Injured Riordan quarterback Michael Gormley receives the Stanfel Cup in front of his teammates.

CCS Notebook: Shocking blowouts; three unbeatens fall

October 29, 2021

True upsets in high school football are rare. When those games do occur, they’re usually tight affairs, with the underdog hitting on a few critical plays to pull off a thrilling win.

There weren’t any heart-stopping moments in either of the major upsets in the Central Coast Section on Friday. Riordan overcame an early two-score deficit to beat Sacred Heart Cathedral 48-21, while Milpitas’ playoff hopes got a major boost with a 35-7 win over Homestead.

The SHC defense had been stellar up until Friday, most notably allowing just a kickoff return touchdown in Week 8’s 20-13 win over Bellarmine. Backup quarterback Emilio Cruz, making his second start in place of the injured Michael Gormley, made the Irish look much more human, throwing for 235 yards and four touchdowns on just 13 attempts.

“We always knew that we have some really special athletes and in our losses, we weren’t that far off,” Riordan head coach Mark Modeste said. “We’ve spent more time on basic fundamentals. We get all caught up in scheme, but these kids spent a whole year inside. We have to create those opportunities for them.”

Two early touchdowns by Jerry Mixon Jr. on a 16-yard run and a fumble return had Sacred Heart Cathedral (2-6, 2-3 WCAL) up 14-0, but the Crusaders took the lead by halftime with a two touchdowns from Cruz to Zachary Jones and a 70-yard trick play touchdown from Will Narvaez to Zion Wells. Riordan (5-3, 2-3) went up 28-14 early in the third on Cruz’s 72-yard pass to Christopher Murray, then pulled away as Cruz hit Wells for another score and fullback Kemoeatu Kefu ran for two late touchdowns, including a 64-yarder. The 295-pound Kefu was the leading rusher for the game, with 121 yards on just three carries.

The underdog Trojans outscored Homestead (4-4, 2-2 SCVAL De Anza) 21-0 in the second half to pull away, holding a Mustang offense that had hung 49 points on Mountain View a week earlier to just 126 yards. Ty Egorerua had a 92-yard kick return touchdown for Milpitas (3-5, 2-2).

“We just went out and played our game,” Milpitas head coach Kelly King said.

One other noteworthy upset, albeit in the form of a much more traditional close game, was Mt. Pleasant’s 28-21 victory over Del Mar. The Dons had entered the season as BVAL West Valley favorites, while the Cardinals had lost three straight games by a combined 80-7 margin.

Eagles run the gauntlet

With Saturday’s 40-6 nonleague win over San Lorenzo Valley, the Los Altos Eagles completed one of the most remarkable 11-day stretches in football history, winning three games in the short span.

Two of those games, the Oct. 18 win over Fremont and the Saturday victory over SLV, were rescheduled games after positive COVID-19 tests.

As difficult as it was to play three games in less than two weeks, the Eagles were able to arrange the games thanks to some fortuitous scheduling. Week 9 was originally supposed to serve as their bye week, and after the game against the Cougars was scrapped on Sept. 4, it was moved to Week 9. The Fremont game was originally scheduled for Sept. 24.

It certainly didn’t hurt Los Altos’ endeavors to have two of the three games against a rebuilding Saratoga program and a Cougars team that’s languishing at the bottom of the PCAL Cypress standings. The win over the Falcons was likely headed for a running clock before the game was called due to a severe Saratoga injury late in the second quarter, and the SLV win finished with a running clock.

Save for a situation like a phony school such as Bishop Sycamore playing twice in one weekend, Los Altos’ three wins in 11 days may be as close as we’ll ever get to a high school team imitating the Iron Men of Sewanee.

Cougars win by a whisker

After losing two last-second heartbreakers in the spring, including a one-point overtime loss to King’s Academy, and falling 47-46 to Menlo-Atherton on Jalen Moss’ interception in the end zone, it was time for the Half Moon Bay Cougars to win a tight one.

In a game eerily similar to the aforementioned loss to King’s Academy, the Cougars handed the Burlingame Panthers their first loss of the season, 42-41 in overtime.

Whereas the Cougars lost in April after going for a game-winning touchdown instead of a short field goal in the final seconds, this time it was Burlingame that refrained from sending the kicking team out. The Panthers had missed a 22-yarder and watched Half Moon Bay (3-4, 2-1 PAL Bay) block two extra points. Instead of kick a 20-yarder to win the game, Burlingame (7-1, 3-1) opted to go with running back Lukas Habelt, who had scored three touchdowns on the night but was stopped shy of the end zone by Sam Lowings.

