"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.
Gunn (6-2 overall) wrapped up its home season by winning their fourth straight game last Friday, 33-6 over Cupertino. On a night where Gunn's 19 seniors were honored, it was junior running back Sean Lydster who made it a night worth celebrating. Lydster scored three touchdowns, including a 70-yard run that opened the scoring late in the first quarter.
Gunn quarterback Andre Guzman found Kevin Sharp on a 15-yard touchdown pass to put the Titans up 14-0, but Cupertino bounced back with a TD for a 14-6 game at halftime.
Lydster gave the momentum back to the Titans with a 35-yard touchdown run in the third period. The Titans never looked back as two more rushing touchdowns — from Lydster and Marcus Moreno-Ramos — put the game out of reach. Senior linebacker Calvin Membreno sealed the game with his first interception of the season.
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. SHP's stingy defense allowed only 177 total yards and had two interceptions while preventing the Bears from taking over sole possession of first place.
With the game tied and less than five minutes left, senior quarter back Kevin Donahoe threw a lob pass to wide receiver Rex Shannon for a seven-yard touchdown that won it for the Gators.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division race, Palo Alto got one result it wanted but not the other as the Vikings' hope for the top seed took a hard hit last weekend.
While Paly did topple visiting Saratoga on homecoming, 51-34, and the victory kept the Vikings (4-1, 6-2) tied for first place in the division, the co-lead went to Milpitas and not Los Gatos.
Palo Alto needed the Wildcats to win on Friday in order to knock Milpitas out of the race for first place. The Vikings, by virtue of their win over Los Gatos the previous week, then would hold the tiebreaker over the Wildcats and earn a berth in the CCS Open Division.
Milpitas (4-1, 6-2) ruined those plans by handing host Los Gatos a 17-15 loss. The Wildcats fell to 3-2 (4-4) as the Trojans took control of the division, by virtue of their earlier win over Paly.
The Vikings did their best by winning their fourth straight since the loss to Milpitas. Junior Andrew Frick scored on runs of four and three yards, the second TD providing the eventual winning points as Paly grabbed a 38-13 lead with 38 seconds left in the third quarter. A 33-yard screen pass from junior quarterback Keller Chryst to senior Matt Tolbert set up the TD by Frick.
Paly senior Justin Gates-Mouton scored on a 50-yard run and returned an interception 66 yards for another score and Chryst tossed touchdown passes of 36 yards to Malcolm Davis and 12 yards to D'Antay Williams.
Chryst finished 17-of-28 for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Tolbert gained 78 yards on 15 carries and caught three passes for 61 yards.
As good as Chryst was, Menlo junior Jack Heneghan was even better. He accounted for seven touchdowns, four through the air and three by rushing, in a 56-21 romp over visiting Sequoia in a PAL Ocean Division game.
The teams entered the showdown with identical records, but the Knights emerged with a 3-1 league mark and are 7-1 overall.
Heneghan completed 31 of 41 passes for 393 yards. His three rushing TDs helped him accumulate 74 yards on the ground.
Connor Stastny caught three of Heneghan's throws for TDs in the first quarter alone. He finished with eight catches for 112 yards. Will King had four receptions for 100 yards and Connor Paterson reeled in six catches for 82 yards.
Menlo will host Jefferson 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) moved into a tie for second place in the MTAL eight-man league with a 26-16 win over Trinity Christian. Kevin Tracy completed 10 of 16 passes for 147 yards and two touchdown for the Panthers. Owen Lewis led the ground game with 74 yards on 17 carries in addition to catching five passes for 87 yards. He scored three touchdowns, one rushing, one receiving and one by interception.
This story contains 1460 words.
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