Tevita Moimoi knelt down beside his older brother and put his arm around the broad shoulders of senior Isoa Moimoi. Those shoulders helped Sacred Heart Prep turn an ugly football season into something special.
The elder Moimoi, in his dirtied '25' uniform, just played his final high school game. Tevita, a freshman who wore a clean '34' uniform, was there to share a poignant moment and, perhaps, follow in his footsteps.
The Gators dropped a 16-13 decision to host Half Moon Bay in the semifinal of the CCS Division V playoffs. The game was not decided until the Cougars finally dragged down Thomas Wine after a 32-yard gain on the final play.
Sacred Heart Prep (3-9) displayed no quit, never once looked resigned to losing, and were still trying to gain the extra yard or two as the clock expired.
“I feel like we found an identity over the course of the season,” said senior David Peterson, who like Moimoi, missed the first part of the year to injury. “We had lost a lot of great seniors from last year and we needed to do some soul-searching. I think we showed our potential.”
After losing their first five games, the Gators finished strong. They needed a victory over Terra Nova to finish fourth in the PAL Bay Division and get one of the automatic bids into the postseason and then they took advantage.
Sacred Heart Prep, the eighth seed, traveled to Carmel and upset the top-seeded and formerly undefeated Padres by 20 points.
The Gators played league champions in each of their last games and came within a handful of points of reaching a championship game of their own, holding the prolific Cougars' offense to a season-low in points while making just enough mistakes to hurt themselves.
“I really think we showed we're a better team than the record shows,” Peterson. “We did do something. The values we put into the program, the love we showed for each other on every grade level. Freshman or senior, it didn't matter. We were there for each other. I am so proud to be a part of this.”
Peterson was part of a defensive effort that kept the Cougars out of the end zone in the second half.
Brendan Semien led the way with 21 tackles, including 11 solo and a sack, Peterson added 17, Wine had 13 and Josh Suzuki and James Kirkham each had 10.
No. 4 Half Moon Bay (10-2) now has a rematch with No. 3 Menlo School (11-1) with the CCS title on the line. The teams, which shared the Ocean Division championship, will meet at Sequoia High either Friday or Saturday, at a time to be determined.
Moimoi rushed for 75 yards and scored a touchdown for the Gators. Wine, on a halfback option, hit Michael Mooring for a 40-yard scoring toss. Brad Yaffe passed for 153 yards on 15 of 23 completions.