them up front, which isn't easy to do either obviously," Thomas said. "But we felt like that was the only way we could get it done."
Manaitavini Pauu had 128 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, Andrew Moore added 108 and two scores, and Pittman pitched in with 162 total yards for Servite (7-1, 3-0), which erased an early second half deficit. The Friars trailed twice -- 21-14 and 27-21 -- in the third quarter but the physicality of Pauu and Moore brought them back.
"We thought the line up front was going to be big this week and they were," Pittman said. "They were pushing guys off the ball and creating running lanes."
Bosco (6-2, 2-1) had taken a 27-21 lead on an 80-yard strike from Rene Medina to Bryce Treggs but a missed extra-point attempt was the beginning of the end for the upset-minded Braves. Moore's second touchdown run of the night put Servite ahead with 10:29 left. The Friars then recovered a fumble at around midfield and capitalized when Pauu punched it in from a short distance less than three minutes later.
There was no shortage of hype and the standing-room only crowd only made things more electric. Bosco senior linebacker Shane Baumann talked the talk earlier in the week, telling a local television station that the Braves wanted to show the Friars “what’s up.” On Twitter, Servite was warned to “fear the spear.”
The upset nearly materialized.
The Braves fell behind by two touchdowns after Servite easily scored on its first two possessions but, perhaps as an indication of how much they’ve matured over the last year, regained composure and answered back. A gutsy fourth-down run extended the drive before Medina rolled to his right and found Charles Redd in the back of the end zone, slicing Servite’s lead in half, 14-7. They followed that up with an impressive 93-yard drive -- capped by a two-yard touchdown pass from Medina to Treggs with 16 ticks left in the first half -- to tie it at 14.
Dalis Bruce opened the second half with an electrifying 56-yard kick return, and DaVonte Young reeled off a 26-yard run on the very next play to set the Braves up nicely. Royce Moore reached the end zone from a yard out on a gutsy fourth-and-goal call to make it 21 unanswered for Bosco.
Medina passed for 179 yards and two touchdowns, both to Treggs, who finished with six catches for 155 yards. Young, the highly regarded junior tailback, had 125 yards from scrimmage.
"We came up short but we've got to pick it up and come back hard next week," Young said.
In typical Servite fashion, the Friars overcame adversity by running through defenders.
"We didn't play great but we made the plays when we needed them," Thomas said.