With a marquee football matchup this week against fellow undefeated PAL Bay Division rival Terra Nova, Sacred Heart Prep could have easily overlooked a physical Sequoia squad on Friday afternoon in Atherton.
But the Gators (3-0, 8-0) came out strong, scoring two touchdowns on their first three offensive plays of the game, en route to a 33-3 home victory over Sequoia (0-4, 3-5).
Senior running backs Andrew Segre and Ricky Grau led the way offensively for Sacred Heart, rushing for 129 and 117 yards, respectively. Sophomore quarterback Mason Randall also turned in a good performance, completing 10 of 15 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
"We practiced hard all week, even though we were probably supposed to win this game," said Segre, who accounted for four of the Gators' five touchdowns despite wearing a cast on his right hand. "We know every game is tough, and we played well early."
Defensively, Sacred Heart received big efforts from junior linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven and JR Hardy. Hardy picked off two of the Cherokees' four pass attempts, while Burr-Kirven set the tone for the Gators on defense and special teams, racking up a number of bone-crushing tackles while finishing with 24, 17 of them solo.
"Ben Burr-Kirven is just exceptional," Sacred Heart head coach Pete Lavorato said. "He's the hardest worker on our team in practice. He's fun to watch out there."
The Gators' defense was stout overall, preventing the Cherokees' offense from executing any big plays. A 12-yard run from senior wide receiver Liam Clifford accounted for the longest play from scrimmage on the afternoon for Sequoia.
"We don't play as individuals, we play as one team and one unit," Hardy said. "All week in practice we worked on staying disciplined. We stayed true to that value, and that's what held (Sequoia) to three points."
Segre started the scoring for Sacred Heart on the second offensive play of the game, taking a handoff from Randall 72-yards for the opening score.
On the very first play of the Gators' next offensive possession, Segre took a short pass from Randall 70 yards down the field and into the end zone, opening up a 12-0 lead for Sacred Heart just three minutes into the game.
However, Sequoia's defense stiffened for the final 19 minutes of the half, shutting out Sacred Heart, to make the score 12-3 at the half.
"Sequoia was very physical and they did push us around, especially in the first half," Lavorato said.
The Gators' first offensive possession in the second half got them back on the scoreboard, as an 11-play, 81-yard drive was capped off by a 32-yard touchdown pass from Randall to junior wide receiver Mitch Martella.
Sacred Heart junior offensive lineman Thomas Rogers came up with a huge fumble recovery on the touchdown drive, diving to recover Ricky Grau's fumble on the Sacred Heart 45-yard line.
Segre ran in two more touchdowns later in the second half, a three-yard run at the end of the third quarter and an eight-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, to finish off the Sacred Heart scoring.
With the Gators' win, a matchup of undefeated PAL Bay Division teams is set up for next Friday afternoon at Sacred Heart. Through their first seven games, Terra Nova has outscored its opponents by an average final score of 44-16.
"We know how good they are," Lavorato said of Terra Nova, which gave Sacred Heart its only loss last season. "Hopefully they feel the same way about us. We just want it to be a good game."
There is no question that Terra Nova will be the Gators' toughest test so far this season.
Palo Alto 41, Mountain View 0
Palo Alto, which has yet to win two games in a row this season, will have that opportunity next week after the Vikings rolled to an easy victory over host Mountain View in SCVAL De Anza Division football action Friday afternoon.
The Vikings (3-2, 4-4) grabbed a 34-0 halftime lead behind a big effort from senior quarterback Keller Chryst, who had 185 yards passing in the first two periods and finished with 228 on 7-of-10 passing. He rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two, one a 95-yard scoring toss to Keesean Johnson, who caught three passes for 123 yards and two TDs. Malcolm Davis added two rushing touchdowns, one a 92-yarder.
Terra Nova 57, Menlo-Atherton 27
Menlo-Atherton saw its hopes of a possible PAL co-title disappear with a blowout loss to the host Tigers on Friday in Pacifica.
The Bears (2-2, 5-3) are now two behind both Terra Nova and Sacred Heart Prep, who meet next Friday.
M-A senior quarterback Brian Keare completed 21 of 32 passes for a career-high 324 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, including an 82-yard scoring strike to Isiah Nash. Keare's one-yard TD plunge got M-A to within 28-21 at halftime.
Turnovers proved costly for M-A in the second half as the Bears lost the ball three times in their first four possessions. Terra Nova scored four unanswered TDs to put the game away.
Ryan Roberts had eight receptions for 119 yards and Nash had three for 107. Nash gained 64 yards rushing on 20 carries but the Bears managed just a total of 117 on the ground.
Jono Simonian had 11 tackles to lead the defense while Randy Lopez added 10.
Menlo School 48, South SF 22
Senior quarterback Jack Heneghan threw a career-high seven touchdown passes as the Knights (2-1, 6-2) rolled to a big PAL Bay Division victory on the road.
Coming off a 498-yard passing effort last week, Heneghan completed 27 of 50 passes for 391 yards and the seven scores. He also rushed six times for 27 yards. In his past two games, Heneghan has 889 passing yards.
Will King caught nine balls for 118 yards and two TDs with Jack Marren catching four for 93 and one score. Peter Bouret gained 85 yards on six receptions, also catching a TD pass.
Travis Chambers had 15 tackles for Menlo, 12 of them solo. Marren added nine tackles for the Knights, who came up with three sacks.
Pinewood 50, Palo Alto Phoenix Academy 23
Quarterback Kevin Tracy completed 8 of 13 passes for 151 yards and five touchdowns -- two each to Wilson Fields and Aidan Lucero -- to pace the Panthers to their eight-man nonleague victory. Tracy also one for a TD.
Pinewood (5-1, 6-1) visits first-place Priory (5-0, 7-0) next Friday with a chance to force a tie for the Mission Trail Athletic League.
Priory 36, North Valley Baptist 0
The Panthers (6-0, 8-0) won their 15th straight game over two seasons with a solid shutout in MTAL eight-man action at PAL Stadium in San Jose.
Following a scoreless first period, the Panthers put up 16 points in the second quarter and 20 in the fourth as the Priory defense held North Valley Baptist to 63 total yards (30 rushing, 33 passing).
James McDaniel carried 31 times for 251 yards, including TD runs of 30 and eight yards. Brandon Zarringhalam had six carries for 31 yards, scoring from one and 20 yards out. Garett Weber scored on a 35-yard TD run and Charlie Tidmarsch rushed eight times for 51 yards.