Crespi quarterback Cody Cordell lines up in the shotgun formation during… (Steve Galluzzo )
TUCSON — In its season opener, Encino Crespi faced a stern test from a quality opponent Saturday night and passed with flying colors.
Senior quarterback Cody Cordell completed 17 of 25 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns and one interception as the Celts overcame three first-half turnovers and cruised to a 35-20 victory over Salpointe Catholic in Tucson.
Sophomore Okalani Langi rushed for 142 yards in 20 carries and caught a 12-yard swing pass for Crespi's first touchdown. The Celts led 17-3 at halftime and built a 35-6 advantage before the reserves surrendered two late scores to a team that finished 9-2 last season and is ranked No. 7 in Arizona by MaxPreps.com.
"This just sets the tone for the rest of the season," Langi said. "We may be starting six sophomores, but we don't look at it like we have three years. We're making a statement that we're back and we're making the playoffs. Cody [Cordell] played great, he's our leader and he's going to take us to the promised land."
Senior wide receiver J.B. Blackwell made several acrobatic catches, none more spectacular than a one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone that gave the Celts a 17-3 lead with 4:55 left in the first half. Cordell threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Torrance Blumfield and the ensuing two-point conversion capped an 8-play, 80-yard drive that gave Crespi a 28-6 lead.
Sophomore Shannon Miller caught a pass over the middle and fumbled at the one-yard line, but senior Aaron Lacombe recovered the ball in the end zone for Crespi's final score.
It was the first Elijah Cup game between the two Catholic schools, and Crespi Coach Jon Mack was happy his team came out on top despite a morning flight from Burbank to Phoenix followed by a two-hour bus trip south to Tucson.
"They're coming to our place next season, so hopefully this is the start of a long tradition," Mack said. "This was a great experience for us. It's the first time six of our kids ever got on a plane."
The Celts' defense had five sacks and stopped the quarterback inches short of the goal line on fourth down on the Lancers' first possession. A fumbled snap gave Salpointe Catholic the ball back at Crespi's 13-yard line, but Tyler Foreman intercepted a pass along the sideline.
Patrick Cassley kicked field goals of 31 and 37 yards for the Celts.
"I was real happy with some things and not so happy with other things," Mack said. "I liked what Langi did as a sophomore starting his first game. Cody made some great checks and for the most part our protection was good. Obviously, we need to protect the ball better."
Crespi finished in a three-way tie for third place in the Serra League last season and missed the Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs, but Langi is confident that won't happen this fall.
"At halftime, we treated it like it was zero-zero," Langi said. "They're a real good team, and we knew we couldn't let up for a second.
"We definitely think we can win league and make some noise in the playoffs."