Andrew Daschbach caught a 33-yard flea-flicker pass from fellow senior Mason Randall following a double-reverse with just 40 seconds left in the game to lift Sacred Heart Prep to a thrilling 35-28 football victory over Riordan in the Central Coast Section Open Division III championship game on Saturday night at Westmont High in Campbell.
The No. 6-seeded Gators (10-3), who won their fourth straight CCS title and fifth in the past six years, will face McClymonds (12-0) in the Division III-A regional bowl game on Saturday, Dec. 12 at Independence High in San Jose at 7:30 p.m.
The South regional game pits Rancho Bernardo (11-2) against Oak Hills (9-5). The SoCal regional winner will host the division state championship game the following weekend.
SHP's next game will have to be special to top the win over Riordan.
"I've played in a lot of sporting events over the years," said Daschbach, a three-sport standout. "But, that one probably is at the top, considering the stage it was on -- for a CCS championship. I can't think of a more exciting game, one that went back and forth like that."
Sacred Heart Prep held what seemed to be a safe 28-14 lead when junior Isoa Moimoi scored on a one-yard run with 11:56 left in the game.
The No. 5-seeded Crusaders (9-4), however, rallied behind a 65-yard punt return for a TD by Aidan Verba-Hamilton with 5:51 left to play and then Jason Greene scored from 19 yards out and added a two-point conversion to tie the game at 28 with 2:42 left to play.
That set up the winning heroics by Randall and Daschbach, followed by an interception by SHP defensive back James Kirkham to seal the victory after Riordan had marched to inside the Gators' 40 with only seconds remaining.
"I'm was extremely happy that game didn't go overtime," said Daschbach. "A lot of our guys were running out of gas."
The Gators, who suffered a 48-21 loss to Riordan in the second game of the season, grabbed 7-0 lead on a one-yard run by senior Lapitu Mahoni. He added a two-yard TD run in the second period for a 14-0 lead. Riordan got a 45-yard interception return for a TD just before halftime to make it a 14-7 game.
With 2:26 left in the third quarter, Daschbach caught a four-yard TD pass from Randall as the Gators moved ahead by 18-14. Greene, however, ripped off an 81-yard touchdown run for a 21-14 game with 2:02 left in the period.
Moimoi led the Gators' dominating run game with 142 yards on 24 carries with one TD. Mahoni added 118 yards on 26 carries with two scores. Randall completed 10 of 14 for 162 yards and two touchdowns, both to Daschbach, who caught five passes for 98 yards and intercepted a pass on Riordan's first series while playing both ways. He also had a pair of sacks from his linebacker's position.
Daschbach had eight solo tackles and David Peterson finished with 10, eight solo.
Speaking of linebackers, former SHP two-way standout Ben Burr-Kirven was on the sideline during the game. Kirven is a freshman linebacker at the University of Washington.
The Gators head into next weekend's NorCal game having won nine of their past 10 games following a 1-2 start to the season.