Andrew Daschbach heard the grumbling and read the negative words. A 1-2 start by his Sacred Heart Prep football team had led outsiders to believe the Gators were overrated and over-hyped.
A 13-0 season the year before, which included a shutout victory over Bellarmine in the CCS Open Division championship game, had led to such high expectations for SHP. Anything else was just unacceptable.
Thus, getting off to the worst start under coach Pete Lavorato since his 2006 team opened 0-3 had the wolves barking at the door.
"A lot of people counted us out," Daschbach said of the uncharacteristic start.
Since one of those losses was to Riordan, the prospects of beating the Crusaders in the CCS Open Division III finale last Saturday night perhaps weren't the best for SHP fans.
"I definitely had that in the back of my mind," said Daschbach, "and used that as extra motivation."
Daschbach and his teammates took that early season negativity and turned it into something positive as the Gators scored in the final seconds and held on to beat Riordan, 35-28, at Westmont High in Campbell to claim a fourth straight section championship and fifth in the past six years.
The victory earned the Gators (10-3) a date with McClymonds (12-0) in the Division III-A regional bowl game this Saturday at Independence High in San Jose at 7:30 p.m.
"We've had some success on that field," Daschbach said of Independence High. "We won one CCS championship there and one CCS semifinal."
Should SHP win the NorCal regional, the Gators will advance to face the winner of Rancho Bernardo (11-2) and Oak Hills (9-5) in one of 13 state championship games the following weekend. The SoCal regional winner will host the division state finale on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep holds the advantage of experience over McClymonds as the Gators played in a regional two years ago before advancing to a state championship game. Three starters on that team in 2013, which finished 13-2, are seniors this season -- quarterback Mason Randall, lineman Justin Harmon and Daschbach.
While McClymonds presents a glossy record, Daschbach is confident the Gators will be ready.
"It absolutely is just another game," he said. "We're going into it like any other football game. We know our coaches will have us ready."
SHP heads into the game on a six-game win streak, having won nine of its past 10. The Gators are ranked No. 88 in the state by MaxPreps while facing teams with a combined 90-65 record this season. SHP has played only three opponents with losing records this year.
McClymonds, meanwhile, has faced only three teams with winning records in 2015 while opponents are a combined 54-61. The Warriors played both Oakland and Fremont twice (league and playoffs), teams with a combined record of 9-15.
Now, the stage is set for the next biggest game of the season for SHP. The game plan is set and the players are prepared. That has been the program's trademark during Lavorato's 13 years, during which he has compiled a record of 119-35-1. And there's room for two more wins in 2015.