By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Sacred Heart Prep junior quarterback Jack Larson took one final lunge toward the end zone as the clock expired on Sacred Heart Prep's 44-30 setback to visiting Terra Nova in a PAL Bay Division opener Friday.
Larson came up three yards short, but he'd be doggoned if he was going to show any sign of a letdown.
The Gators fell behind by 21 points late in the third quarter and then nearly had a chance to tie or take the lead later in the fourth quarter.
The loss knocked Sacred Heart Prep (0-1, 4-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten and ended its eight-game winning streak dating to last year's loss at Terra Nova.
The two big offensive powerhouses were on full display, as Larson threw for career highs of 393 yards and four touchdowns, three of them coming in a six-minute span of the second half. Senior wide receiver Pat Bruni caught 12 passes for 254 yards, both career highs, and a pair of touchdowns.
Tyler McCool and Ryan Gaertner also caught scoring tosses for the Gators, who travel to Burlingame for an 8 p.m. kickoff next Friday night.
For the third consecutive season, the Tigers beat Sacred Heart Prep in an offensive showdown. Each time the Gators had designs on the league title.
Following last year's loss to Terra Nova, the Gators won four straight, including a come-from-behind victory over Carmel in the Central Coast Section Division IV championship game.
The Tigers, two-time defending Bay Division champions, also won a CCS title, in Division III, last year.
It was by far Larson's biggest day as a quarterback at any level. He was 24-of-47 passing and helped Sacred Heart Prep gain 491 total yards of offense on 90 plays.
Terra Nova was just more efficient, as the Tigers threw for 408 yards and had 110 rushing yards for a total of 518. That's a lot of real estate.
It helped that both teams ran a no-huddle offense and that a combined 85 passes were attempted.
"I thought we showed a lot of resilience in coming back," Larson said. "Now we have to use it as motivation."
The Gators will be facing the one other team which handed them a loss last year at Burlingame, also motivation enough.
"Burlingame has a run-based offense and they beat us last year," Larson said. "We'll have our hands full. Our motto is 'one more game' and we can still attain that goal. If we lose, we just have to suck it up."
Sacred Heart Prep never could get its running game going, and losing running back Will Morgan to an apparent separated shoulder didn't help. Senior co-captain Luke Thomas was also lost, possibly with a hand injury.
As a group, the Gators managed 98 rushing yards on 43 carries, though Gaertner was the leading rusher with 26 yards. He also caught six passes while Tyler McCool had five receptions for 74 yards.
"The running game wasn't working so we had to find other ways," Larson said. "The receivers really got up there and did a great job."
Sacred Heart Prep also recorded a safety when Fatu Tupou and Mark Hardy combined to sack Tigers' quarterback Chris Forbes in the end zone.
Kevin Donahue intercepted a pair of passes and recorded a sack for the Gators.
South SF 41, Menlo School 21
In a duel of unbeatens, Menlo School drew to within six points, but host South San Francisco held on in the fourth quarter to post a victory in PAL Ocean Division action Friday.
It was closer than the final score would reveal. South City had a 27-14 halftime lead until Menlo closed the gap to 27-21.
"The defense did some really good things," Menlo coach Mark Newton said. "I'm proud of the guys, how they stuck together until the end. The team showed a lot of promise."
Senior defensive back Carson Badger and senior linebacker Dylan Mayer had strong performances for the Knights, as did juniors Connor Paterson and Connor Stastny.
Quarterback Jack Heneghan tossed an 18-yard scoring pass to Tommy Ford for an early 7-0 lead and made it 14-6 on a one-yard run, also in the opening quarter. Heneghan finished with 164 passing yards on 13 of 223 completions, but was sacked five times. Mayer scored from 18 yards out after South City had scored four unanswered TDs.
It was the first loss of the season for Menlo (1-1, 4-1), which had held its previous four opponents to 37 points combined. The Warriors improved to 5-0. Menlo next will host Half Moon Bay on Oct. 14 in the Knights' homecoming game.
Palo Alto 42, Wilcox 13
Senior B.J. Boyd came up with three big scoring plays to spark the Palo Alto offense in a high-scoring victory over visiting Wilcox on Friday night in SCVAL De Anza Division action.
Boyd returned a kickoff 80 yards and caught touchdown passes of 48 and 36 yards as the Vikings improved to 2-0 in the division (4-1 overall) heading into next Friday's showdown with host Los Gatos.
After giving up a 60-yard scoring play to open the game, the Vikings bounced back with 35 unanswered points to grab a 34-7 halftime lead. Boyd got it started with his kickoff return, Morris Gates-Mouton gave Paly the lead for good with a 56-yard TD, Dre Hill raced 69 yards for another score and then Boyd caught his two TD passes from sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst.
Chryst completed seven of 19 passes for 187 yards while Hill rushed 13 times for 116 yards. Boyd caught three passes for 125 yrds. The Vikings' balanced offense totaled 189 rushing yards and 192 passing yards.