Although the Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo School boys soccer teams were squaring off Wednesday afternoon, the contest looked more like a football game with the number of players that ended up sprawled out on the ground.
The referees kept their whistles silent for most of the contest, allowing the two rival teams to play a physical game in their first West Bay Athletic League matchup of the season.
Sacred Heart Prep performed well in the rough- and-tumble contest, scoring two second-half goals to defeat Menlo, 2-0. The Gators improved to 5-1-2 overall while the Knights fell to 2-4-1.
"We're more physical than any team we go against," said senior Riley Tinsley, who was also a member of the undefeated Gators football team. "That's how we love to play. We practice hard and we prepare for it."
With the home win, Sacred Heart Prep remained undefeated (11-0-2) against Menlo since the teams began playing each other in the WBAL in 2009.
"Me personally, I don't want to be the man in charge of losing that streak," said Sacred Heart Prep head coach Armando del Rio, who is now 50-2-5 in the WBAL in his fifth season. "We never talk about it, but the (team) knows."
Tinsley led the Gators with one goal and one assist, and the Menlo defense had no answer to the senior's aggressiveness near the goal.
"He's athletic, he's got some speed and some physicality," Menlo head coach Marc Kerrest said of Tinsley. "He's got a little bit of attitude too, and that's what comes out of this rivalry. Kids are going to play hard and it's going to get a little physical."
The game got off to a slow start, as both teams struggled to get good looks at the goal in the first half.
"That's the hard thing about having a rivalry game in soccer, it's to the detriment of the game because nobody wants to lose," del Rio said. "So I think people play tense and frenetic."
Although Sacred Heart Prep controlled the ball for much of the first half, Menlo was almost able to strike first, as junior forward Will Chisholm drove a beautiful ball towards the goal near the end of the half.
However, Chisholm's shot was denied by a nice save from Gators goalkeeper Zach Haire, and the game remained scoreless at the half.
Less than four minutes into the second half, Sacred Heart Prep took its first lead of the game, as Gators senior forward Philip Petrakian's shot deflected towards the goal, and was kicked through the net by Tinsley to put Sacred Heart Prep up 1-0.
"I really hate to say that it was my goal because it was Phil's shot, I didn't even need to touch it," Tinsley said.
The Gators continued to control the ball in the second half, and with 18:20 left to play scored their second goal of the game, as sophomore Danny Sanchez scored on a nice assist from Tinsley.
"(Sanchez) is kind of calm, cool and collected, and sometimes we're on him to have a little bit more edge," del Rio said. "But this game was perfect for him because it got so physical that I think we needed someone to play calmly."
Although neither team had many more scoring chances for the rest of the contest, the action on the field remained intense, as the physical play lasted until the final whistle blew.
"These games always get a little chippy," Kerrest said. "I think it's unfortunate to see. I talked to my boys about it. I was hoping we could keep our composure a little bit better, but the moment kind of gets to them."
Wednesday's game was the first time since 2012 that Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep had faced each other in their first WBAL game of the season, and Tinsley said although it was a little strange playing Menlo so early in the season, he liked the challenge it presented.
"You got to come out ready at the beginning of the league, it gives you something to look forward to," he said.
Both Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo will continue WBAL league play with home games on Friday, as the Gators take on Eastside Prep while the Knights face Harker, both at 3:30 p.m.
In other WBAL action Wednesday, Priory opened its league season with a 1-0 victory over visiting Crystal Springs on an own goal that resulted when Sam Ogunleye crossed a ball along the goal line and it deflected off a Crystal Springs defender and into the cage in the 23rd minute. The Panthers improved to 4-3 overall.
The Menlo-Atherton at Carlmont and Pinewood at King's Academy matches were not reported.
Menlo-Atherton opened its PAL South Division season with a 39-38 loss to visiting Mills on Wednesday as the Vikings' Brandon Matsuno's 3-pointer from 25 feet out swished through at the buzzer. Mills (1-0, 9-4) rebounded off a missed free throw with six seconds remaining and got the ball to Matsuno, who scored his only points of the game. Ryan Cole led M-A (0-1 (6-7) with 13 points.
Palo Alto opened its SCVAL De Anza Division season with a solid defensive effort in a 45-34 victory over visiting Gunn on Wednesday night. The Vikings (1-0, 11-2) also used their advantage on the board, grabbing 45 to the Titans' 29. Twenty of Paly's boards came at the offensive end.
Paly grabbed a 27-11 halftime lead despite a cold-shooting night -- especially from 3-point range where the Vikings were just 4 of 28. Paly failed to score on a field goal in the fourth quarter, but did make nine free throws.
"It was a team effort to get the win," said Paly coach Scott Peters. "With two of our top scores in (Lauren) Koyama and (Skyler) Burris tallying only three points (combined), other players picked up the scoring load"
Juniors Maddy Atwater and Coco Lovely had 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Vikings. Sophomore Julie Chandler added a season-best nine points, including a 5-for-5 effort in the fourth quarter.
Atwater also had four assists before fouling out and Lovely pulled down seven rebounds, matching teammate Alexis Harris, who also was plagued by foul trouble.
Both teams combined for 47 turnovers. Paly was 12 of 52 from the field and Gunn was 13 of 48.
In Millbrae, Menlo-Atherton opened its PAL South Division season with a 46-42 victory over host Mills. The Bears (1-0, 8-4) pulled away from an 8-8 tie after the first quarter to grab a 26-20 halftime lead. Sophomore post Ofa Sili scored the Bears' first 14 points of the game and finished with 18 points.
Mills tied the game at 36 with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Stephanie Mar. In the final minute, M-A sophomore Ilana Bear made four straight free throws, the final two with nine seconds to play, to put the game away. It was the Bears' first win over Mills since 2011.