Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Three SHP players pounce for a loose ball in the end zone. Patrick Finnigan (63) is the one that falls on it for a SHP touchdown.
As Sacred Heart Prep’s Ben Burr-Kirven came off the field following a second-quarter interception, the linebacker enthusiastically said, “That easy, baby. That easy.”
Perhaps he was only talking about the pick that prevented Branham from scoring after they finally found a little offensive rhythm — before that time, the Bruins looked overwhelmed, actually.
But it just so happened that Burr-Kirven’s words were a perfect synopsis of an opening day onslaught by the defending Central Coast Section Division IV champion Gators.
Sacred Heart Prep was too fast, too tough and too sharp for the Bruins in what turned out to be a 48-0 win over the San Jose school.
“We controlled the game, no doubt about it, in the first half,” said SHP head coach Peter Lavorato. “Once we got up by a couple of touchdowns, it was kind of difficult for them to hang in. It was a hot day. I think it was just tough on them. But I think our kids played really well today.”
The Gators came out and fired on all cylinders, racking up a 41-0 lead by the half and forcing a running clock for the entire second half. In the process, they outgained the Bruins 171 to minus-8 in the first quarter and 110 to 33 in the second.
Sacred Heart Prep scored on all of its offensive possessions in the first two quarters.
After forcing the Bruins to a three-and-out to start the game, the Gators marched down the field on nine plays, covering 66 yards in the process with Andrew Segre doing the honors on a 13-yard touchdown run sprung by a great Chris Lee block over the right side.
That was pretty much all the action the superstar running back saw the entire first half. But it’s not like SHP missed a beat — they showed off various aspects of its offensive arsenal.
On the next drive, Ricky Grau found the end zone to culminate a four-play, 40-yard drive. A couple minutes later, SHP showed it can throw the ball a bit this year if you focus too much on that running attack. With the ball at midfield, Cole March hooked up with Andrew Daschbach for a touchdown down the heart of the field. A 2-point conversion made it 21-0 with a little over a minute left in the first quarter.
The Gators weren’t done. They went to the air once again. This time, new quarterback Mason Randall found Daschbach on a 14-yard play up the seam to make it 28-0.
“We look at what they’re doing secondary-wise,” Lavorato said. “And we thought we could get our tight end up the seam because they were rotating their secondary. And we did. It’s amazing, the tight end, Daschbach, is just a sophomore and he’s going to be a good player.”
After that, the Gator defense got involved. Noah Kawasaki jumped in front of a pass on the first play of the ensuing drive. Three plays later, SHP and Riley Tinsley turned it into points on an 11-yard rushing play.
Sacred Heart Prep forced another turnover, this time of the fumble variety when Burr-Kirven pounced on loose ball. Five plays after that, it was Miguel Mendoza doing most of the work from the nine-yard line before coughing up the rock into the end zone, only to see offensive lineman Patrick Finnigan fall on top of it for yet another SHP touchdown.
The Bruins got into a bit a groove late in the half. They drove all the way down to the SHP 15 before a Mark Hardy sack (his second of the game) and the Burr-Kirven interception shut the door emphatically on Branham.
The Gators would score once more in the second half. The touchdown came on the second drive after the Bruins fumbled the football on their doorstep. Two plays later, Mendoza glided into the Promised Land to make it 41-0.
“These games are still important in terms of making the playoffs,” Lavorato said. “Our goal is making the playoffs. I want to get into the playoffs because my goal is always to play the last game. It’s always fun in the playoffs. That’s just the way I feel about things. We need to win games so we can get points because our league is tough. We have no idea how we’re going to do in league. So we’re trying to win games and learn.”