Uploaded: Thursday, November 1, 2012, 4:17 PM
Priory football takes aim at an undefeated season
|By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Owning a perfect record and having beaten his closest pursuers, Doug Sargent knows his Priory football team has the Mission Trail Athletic League eight-man football title wrapped up.
Yet, there is a goal yet to be achieved and that means pressure remains heading into the final game of the 2012 season.
"League title aside, pressure is on," said Sargent. "We set a goal of (being) undefeated at the end of season party last year and now we are close to achieving that goal. The goal is to finish strong."
Priory (4-0, 6-0) can do just that by beating Anzar (2-2, 2-4) on Friday in Portola Valley at 3 p.m.
"It is a big deal for the Priory community," Sargent said. "Four years ago we started the program with a lot of support but, as always, there are people who questioned our decision. Having a season like this is a way of giving back to all of those who supported us and also rewards the players, past and present, for playing. These are kids/parents without a football background, so going out for football is a big deal and now having success makes everyone happy."
This season definitely has put Priory on the small map that is eight-man football, even though the division is played all around the country. The Panthers, in fact, are ranked No. 593 in the nation out of more than 1,500 teams for 6-, 8- or 9-man football, No. 33 in the state and No. 1 in the Central Coast Section by MaxPreps.
Priory comes into Friday's game averaging 52 points while allowing 23 per game.
"The Priory community has been unbelievably supportive," Sargent said. "We seemed to have more fans last week than the home team and several of the fans were faculty and admin with their families. It meant a lot to us. So yes, it is a big deal for the whole Priory community."
Priory cleared the way for an unbeaten season by sweeping aside its toughest opposition to date, Stuart Hall, last Saturday on Treasure Island, 46-30.
"Did I ever think we'd win a league title? I'd have to say yes," Sargent said. "If I didn't think we could be competitive then we wouldn't have started the program. Consistency has been a key factor. I've had my core coaching staff for all four years, a consistent group of new freshman each year and having James McDaniel has helped."
McDaniel, a junior running back, carried 28 times for 175 yards and scored five touchdowns against Stuart Hall. That effort gave him 1,070 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns this season. He's averaging 178.3 yards per game.
Senior Malik Reid and junior Will Latt also have shouldered the offensive load, along with junior Tom Latta and senior Matt Schwab. When they get done running, throwing or catching, most of the Panthers move to defense. Priory has 17 sacks this season and nine interceptions.
Sargent can only hope the standout efforts continue for one more game.
"Yes, this game is a big deal for our team," he said. "Undefeated is a lot better than 6-1.
"Anzar may be our toughest opponent. We've had a solid game plan going into every game, but Anzar scares me. They are well-coached and they do so many different things its hard to anticipate how they will come at us. We've had to develop Plans A, B and C. This will be a good football game."
Gunn coach Dan Navarro also expects a good game Friday night when his Titans visit Monta Vista in a showdown for first place in the SCVAL El Camino Division. Both teams are 4-0. The winner will hold a one-game lead going into the final game of the regular season. More important, the league champ gets a berth into the CCS playoffs.
There are plenty of other big games on tap Friday, as well.
Sacred Heart Prep (3-1, 7-1) needs a victory at Half Moon Bay (7 p.m.) to remain tied for first place in the PAL Bay Division while keeping its title hopes alive.
Whether that happens will depend on co-leader Menlo-Atherton (3-1, 5-3), which will host Terra Nova (2-1, 4-4) at 7 p.m. Should the Bears win, they'll share the division title with Sacred Heart Prep. The Gators, however, will get a berth into the CCS Open Division playoffs while M-A will be relegated to the Division I postseason due to a tiebreaker.
Should Terra Nova and SHP win, they'll share the Bay Division title but Terra Nova will get the Open Division berth and SHP will play in Division IV -- based on the Tigers' win over the Gators.
Sacred Heart Prep helped create this scenario by upending visiting Menlo-Atherton, 14-7, last Saturday while Terra Nova was being upset by Aragon, 32-31.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division race, Palo Alto (4-1, 6-2) needs to keep winning and hopes to do just that against host Mountain View 1-4, 3-5) on Friday at 2:45 p.m.
Menlo School (3-1, 7-1) will host Jefferson in PAL Ocean Division action on Friday (2:45 p.m.) while making its final tuneup before a regular-season finale against Sacred Heart Prep next weekend in the annual Valpo Bowl.
Elsewhere last week, Pinewood (3-1, 4-1) will visit Stuart Hall (3-1, 4-2) in MTAL action with second place on the line.
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