Ben Burr-Kirven is arguably Sacred Heart Prep's best overall football player, doubling as a standout linebacker and running back. He began the 2014 prep football season, however, on the sideline with a leg injury.
While Burr-Kirven's absence was expected to diminish the Gators' defensive efforts and offensive punch, that wasn't the case Saturday as Sacred Heart Prep rolled to a 32-20 victory over visiting Leland in nonleague action.
The Gators, coming off a Central Coast Section Division IV championship and appearance in the CIF State Division III championship game (a loss to Corona del Mar), had 55 rushing plays for 290 yards. Riley Tinsley (14 for 80 yards), Lapitu Mahoni (15 for 68), JR Hardy (7 for 59) and Mitch Martella (7 for 47) led the offensive attack.
Quarterback Mason Randall was an efficient 11 of 18 for 132 yards and a 46-yard touchdown pass to Tinsley, who had four receptions for 81 yards. Nick O'Donnell returned three kickoffs for 129 yards, including an 85-yarder for a TD in the first quarter.
Sacred Heart Prep also converted first downs on four of five fourth-down situations while instances while running 71 plays from scrimmage. Leland, meanwhile, was limited to 44 as the Gators controlled the pace of the game.
SHP needed that kind of ball control because Leland also was explosive when it possessed the ball. Quarterback Kevin Cance rushed for 154 yards on 114 carries and Chuck Culberson added 83 yards on 11 carries.
Tied at 14, Sacred Heart Prep took a 20-14 halftime lead when Mahoni capped an eight-play, 58-yard drive with a three-yard TD run just before intermission.
The Gators took the second-half kickoff and did what they do best, running the ball on 12 of 13 plays during a 75-yard drive -- capped by a three-yard scoring run by Andrew Robinson for a 26-14 lead. The Chargers battled back to get within a touchdown, but SHP locked things up on Hardy's 34-yard scoring run with under four minutes to play.
Cole March and Cameron Chapman each had six tackles for the Gators with John Van Sweden recording an interception.
Nicole Colonna of Pinewood finished fifth (19:38) in the Senior Girls' race at the Early Bird Invitational on Saturday over a 3.0-mile course at Toro Park in Salinas.
Menlo School wound up fourth at the California Classic in the Fresno area on Saturday after dropping a 5-2 decision to top-seeded Corona del Mar and a 4-1 match to No. 3 finisher Saratoga in a match halted by the excessive heat. Monta Vista finished seventh and Mitty eighth.
Menlo-Atherton, meanwhile, opened its season at the same tourney and finished 0-4. The Bears lost to Corona del Mar, Davis, San Jose and Bakersfield.
Sacred Heart Prep went 3-2 and won the Blue Division title at the Milpitas Spikefest I on Saturday.
The Gators defeated Lynbrook, 25-11, 25-19; lost to Bishop O'Dowd, 25-19, 25-15; lost to Mountain View, 25-19, 21-25, 18-16; defeated Carlmont, 21-25, 25-10, 15-11; and defeated rival Menlo School, 26-24, 25-18.
Victoria Garrick had 37 kills and 45 digs for SHP while teammate Ara Peterson finished with 33 kills and 16 blocks. Setter Natalie Marshall contributed 50 assists and Jorden Schreeder added 48 digs as the Gators improved to 4-2 overall.
Gunn finished 2-3 in the Spikefest I, including a 25-18, 25-22 victory over St. Francis. The Titans also defeated El Cerrito, 25-12, 25-8, but were swept by Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop O'Dowd and Clovis West.
Menlo finished 14th after going 2-3 in the 32-team tournament, featuring a best-of-three format. Menlo opened with a 25-15, 25-19 win over Woodside, then fell to a couple of powerhouses in Presentation (25-17, 25-17) and Los Gatos (25-20, 14-25, 15-10).
Menlo came back to top Notre Dame-San Jose (25-10, 21-25, 15-11) before falling to Sacred Heart Prep.
Girls water polo
Gunn opened its season with a pair of lopsided victories at its own Janette MacKinlay Memorial Tournament.
The Titans rolled past Burlingame, 16-2, and dunked Sequoia, 11-1. Nia Gardner and Mikaela Wayne each had seven goals in the two matches.