Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Terra Nova’s Jaylend Jones leaps high for a first-quarter touchdown during the Tigers’ 29-15 win over Sacred Heart Prep, which clinched Terra Nova’s fifth-straight PAL Bay Division championship.
Terra Nova’s Jordan Genato leaps into the end zone for a nine-yard score during the Tigers’
29-15 win over Sacred Heart Prep.
It took about a quarter for the Sacred Heart Prep football team’s defense to figure out Terra Nova’s spread offensive attack.
When they did, The Gators actually outscored the Tigers 15-9 over the final three quarters of the game.
Unfortunately for Sacred Heart Prep, the game, it turns out, was decided in the opening 12 minutes. Terra Nova scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and then held on to post a 29-15 win over Sacred Heart Prep.
The win gives Terra Nova (5-0 PAL Bay, 9-0 overall) its fifth-straight Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division crown.
“Sacred Heart Prep is the heir apparent to all this (the PAL’s Bay Division),” said Terra Nova coach Bill Gray. “But not yet.”
For the second time in three weeks, it was the play of the Tigers’ defense that paved the way for a major Terra Nova win. On Oct. 25, it was the Tigers’ defense shutting down Menlo School’s vaunted aerial attack. Friday, it handcuffed the Gators’ ground assault. They limited Sacred Heart Prep to 140 yards on the ground.
“Our defense is the best in CCS,” said Jaylend Jones, Terra Nova’s star receiver and team captain. “They’ve carried us the last couple of weeks. I’m happy we (the Terra Nova offense) doesn’t have to play against them.”
The Tigers’ defense limited Sacred Heart Prep (3-1, 8-1) to “just” 317 yards of total offense, but also held the Gators to 23 points below their season average of 38 points per game. Terra Nova also forced four Sacred Heart Prep turnovers, which the Tigers turned into nine points — and more importantly, kept the Gators out of the end zone.
“We scored when we needed to and played defense when we needed to,” Gray said.
Terra Nova’s offense was paced by quarterback Anthony Gordon, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sacred Heart Prep, however, did a good job of shutting down the Tigers’ ground game, limiting them to just 38 yards on 32 carries. The Gators sacked Gordon three times for minus-44 yards.
Both teams got off to shaky starts to the game, with Terra Nova taking the opening kickoff, going three-and-out on its first drive. Sacred Heart Prep started its first drive at midfield, but could not mount much offense.
That’s when Terra Nova got the first big break of the game. The Gators lined up to punt, but the snap sailed over Riley Tinsley’s head. He scooped up the ball and tried to run, but was tackled at his own 40 to give the Tigers a short field.
Terra Nova capitalized immediately, going 40 yards on four plays, with lineman Paul Noa, who lined up in the “Wildcat” formation, taking the snap and bulling his way into the end zone from four yards out for a 6-0 Terra Nova lead.
The Tigers doubled their lead to 12-0 just over three minutes later when Noa — who had the game of his life with two touchdowns, a 2-point conversion and crucial fumble recovery to keep the ball for the Tigers — intercepted a pass at midfield on the Gators’ next drive. This time, the Tigers needed five plays to cover 45 yards, with Jones making a leaping grab in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard scoring pass.
The Tigers forced the Gators to punt on their next possession and Terra Nova, once again, drove for a touchdown. Starting from the Gators’ 48, the Tigers needed just four plays to find paydirt, with Jordan Genato catching a nine-yard pass and bounding into the end zone for the third score of the quarter for the Tigers. Noa’s run for the 2-point conversion gave the Tigers a 20-0 with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
“We felt we needed to stun them early,” Gray said. “And we did that.”
The Gators finally stabilized themselves defensively, but still struggled offensively. Twice they moved the ball deep into Terra Nova territory — once getting to the Tigers’ 12 and, on their final possession of the first half, driving to the Terra Nova 26 — but each time came up empty.
“Our defense has been really good from the 20-yard line in all year,” Gray said.
Down 20-0 to begin the third quarter, Sacred Heart Prep finally found its rhythm offensively. The Gators took the second-half kickoff and promptly drove 76 yards on eight plays — the key being a 27-yard run from Ricky Grau and a 30-yard run from Chris Lee. Quarterback Mason Randall hooked up with Andrew Daschbach for a 5-yard scoring toss to finally get the Gators on the board.
Terra Nova responded, however, with its best drive of the game. Starting from his own 13, Gordon completed six consecutive passes to guide the Tigers to a first-and-goal at the Gators’ 9. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 3, Noa bulled his way into the end zone to put Terra Nova up 26-7.
Nick Pierotti came up with an interception for the Tigers on the Gators’ next possession and after driving down to the 2-yard line, Sacred Heart Prep stood firm, stopping the Tigers on fourth-and-goal — only to give the ball right back on a fumble. Again, the Gators’ defense kept the Tigers out of the end zone, who instead settled for a 30-yard Carlos Grande field goal that put the Tigers up 29-7.
Sacred Heart Prep, in desperation mode, drove 82 yards on its next drive with Andrew Segre scoring from a yard out. A 2-point conversion cut the Gators’ deficit to 29-15.
The Tigers had to punt on their next possession and the Gators were threatening to score again, driving to the Terra Nova 9, but on second-and-goal from the 16, Pierotti made his second interception of the game — this time at the goal line — with 6:08 to play.
The Tigers then ran out the clock to sew up another Bay Division championship.
“It’s surreal. Sacred Heart Prep is a great team,” Jones said. “I’m so happy to win this (Bay Division title) with my boys.”