For the past five years, Terra Nova has stood in Sacred Heart Prep's way of a PAL Bay Division football championship. That streak, however, ended Friday night as the Gators rolled to a 49-28 victory in Pacifica.
As Sacred Heart Prep (6-0) opened its division season with a bang, the obvious question is this: Is there another team out there to challenge the Gators?
Burlingame could be one after the Panthers outscored Menlo School, 46-30, on Friday afternoon. And, perhaps, Menlo-Atherton after the Bears bounced back from last week's loss to Burlingame and beat visiting Sequoia, 21-14.
Sequoia, Menlo-Atherton and Burlingame are next on SHP's schedule before the Gators meet Menlo in the annual Valpo Bowl to end the regular season. By then, don't be surprised if the Gators are 10-0 heading into the postseason.
One big reason for those expectations is the return of senior linebacker/running back Ben Burr-Kirven, who missed the first five games of the season with an injury. Burr-Kirven made a splashy season debut against the Tigers by rushing for 143 yards and touchdowns of 47 and 80 yards to end the game. He also was in on 11 tackles and had two sacks for a minus 10 yards.
Burr-Kirven was expected to play only defense against Terra Nova. When the Tigers nearly overcame a 35-7 deficit after scoring 21 points in the third quarter to make it a 35-28 game, SHP coach Pete Lavorato decided it was time to have Burr-Kirven play some offense. Burr-Kirven responded with his two long TD runs and Terra Nova's five-year winning streak over SHP was done.
Terra Nova (1-1, 2-4) had made a game of it after quarterback Anthony Gordon threw three TD passes to Jordan Genato in the third quarter. Genato caught 10 passes for 183 yards before suffering an injury that required him to be taken from the field in an ambulance, delaying the game some 25 minutes.
While Sacred Heart Prep gave up 320 passing yards to Gordon, the Gators countered with season-high 529 rushing yards. Along with Burr-Kirven, teammate JR Hardy had 194 rushing yards and touchdown runs of 14 and 26 yards. Lapitu Mahoni added 85 yards on the round and scored on a pair of five-yard runs.
Quarterback Mason Randall had one carry for 29 yards, a touchdown to get the game started in the first quarter. Riley Tinsley, Matt Odell and Andrew Robinson combined for 78 more yards on the ground as SHP beat Terra Nova for the first time since joining the PAL Bay Division.
Robinson was in on 10 tackles while Adrien Beaulieu and Cam Chapman had six each. Mitch Martella came up with a pair of interceptions to help spark the solid defensive effort.
The Gators have won Central Coast Section titles and played in last year's CIF Division III state championship game, but have yet to win a PAL Bay Division crown. That will change with four more victories.
During SHP's five-game losing streak to Terra Nova, the Gators were outscored by an average of 13 points a game (37 ppg to 24.2 ppg).
Coincidentally, the Tigers started the streak by scoring 49 points in 2009. The Gators ended it by scoring 49 points.
Menlo-Atherton 21, Sequoia 14
Robby Beardsley threw touchdown passes of 34 and 43 yards to Chase Del Rosso and ran one in from a yard out to lead the Bears to an efficient victory over visiting Sequoia in a PAL Bay Division opener for the Bears (1-0, 2-4) on Friday night.
Sophomore Jordan Mims, just called up from the JV team, made his varsity debut for M-A by carrying 26 times for 175 yards. Dylan Calderon's 25-yard field goal helped the Bears grabb a 15-0 halftime lead before the Cherokees rallied. Beardsley provided the insurance with a one-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Stavro Papadakis added 58 rushing yards for the Bears, who combined with the Cherokees for more than 200 penalty yards.
Burlingame 46, Menlo School 30
It was an offensive battle in Atherton on Friday with the visiting Panthers remaining unbeaten (2-0, 6-0) with a wild win over the Knights.
Menlo (1-1, 3-3) rebounded from a 21-2 halftime deficit by scoring twice in two minutes of the third period. Charlie Roth scored his first touchdown on a 28-yard run. Roth finished with 91 yards in 13 carries. Less than two minutes later, the Knights took advantage after Sam Ferguson forced a fumble and Gregor Yock recovered, by converting on a second-down situation. Austin D'Ambra threw to Jack Marren, who threw to Garrett Matsuda on a 29-yard catch and run. The Knights trailed 21-16.
After Burlingame scored again and missed the PAT, the Knights marched down the field aided by receptions by Matsuda and Marren. Then, D'Ambra connected with Marren for a 29-yard score, and again for the two-point conversion to pull the Knights within 27-24 with 2:38 left in the third. D'Ambra completed 18 passes for 227 yards -- mostly to Matsuda (five receptions, 116 yards) and Marren (8-109)
Will Priestly finished with 10 tackles, including a sack on a third-down at the Knights' 10, forcing a missed field-goal attempt. Marren made a big impact in his first game back from an injury -- he also had 10 tackles. Burlingame, however, came up with six interceptions.
Palo Alto 41, Monta Vista 35
The Vikings came off four straight losses and a bye week in a big way while winning a SCVAL De Anza Division game they absolutely needed to keep any postseason playoff hopes alive. Palo Alto improved to 1-1 (2-4 overall) while the Matadors fell to 0-3 (1-5).
Palo Alto grabbed a 27-7 lead before holding on. A 40-yard interception return for touchdown by Justin Hull proved to be the difference for the Vikings, who also got an onside kick recovery from Riley Schoeben to secure the victory. Jon Martinez rushed for 176 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns on runs of seven and two yards in the first half. Hull threw for 178 yards, including a 30-yard TD reception to Eli Givens.
Cupertino 14, Gunn 6
Nozo Imanaka gave the Titans hope with a 92-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but that was all Gunn could muster while remaining winless (0-2, 0-6) following a tough SCVAL El Camino Division loss to the host Pioneers.
Pinewood 48, Crystal Springs 28
Aidan Lucero carried 22 times for 250 yards and scored four touchdowns to pace the Panthers to a Mission Trail Athletic League eight-man victory over the host Gryphons. Pinewood improved to 2-0 in league (3-2 overall).
Lucero, a junior, averaged 11.4 yards per carry with a long run of 65 yards. He had three rushing TDs plus a kickoff return for a score, finishing with 26 points (including two conversions).
Senior Jack Sweat carried five times for 56 yards, scored two touchdowns, was in on 14 tackles (nine solo), had two fumble recoveries and punted twice for a 41-yard average.
Pinewood senior Oscar Fick was in on 17 tackles (eight solo) while freshman Alex Dagman had 13 tackles (seven solo) to help pace the defensive effort.