Sports

Randall, SHP get a shot at football redemption in state finale

 

Most high school football players never have a chance to play for a state championship. For those who do, it's often a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For Mason Randall and his Sacred Heart Prep teammates, they get a second chance in three seasons for a shot at redemption.

That shot comes Saturday when the Gators (11-3) take on host Rancho Bernardo (12-2) in the Division III-A state championship game in San Diego at 6 p.m.

"Not many CCS teams have gone to the state championships," said Randall, "and we're going a second time. Unbelievable."

Randall was the starting quarterback two years ago when Sacred Heart Prep took on undefeated Corona del Mar in the CIF Division III state finals at the StubHub Center in Carson. The Gators lost, 27-15, and finished 13-2 while Corona del Mar capped a 16-0 campaign.

Randall completed 10 of 17 passes for 107 yards and one interception in that game. Randall is now a veteran, having led SHP to a 37-5 record in three years with three Central Coast Section titles, two NorCal crowns and two state bowl game appearances.

Saturday's game will provide quite a contrast for Randall, as it will be held at a high school.

"I remember the stadium being so huge," Randall recalled. "It was really awesome, knowing it (the game) was on TV. It was really cool.. But all that took away the fact it was just another football game."

Randall admitted that it was easy to get caught up in all the excitement.

"We didn't play very well," he said. "I was pretty nervous, because it was on TV. At first it was pretty overwhelming."

Corona del Mar scored two quick touchdowns before picking off Randall and returning it 58 yards for a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.

"I'm going to remind these guys of that start, so we don't do it again," Randall said. "We like to keep it a one-possession game."

Randall will enter the state finals a much older, wiser and accomplished quarterback. His sophomore year included 96 completions in 153 attempts for 1,423 yards, 11 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a completion percentage of .627. This season Randall has completed 146 in 217 attempts for 2,646 yards, 26 touchdowns, four interceptions and a .673 completion rate.

"Physically I've gotten stronger," said the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Randall, who was 6-1, 155 as a sophomore. But, just being in the offense for three years and being a lot more confident and a leader has helped. Maybe over the past two years, given what we've done, my teammates listen and respect me more."

Randall's effort in last week's NorCal Division III-A regional bowl game certainly was just another example of how he and his teammates have grown in the past two years and this season, in particular.

Sacred Heart Prep took on undefeated McClymonds, which qualified for the game on the strength of its defense having allowed just 20 points total in its previous seven games. The Gators exceeded that total in the first quarter on the way to a 56-20 victory at Independence High in San Jose.

Now, it's on to San Diego and a chance at redemption.

"I was naive at that time, and having all that success my sophomore year I thought the road wasn't that hard," Daschbach said. "Coming back this year really has completely changed my perspective on being able to make it this far because we've been through so much adversity as a team and fought through three tough losses . . . Hopefully we'll be able to close it out right."

Randall agreed.

"I'm confident we'll go out and have a good game," he said. "Our offensive line is playing great and our running backs are hitting their holes. I go in the game knowing I don't have to throw five touchdowns to win the game."

Yet, Randall is capable of doing that. He knows that he, Daschbach and lineman Justin Harmon -- all starters on the 2013 state finalist team -- are ready to achieve the ultimate victory.

Said Randall: "I'm confident we're going to win the game."

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