SAN JOSE — There is no “I” in team — or in “Andrew Segre” for that matter — but the senior running back put on an eye-popping show in the Central Coast Section Division IV championship game Saturday night at Independence High School.
Segre — a 5-11, 190-pound back who is at full speed after his second step — rushed for an astonishing 357 yards and six touchdowns on 29 carries as he led the top-seeded Gators to a 56-21 win over No. 6 Pacific Grove to capture their second straight Division IV crown.
“That’s a fantasy day,” said Gators defensive end Nic Collazo, who racked up three of the Gators’ six sacks on defense. “It’s great (for a defense) to have (scoring) support on the board.”
The 29 carries tied a season high for Segre, who also carried the ball 29 times in the Gators’ 35-12 win over Seaside in the CCS opener. But the 357 yards was easily a season — if not career — high.
Segre knew his workload would increase in the championship game as his running mate Ricky Grau, who has rushed for just shy of 1,0000 yards this season, did not play on offense because his left hand was in a bulky cast.
“I knew I’d have to step up,” Segre said.
“It was like we were running a single-back offense,” said SHP coach Peter Lavorato, whose teams are known for spreading the ball around to several runners every game. “[Saturday], Segre was getting the ball. We kept [the offense] more simple this week than we have (previously during the season).”
All told, SHP racked up 450 yards of offense, with all but 29 yards coming on the ground. Matt Odell and Ben Burr-Kirven combined for 62 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
“We feel like we can run the ball on anybody,” Lavorato said. “We wanted to keep the ball away from their (Pacific Grove’s) offense.”
Segre did the bulk of his damage in the first half, carrying the ball 18 times for 267 yards and four touchdowns as the Gators built a 21-0 before the Pacific Grove offense could find its groove offensively.
After forcing the Breakers to punt on the first drive of the game, SHP wasted little time in taking a 7-0 lead. After picking up an initial first down, the Gators faced second-and-four at their own 43 before Segre took a handoff. He bobbed and weaved his way through the wash at the line of scrimmage, bounced it to the left sideline before bulling his way into the end zone from five yards out for a 57-yard touchdown run.
After Ben Burr-Kirven picked off a Pacific Grove pass, Segre went to work again, this time scoring on a 49-yard run. He appeared to be stopped just past the line of scrimmage and after a stumble, regained his footing and bolted away from the defense for a 14-0 SHP lead.
After forcing another Breakers’ punt, Segre struck again. He gained 65 yards during a Gators’ 71-yard scoring drive, capping it with his third touchdown of the half from 15 yards out for a 21-0 SHP lead with 10:47 to play in the second quarter.
Pacific Grove finally got on the board following a SHP fumble, but the Gators responded with Segre’s fourth touchdown of the half. His 17-yard run capped an eight-play, 55-yard drive. Segre went untouched, completely freezing a defender at the 10-yard line with a head and shoulder shake.
Pacific Grove found the end zone again on the final play of the half to trail 28-14 at halftime.
“At halftime, I didn’t believe it,” Segre said. “[A performance like that] only happens to me in video games.”
The Breakers did a better job of containing Segre in the second half, as he “only” had scoring runs of 10 and 32 yards, but the rest of the SHP offense, as well as the defense, left its mark. Burr-Kirven bolted into the end zone from 23 yards on the Gators’ first possession of the third quarter to put them up 35-14, but the Breakers responded with a long scoring drive to stay in the game.
Add in a sack and Burr-Kirven had a game that would have been on center stage if not for Segre’s star turn.
“[Ben Burr-Kirven] is the best high school football player I’ve ever coached,” Lavorato said.
But a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute put the game on ice for the Gators. First, Segre capped a six-play, 69-yard drive with a 10-yard run — a score set up by a Mason Randall-to-Andrew Daschbach 39-yard catch and run.
On Pacific’s Grove’s ensuing possession, SHP’s Andrew Robinson stepped in front of a pass and returned it 55 yards for a pick-6 score to put the Gators’ up 49-21 with 10:39 to play.
It was another overall strong performance from the Gators defense, which held Pacific Grove to 298 yards, a team that came into the championship averaging more than 450 yards per game. The Gators also picked off three passes — JR Hardy sealed the win with an interception on the final play of the game – to go along with the six sacks and bone-jarring hits all game long.
“We’re good on defense,” Lavorato said in the understatement of the night.
Segre capped his magical night with a 32-yard romp with just under four minutes to play.
“Our (offensive) line did really well,” Segre said. “The holes were huge.”