RICHMOND — The Sacred Heart Prep football team knew the names: Derik Calhoun, Adarius Pickett, Keilan and Keith Benjamin, all the standout, college-bound players featured by the El Cerrito squad.
But when the final horn sounded at De Anza High in Richmond in the Northern California Division III championship game Saturday, one name stood taller than the others:
Sacred Heart Prep.
The Gators dominated from the opening whistle and put a 42-7 beat down on El Cerrito, shocking not only the Gauchos (12-3) but Northern California. No one gave the Gators much of a chance against El Cerrito, which was one of the top-ranked teams in Northern California.
“I knew their names,” said SHP’s Ben Burr-Kirven, who wrecked shop on both sides of the ball. “I hope they know mine now.”
Burr-Kirven essentially did it all for the Gators in the stunning upset. He rushed for a game-high 161 yards on 15 carries and scored four touchdowns as the offense churned out 364 yards of offense – 309 on the ground.
Burr-Kirven was also the central figure on a SHP defense that held the Gauchos to just 228 yards of offense and season-low for points scored. The Gators recorded three sacks, forced a pair of fumbles and knocked out both the Gauchos starting quarterback as well as his backup.
The entire Gators squad was firing on all cylinders.
“I don’t think they were prepared for us,” Burr-Kirven said. “Everyone played great.
“We dominated them. That’s all I can say.”
The win sends the Gators to the Division III state championship game at the Stubhub Center in Carson at noon Saturday, where they will face Southern California Division III champ Corona Del Mar-Newport Beach.
The Gators used a familiar formula to rout the Gauchos and they showed their hand early. SHP’s stifling defense forced an El Cerrito three-and-out on the first series of the game and then the Gators’ numbingly efficient offense drove 63 yards on seven plays for a 7-0 lead.
“I think it was massive to get a stop on defense and a score on offense (to start the game),” Burr-Kirven said, who scored from nine yards out.
The defense then forced an El Cerrito fumble on its next drive and the Gators offense promptly took advantage, driving 44 yards on seven plays with Andrew Segre, who finished with 95 yards, scoring from a yard out to put the Gators up 14-0. Chris Lee set up the score with a 21-yard run.
El Cerrito responded with its best drive of the half. Starting from their own 33, the Gauchos drove to SHP 14 before the Gators stiffened and forced El Cerrito to turn the ball over downs.
The Gators accomplished the feat again when they stopped the Gauchos short of a first down on a fake punt on their next drive. SHP took over and all but put the game out of reach. On second down, Burr-Kirven took a handoff off tackle and like a locomotive, chugged 45 yards for his second score of the game to put the Gators up 21-0 with 2:25 to play in the first half.
“They couldn’t stop us,” said SHP coach Pete Lavorato. “I knew they couldn’t stop us.”
The Gators kept momentum firmly on their side when they took the second-half kickoff and drove 61 yards on eight plays. Burr-Kirven ripped off a 36-yard run during the march and he capped it with his third score of the game from a yard out to put the Gators up 28-0.
El Cerrito finally put it all together on its first drive of the second half, marching 65 yards on eight play with Pickett scoring on a 12-yard scamper.
That score appeared to energize the Gauchos as they forced a three-and-out on SHP’s next possession, but the Gator got the ball right back when they forced El Cerrito’s second fumble of the game at its own 44.
The Gators took advantage right away. After picking up an initial first down, it was Segre’s turn to make the highlight reel. He took a handoff, broke into space and using a quick sidestep, left a pair of El Cerrito defenders grasping air. By the time Segre was taken down, the Gators had first down at the 7 and Burr-Kirven did the rest, scoring his fourth touchdown of the night for a 35-7 SHP lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Gators forced a Gauchos punt on their next possession and the offense put the final nail in the Gauchos’ coffin. Facing fourth-and-long at the El Cerrito 47, quarterback Mason Randall dropped back and fired a pass deep downfield to Mitch Martella. The El Cerrito defender tipped the ball, but it fell right into the waiting hands of Martella, who went the rest of the way for a 47-yard score and 42-7 SHP lead with 7:12 left to play.
It was a running clock from there.
“I don’t think anyone thought it would be us running the clock,” Burr-Kirven said.
“This is crazy. 42-7 and it wasn’t a fluke,” Lavarato said. “I’m sure we got a little respect. This whole area (the North Coast Section) probably has a little (more) respect for us.
“We’re a darn good team.”