As Nathan Mollat of the San Mateo Daily Journal reported, Burlingame had the ball first in overtime and scored after three plays as Ryan Kall connected with Danny Hilt on a 10-yard pass. In a cruel twist of fate, Kall also made the extra point. HMB scored on third down as well, breaking the plane on a 1-yard Quinn McCauley, and quarterback William Moffitt scored on a two-point conversion to win the game. The Panther defense initially celebrated, thinking they had made the game-winning stop, but Moffitt was ruled to have crossed the line.

Having eked out two prior one-score wins, including a wild 22-21 thriller over Sacred Heart Prep, the Panthers will rue missed chances in their first loss of the year. Not only did they come up empty at the end of regulation and opt to kick an extra point in overtime against a Cougar team that often goes for two, they also turned the ball over in the red zone on the first play of the second quarter as Moffitt picked off a pass and returned it 40 yards. On the next play, Liam Harrington connected with Jack Furr for a 58-yard trick play touchdown. Burlingame responded to that gut punch by scoring the next 19 points, but only after the short missed field goal and with the two blocked extra points.

Spartans haunted by extra points

The Mountain View Spartans boast one of the strongest teams the program has seen in decades, but unless they can pull off an enormous upset at Los Gatos on Thursday, they’ll finish the regular season at .500.

Two of MV’s four losses to this point can simply be chalked up to missed extra points. On Sept. 4, the Spartans took a late 34-28 lead at Mitty, but the extra point was tipped wide by Dominic Boccabella and the Monarchs won on a late 60-yard Wills Towers touchdown pass to Danny Scudero. This past Friday, the Spartans fell by the same 35-34 score to Palo Alto after Adrian Faust blocked a potential game-tying extra point with 5:26 left.

Unbeaten watch

Seven undefeated teams remain in the Central Coast Section. Burlingame’s first loss came in the aforementioned OT heartbreaker to Half Moon Bay, Cupertino fell to Gunn on Thursday night and Scotts Valley rolled to a 47-27 win at King City to take sole possession of first place in the PCAL Cypress Division.

The remaining unbeatens are Los Gatos, Menlo, Salinas, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Serra and St. Francis. Santa Cruz may have the toughest test of the seven, making the trip to Gilroy (5-3, 4-1 PCAL Mission).

Hard work pays off

Independence won for the first time under head coach Ali Bhatti, topping Prospect 54-44 for a homecoming victory on Saturday afternoon. Entering the day, the 76ers had scored just 28 points in their first seven games and had been shut out four times. Creon Fitch, whose absence in the team’s first three games was a key factor in two of those shutouts, ran wild, with 238 yards and four touchdowns on just 13 carries.

“He’s been a great leader all year,” Bhatti said. “He’s worked hard to get his grades up and every week, he’s the first one to shake our opponents’ hands and thank our cheerleaders for coming out. There was so much scoring that after one of the touchdowns, we couldn’t find the kicking block, and he rushed over to the sideline to find it. That’s just the type of kid he is.”

Adrian Espinoza also had a big game, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for a third, and Anthony Phal had 62 receiving yards and an 88-yard kick return touchdown. On a day where defense was optional, Fitch recorded 11 tackles and Nathan Saludares recorded six. Kaden Hoapili threw for four touchdowns for the Panthers, with two going to Andre Jackson. Jackson, who also had a rushing touchdown, had 240 yards from scrimmage.

With just five teams in the PCAL Santa Lucia Division, many of the league’s teams are matching up twice this season. Technically, Saturday’s game between Pajaro Valley and Greenfield was a nonleague contest. The Grizzlies didn’t care; they were just happy to snap a 10-game losing streak with a 28-7 victory. Isaac Ortiz ran for 268 yards and three scores as Pajaro Valley (1-6) topped a Bruins team that had handed the Grizzlies a 21-18 defeat back on Sept. 25.

“We played mistake-free football,” head coach Joe Manfre said. “Our line did a great job blocking for Isaac.”

In a clash of winless teams, San Jose emerged with a 23-6 win at Lick. It’s head coach Nakai Smith’s first win, and it’s the program’s first since Nov. 8, 2019 over Yerba Buena. Should the Bulldogs upset either Mt. Pleasant or Gunderson in their final two games, they’ll have their first multi-win season since 2017 and their first season with multiple league wins since 2016.

The loss leaves the Comets as one of three teams in the section that have yet to taste victory this year. They’ve been outscored by 399 points over their eight games.

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