It would have been perfectly understandable if the Sacred Heart football team did not know how to properly react after Friday afternoon's disappointing result.
After all, it had been nearly two years since the Gators had experienced defeat on the gridiron, which made the final score of the Gators' home opener all the more surprising.
Archbishop Riordan (1-0) rolled to a stunning 48-21 nonleague victory over Sacred Heart Prep (1-1) as the Crusaders' athletic and physical roster dominated the Gators on both sides of the ball to snap Sacred Heart's 14-game win streak.
"We knew they were going to be athletic and faster and stronger than us," senior wide receiver Nick O'Donnell said. "Riordan played great. They had a great scheme against us. But we weren't ready for what they brought and that's on us."
The Crusaders ran for 351 yards in their first game of the season, as the Gators' defense struggled to wrap up running backs Raymone Sanders and Jason Greene. The speedy Sanders and the powerfully built Greene combined for over 250 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
"We knew the holes were there," new Riordan head coach Kevin Fordon said of his running attack. "We got behind our big boys and pounded them."
The Gators received a standout effort from senior tight end Andrew Daschbach, who caught seven balls for 114 yards, but overall Sacred Heart did not move the ball as efficiently on offense as it had in a 47-point performance against Leland last week.
Much of the offensive struggles were caused by a physical Crusaders' defense that held Sacred Heart's running attack in check, while at the same time limited big-play opportunities down the field. Sacred Heart ended the game without a single run or pass over 30 yards.
"I think we probably threw the ball a little too much," Sacred Heart head coach Pete Lavorato said. "I think I probably called a few too many pass plays. We could have ran the ball a little bit more, especially when the game was close."
Offensive miscues plagued Sacred Heart from nearly the very start of the game. On the Gators' first drive, two errant snaps on third and fourth down wiped out the entire yardage accumulated from the prior nine plays, and put the defense in an early hole.
Riordan could not capitalize, however, fumbling the ball at the Gators one-yard line to waist an early scoring opportunity.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Crusaders soon found their offensive footing, as rushing touchdowns by Greene and quarterback Jacky Luavasa put the Crusaders up 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
Although Sacred Heart answered back with a three-yard touchdown run from senior running back Lapitu Mahoni, the momentum quickly swung back to Riordan on the ensuing kickoff.
With 30 seconds left in the half, Crusaders return man Aidan Verba-Hamilton avoided a tackle at his own 30-yard line, and sprinted down the sideline and into the end zone for a 94-yard kick return that gave Riordan a 21-7 halftime lead.
"That was a tough one," Lavorato said of the return. "What can you say? They made the blocks and the guy can run."
Being down at half was a new experience for Sacred Heart, as only once last season did the Gators trail after two quarters. But, the team came out strong after exiting the locker room, as Alex Harper capped a 69-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to move the Gators back within seven.
But Sacred Heart could not stop the impressive Riordan ground attack. Touchdown runs by Greene and Sanders contributed to 20 unanswered points by the Crusaders that all but put the game away by the end of the third quarter.
"When you're playing WCAL teams, they are fast and athletic . . . you have to play extremely well," Lavorato said. "I give (Riordan) all the credit for the way they played."
Although the loss to Riordan was certainly disappointing, Sacred Heart will not have much downtime before their next big test, as the Gators host Palma next Saturday at 2 p.m.
"We won't (panic)," Lavorato said. "We'll go back and try to keep the kids spirits up. We got a tough one next week. We just got to keep believing in what we do."