Priory may be one of the smallest schools in California, but the idyllic Portola Valley campus can claim something no other school in the state can. Yes, the Panthers' football team is No. 1.
To be more precise, Priory's 18-game win streak that stretches over three seasons now ranks No. 1 in the state in that category -- according to MaxPreps.com. The Panthers were No. 3 prior to last weekend, but the top two teams both suffered losses.
Previous No. 1 was Corona del Mar, the defending CIF Division III state champion which carried a 30-game win streak into last weekend before suffering a 28-14 nonleague loss to Tesoro.
Priory now ranks ahead of Heritage (Romoland), which has won 15 straight and Chaminada (West Hills), owner of 14 consecutive wins. The next-closest Central Coast Section/NorCal team is Aptos with 13.
Priory, which plays eight-man football, is off to a 2-0 start this season following a 44-22 win over North Valley Baptist last Friday in Mountain Trail Athletic League action. The Panthers haven't lost since the final game of the 2011 season, 54-20 to Pinewood.
"It's hard to put the pressure on this group of kids because most of them have never even played full-contact football before," said Priory head coach Doug Sargent. "We have one returning starter on offense and two on defense. This streak puts additional pressure on them.
"I would not have bet on going undefeated in the previous two seasons after only two games, so I'm not saying we will this year. I will say that my players want to and believe they can. We are focused on Crystal Springs this week and no one else."
Freshman Keyshawn Ashford helped Priory keep its streak intact as he rushed for 140 yards and scored three touchdowns in the win over North Valley Baptist.
Garrett Weber got the Panthers (2-0) rolling in the first quarter with a 66-yard scoring run. He finished with two carries for 80 yards with Bailey Marsheck adding 59 yards on seven carries, which included a 45-yard TD run.
Ashford, however, was the big offensive weapon as he had his second three-TD game of the season. He carried 19 times and scored on runs of 18, three and 15 yards. Priory quarterback Max Reines completed three of eight passes for 63 yards, 20 of which went for a TD for Marsheck. He had two carries for 41 yards with Cameron Bonara catching one pass for 22 yards.
Ashford replaces last year's standout running back, James McDaniel, but Sargent says the two players are quite different.
"Smaller, different type of runner," Sargent said of Ashford, who he described as a slasher with speed. "James was speed/power. James was not a defensive player. Keyshawn is key player on defense as well as punt/kick returner."
Priory is only one of two local teams that remain unbeaten this season. The other is Sacred Heart Prep, which coincidently helped Corona del Mar improve its winning streak last December by falling in the state championship game.
The Gators haven't lost since, improving to 4-0 this season following a 35-21 nonleague victory over visiting King's Academy on Saturday. The victory gave SHP head coach Pete Lavorato picked up his 100th career victory with the Gators.
Junior quarterback Mason Randall threw three touchdown passes while competing six of 10 passes for 140 yards. Randall connected with Nick O'Donnell for a 61-yard score, hooked up with Andrew Daschbach for a 28-yard score to lofted a 20-yard strike to Mitch Martella.
Lapitu Mahoni led the rushing attack with 98 yards while O'Donnell had 92 receiving yards. Defensively, JR Hardy was in on 12 tackles and Andrew Robinson had a combined 11.