It started with a clutch first-half block and finished with a spirited last-minute dive for the end zone.
The result was one of the most dramatic football games of the 2020-2021 Peninsula Athletic League football schedule to date as Sacred Heart Prep outdueled Half Moon Bay for a 29-26 victory Saturday night on the Coastside.
With SHP (3-1 PAL Bay, 4-1 overall) trailing 26-21 inside the final minute, quarterback Teddy Purcell made a gutsy option run on fourth-and-5. Purcell picked up the first down and more, going headlong for the final 2 yards of the 8-yard scramble to catapult his way to the game-winning score.
“He looks and doesn’t see anything, so he just takes off,” SHP head coach Mark Grieb said of the option run. “Then he gets to the 2-yard line and just launches himself into the end zone.”
The Gators had one timeout remaining and would have had time to run at least one or two more plays. But Purcell’s heroics bypassed the need for any more dramatics, much to the approval of his coach.
“We were going to live to have another play, which was great,” Grieb said. “But it really did come down to that last chance, and he just made a play like he has all year long.”
The game saw six lead changes, with SHP not scoring its first points until the second quarter. But the Gators set the tone in the second quarter, taking a 7-6 lead on Beck Anderson’s 9-yard scoring run.
Grieb credited tight end Cav Williams with the key block to cement the touchdown on the fly sweep. Williams crashed into HMB’s star linebacker Tristan Hofmann, while receiver Paul Barton and running back Andrew Latu also helped clear the way for Anderson’s scoring run.
“I thought that kind of set the tone a little bit,” Grieb said.
The Gators took a 14-6 lead after a 3-yard scoring run by Latu, but with less than one minute to go in the half, HMB quarterback Will Moffitt went airborne with a 16-yard touchdown pass to close the score to 14-12.
Then near the start of the third quarter, the fireworks started. Moffitt had a pass picked off by Jackson Girouard with less than a minute to go in the period. But the Cougars defense answered right back, as HMB senior Conor Quosig came up with a quick interception and more, strutting to the end zone for a pick-6; the Cougars succeeded on the 2-point conversion to follow, to take a 20-14 lead.
But SHP fired right back, marching for a 60-yard scoring drive, capped by a 26-yard scoring pass from Purcell to Barton; place kicker Jonathan Martinez delivered the point-after try to give the Gators a 21-20 advantage.
Inside the game’s final minutes, time management became the name of the game. The Cougars (1-3, 2-3) scored a go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard blast by Hofmann to take a 26-21 lead. But SHP used two timeouts on the drive to conserve precious seconds and got a surge of momentum into its final possession by stopping the ensuing 2-point conversion try.
“I think we were fired up when we stopped them, but we still knew, if we stopped them or not, we were going to have to drive the length of the field,” Grieb said. “So, we still had some work to do. But, yeah, we were excited.”
Anderson seized on the excitement and returned the kickoff from inside the 20 to advance to the 40-yard line. Purcell then completed a quick 6-yard pass and followed with a 5-yard run to pick up a first down. The big pass was a 38-yard connection to Williams to advance inside the red zone.
Then, after enduring a sack, Purcell had a third-down pass corralled short of the first-down marker. But on the following play, with 11 seconds left, the quarterback hit paydirt.
“I just thought his decisions in the second half, especially after that interception, he just bounced back so well,” Grieb said.