St. Frances football smothers Georgia champ, completes perfect season; Corum and Bangda combine for 355 yards, 4 TDs

Lee County’s Marlon Brown (43) tries to break away from St. Frances linebacker Aaron Willis during the first half of Saturday’s GEICO State Champions Bowl. The Panthers dominated play in the second half to cap a second straight perfect season with a 43-14 victory over the Georgia Class 6A state champions.

A year started with distractions ended on a dominant note for St. Frances Academy football Saturday.

The No. 1 Panthers completed a perfect season with a 43-14 victory over Georgia’s Lee County in the Geico State Champions Bowl Series in Leesburg, Ga. Junior running Blake Corum rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns and Joachim Bangda added 165 yards and two scores for St. Frances (10-0 overall). Junior linebacker Osman Savage returned a fumble for another score.

After its first-team defense allowed a touchdown for the first time this season, St. Frances suffocated the two-time reigning Georgia Class 6A state champions (15-1) in the second half, extending its winning streak to 23. The Panthers, ranked No. 4 in the latest USA Today Super 25, routed Utah’s Bingham (41-3) in the Geico showcase last season.

It wasn’t as easy Saturday, playing on Lee’s home field in front of a national tv audience (ESPNU). But St. Frances, which had to cobble together a 2018 schedule after its fellow MIAA A Conference members announced late in the spring they would not play them this season because of safety concerns and competitive inequity, preserved.

St. Frances got big first quarter plays from Corum, who sprinted 51 yards for a touchdown on the game’s fifth play from scrimmage. Savage picked up Lee receiver Chauncey Magwood’s fumble and went 57 yards untouched down the sidelines for a touchdown.

The Panthers’ defense, which allowed 18 points entering Saturday, was challenged by Lee junior quarterback Kyle Toole and his receivers. Toole picked apart St. Frances with a quick short passes, compiling 155 yards to five receivers in the opening half, including a 4-yard throw to Magwood with 3 minutes left in the first quarter.

It was the first touchdown allowed by the Panthers’ first-team unit since Gilman School’s score in the opening drive in last year’s MIAA A final at Johns Hopkins University.

St. Frances was reeling again as Toole went 3-for-4 for 50 yards, setting up Shaudarious Kimbrough’s 1-yard plunge after taking a direct snap. The Panthers responded with an 11-play, 65-yard drive, capped with freshman quarterback John Griffith’s 13-yard strike to Traeshon Holden for a 20-14 advantage.

Lee again had St. Frances’ defense in trouble after Jammie Robinson’s 79-yard kickoff to start the second half, put the Trojans in the red zone. But Kimbrough mishandled a direct snap and Chad Brown recovered for the Panthers.

Four plays later, Corum (211 all-purpose yards) surged through an opening and raced 87 yards for his second touchdown. St. Frances’ defense followed with its first three-and-out, and Bangda’s 1-yard score late in the third, extended the lead to 33-14.

Bangda powered his way into the end zone from 10 yards in the fourth quarter as St. Frances rushed for 395 yards Saturday.. Sophomore Isaiah Hardy’s 61-yard run helped set up Bangda’s third quarter score.

The Panthers held Lee to 74 yards in the second half as their pass rush swallowed up Toole (26-of-40, 210 yards). Junior defensive lineman Chris Braswell finished with a 1 1/2 sacks and Demon Clowney and Kobe Page each had sack.

In three seasons, St. Frances has gone from a middling MIAA A Conference program to a national juggernaut. The Panthers, who finished No. 5 nationally (USA Today) last season, could vie for No. 1 entering next fall with Braswell, who’s verbally committed to Alabama, Corum, Holden, Jordan Toles (defensive back) and Clowney among ESPN’s Top 250 juniors.

St. Frances, which was declared MIAA A champions before the season by the MIAA, will play an independent schedule next season.

GEICO State Champions Bowl

St. Frances Academy 43, Lee County (GA) 14

St. Frances 14 6 13 10 – 43

Lee 7 7 0 0 – 14

First quarter

St. Frances – Blake Corum 51 run (Jake Larson kick)

Lee – Chauncey Magwood 4 pass from Kyle Toole (Austin Beaver kick)

St. Frances – Osman Savage 57 fumble return (Larson kick)

Second quarter

Lee – Shaundarious Kimbrough 1 run (Beaver kick)

St. Frances – Traeshawn Holden 13 pass from John Griffith (kick failed)

Third quarter

St. Frances – Corum 87 run (pass failed)

St. Frances – Joachim Bangda 1 run (Larson kick)

Fourth quarter

St. Frances – Larson 28 field goal

St. Frances – Bangda 10 run (Larson kick)