Sports

State championship football game coming to Sacred Heart Prep

SHP Coach Mark Grieb shares the championship plaque with Mat Bucher and Jack Herrell. Photo taken Dec. 4, 2021 by Bob Dahlberg/@bobd_photo.

The Sacred Heart Prep football team improved to 7-7 on the season Saturday and won a NorCal championship.

Next week the Gators will attempt to move above .500 for the first time since the first game of the season. And in so doing, win a state championship.

SHP's Mat Bucher. Photo taken Dec. 4, 2021 by Bob Dahlberg/@bobd_photo.

An unlikely scenario, but true. The Gators beat University Prep of Redding 20-0 on Saturday to capture the CIF NorCal Division 5-A regional bowl game. Next Saturday at 1 p.m. they will host a state championship game against Righetti of Santa Maria, a 14-7 winner over Northwood of Irvine in the Southern California 5-A bowl game.

And this team has a chance to go where no Sacred Heart Prep team has gone before.

Saturday's win was the third time the Gators won a NorCal title. But on the two previous occasions, in 2013 and 2015, they lost in the state final in games played in Southern California.

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This time they get to play at home.

"This is the only school I've ever gone to,'' said quarterback Jack Herrell, who has attended Sacred Heart Schools from elementary school on up and passed for 199 yards Saturday. "When you look at the history of this program, at players like Ben Burr-Kirven, who is in the NFL now, at Mason Randall, Andrew Daschbach and John Oppenheimer, who was a mentor to me. We're such a group of motivated guys. We've been through so much adversity, we're so ready to finish the job. We want to make it 8-7.''

SHP went 3-7 in the regular season with six of its seven losses by eight points or less. But the team qualified for the Central Coast Section playoffs with a fourth-place finish in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division.

After receiving a No. 3 seed in Division IV the Gators came alive offensively, beating Alisal 42-0, Hillsdale 42-14 and No. 1 seed Homestead 51-28 to advance to Saturday's game against a UPrep team that went 13-0 and averaged nearly 40 points per game.

So the SHP defense pitched a shutout.

"Our defense really bonded well,'' said linebacker Mat Bucher, one of several defensive standouts on Saturday. "Everyone on defense knows every guy was going to do their job.''

Defensive coordinator Ed Larios has been around high school football for some six decades and previously coached at Jefferson, Burlingame and Aragon.

"These guys give every ounce they can, every day,'' Larios said. "They respect their opponent and execute the game plan.''

SHP took the opening kickoff and drove 86 yards for a touchdown, a 2-yard run by fullback Andrew Latu. Pass completions by Herrell of 34 yards to Jake York and 20 yards to Bucher were the big gainers on the drive.

University responded by driving from its own 28 to the SHP 1, all on the ground, before Anthony Noto threw the quarterback for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-goal.

SHP was forced to punt out of its end zone and University drove to the SHP 9. But a fumble was picked up by a UPrep offensive lineman who took off running in the wrong direction. The result of the play was a 14-yard loss and the drive ended when a 45-yard field goal try missed.

Then on the first play after taking over at the 20, Herrell connected with Latu for an 80-yard touchdown pass.

"We knew they wouldn't be able to cover a back out of the backfield playing man with no safety help,'' SHP coach Mark Grieb said.

"I was so pumped. It came at the right moment and was executed perfectly. Jack played so well. He made the right decisions, put the ball on the money with no negative plays. I'm excited for the whole team, but especially for Jack and what he went through on the games on the sideline.''

Herrell started the first five games of the season, mostly watched for several weeks as Mitchell Taylor took a turn running the team, but came back at his best in the playoffs.

The score remained 14-0 until the fourth quarter, University made one more drive inside the SHP 10, but turned it over on downs after a 1-yard run on fourth and 3. The Gators proceeded to drive 92 yards with Noto scoring on a 9-yard run.

"Our defensive coaches did a great job of preparation,'' Grieb said. "We bent, but we didn't break. The kids played their hearts out.''

And now, after a season of improbabilities, the Gators will attempt the ultimate reversal of fortune and win a state championship.

"You wouldn't believe it if somebody wrote it,'' Grieb said. "People would laugh at you. It's too far fetched.''

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State championship football game coming to Sacred Heart Prep

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 11:54 am

The Sacred Heart Prep football team improved to 7-7 on the season Saturday and won a NorCal championship.

Next week the Gators will attempt to move above .500 for the first time since the first game of the season. And in so doing, win a state championship.

An unlikely scenario, but true. The Gators beat University Prep of Redding 20-0 on Saturday to capture the CIF NorCal Division 5-A regional bowl game. Next Saturday at 1 p.m. they will host a state championship game against Righetti of Santa Maria, a 14-7 winner over Northwood of Irvine in the Southern California 5-A bowl game.

And this team has a chance to go where no Sacred Heart Prep team has gone before.

Saturday's win was the third time the Gators won a NorCal title. But on the two previous occasions, in 2013 and 2015, they lost in the state final in games played in Southern California.

This time they get to play at home.

"This is the only school I've ever gone to,'' said quarterback Jack Herrell, who has attended Sacred Heart Schools from elementary school on up and passed for 199 yards Saturday. "When you look at the history of this program, at players like Ben Burr-Kirven, who is in the NFL now, at Mason Randall, Andrew Daschbach and John Oppenheimer, who was a mentor to me. We're such a group of motivated guys. We've been through so much adversity, we're so ready to finish the job. We want to make it 8-7.''

SHP went 3-7 in the regular season with six of its seven losses by eight points or less. But the team qualified for the Central Coast Section playoffs with a fourth-place finish in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division.

After receiving a No. 3 seed in Division IV the Gators came alive offensively, beating Alisal 42-0, Hillsdale 42-14 and No. 1 seed Homestead 51-28 to advance to Saturday's game against a UPrep team that went 13-0 and averaged nearly 40 points per game.

So the SHP defense pitched a shutout.

"Our defense really bonded well,'' said linebacker Mat Bucher, one of several defensive standouts on Saturday. "Everyone on defense knows every guy was going to do their job.''

Defensive coordinator Ed Larios has been around high school football for some six decades and previously coached at Jefferson, Burlingame and Aragon.

"These guys give every ounce they can, every day,'' Larios said. "They respect their opponent and execute the game plan.''

SHP took the opening kickoff and drove 86 yards for a touchdown, a 2-yard run by fullback Andrew Latu. Pass completions by Herrell of 34 yards to Jake York and 20 yards to Bucher were the big gainers on the drive.

University responded by driving from its own 28 to the SHP 1, all on the ground, before Anthony Noto threw the quarterback for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-goal.

SHP was forced to punt out of its end zone and University drove to the SHP 9. But a fumble was picked up by a UPrep offensive lineman who took off running in the wrong direction. The result of the play was a 14-yard loss and the drive ended when a 45-yard field goal try missed.

Then on the first play after taking over at the 20, Herrell connected with Latu for an 80-yard touchdown pass.

"We knew they wouldn't be able to cover a back out of the backfield playing man with no safety help,'' SHP coach Mark Grieb said.

"I was so pumped. It came at the right moment and was executed perfectly. Jack played so well. He made the right decisions, put the ball on the money with no negative plays. I'm excited for the whole team, but especially for Jack and what he went through on the games on the sideline.''

Herrell started the first five games of the season, mostly watched for several weeks as Mitchell Taylor took a turn running the team, but came back at his best in the playoffs.

The score remained 14-0 until the fourth quarter, University made one more drive inside the SHP 10, but turned it over on downs after a 1-yard run on fourth and 3. The Gators proceeded to drive 92 yards with Noto scoring on a 9-yard run.

"Our defensive coaches did a great job of preparation,'' Grieb said. "We bent, but we didn't break. The kids played their hearts out.''

And now, after a season of improbabilities, the Gators will attempt the ultimate reversal of fortune and win a state championship.

"You wouldn't believe it if somebody wrote it,'' Grieb said. "People would laugh at you. It's too far fetched.''

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