KEZAR STADIUM — A week after 52-point win over Homestead a week ago, Sacred Heart Cathedral came into Friday’s WCAL opener against San Jose-Valley Christian with a bit of swagger.
After recovering a fumble on the Warriors’ 13-yard line to quash Valley Christian’s first drive, senior Peyton Monaco hit Levar Watkins Jr.for a 13-yard touchdown. Even more momentum.
The Irish wouldn’t score again. The Warriors’ length up front bottled up speedy Anthony Heard, and Sacred Heart Cathedral’s pair of senior football novices at quarterback — Monaco and Tim Sweeters — completed just five passes with three interceptions in a 45-7 loss.
“League is what it is,” said head coach Barry McLaughlin. “It’s a seven-week fistfight. I thought we were a little more prepared for the battle. We were prepared for about a half. We just need to adjust and come out next week.”
The Irish (2-2) trailed Valley Christian 10-7 at the half, but the Warriors’ defensive front — headed by three-star prospect Skylar Loving-Black — was just too much. Heard — who had 343 rushing yards over the first three games — was held to just 31 yards on 15 carries, his lowest output of the season.
“In the first half, we were coming off the ball, being physical,” said McLaughlin, a former City College and Utah State offensive lineman. “We just didn’t continue it in the second half. Anthony was running the ball well, was close a couple times in the first half, but we’ve just got to get better up front, plain and simple.”
Complicating matters was the fact that both of Sacred Heart Cathedral’s quarterbacks have not played football before this year. Monaco, who pitches for the Irish baseball team, went 5-for-13 for 43 yards, one score and one interception.
Monaco was picked off at his own 23 on second-and-11 by Isaiah McElvane, who returned it five yards and then scored three plays later on a seven-yard run with 3:32 left in the third quarter to give Valley Christian a 24-7 lead.
“Although my roster says we have 24 seniors, I think eight or less are four-year football players,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve got a lot of youth on this team, even though they’re seniors.”
Sweeters — who threw a very good-looking ball on several long incompletions in the fourth quarter — was the victim of a tipped pass for a 30-yard pick six by senior D’Von Lang with 10:20 to go. On the very next drive, he suffered a strip sack for a 24-yard touchdown by Justin Dewitt with 10:07 to go. An interception with 5:41 to go by Judea Moon set up another score.
“Timmy and Peyton, for their lack of experience, have done a fantastic job,” McLaughlin said. “They did a good job in the preseason, but WCAL is what it is, and they grew up tonight.”
As good as Heard has been, the Irish can’t afford to be one-dimensional.
“We’ve got to be balanced,” McLaughlin said.
Sacred Heart Cathedral’s fortunes should improve next week against Mountain View-St. Francis, when 6-foot, 190-pound sophomore Cian Dowling — a transfer from St. Ignatius — becomes eligible to play.
“It’s going to be a competition,” McLaughlin said. “There are three guys in the mix, and we’re going to move forward.”
In the fourth quarter, Valley Christian brought on female kicker Nikita Tewari, who was perfect on three PAT attempts.
In other prep action, Lincoln beat El Camino 42-19 on the road. The Mustangs got 95 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries from DeSean Crawford. Quarterback Jovon Baker rushed 68 yards on four carries, also had two touchdowns on the ground, as well as a pick on defense. Jack Gaugahan had two touchdowns and a sack, while Leo Gallegos paced the defense with six tackles.
St. Francis, which faces the Irish next week at Kezar, beat St. Ignatius 31-6. The Wildcats held the Lancers to just 10 points in the second half, and sophomore running back Jahsai Shannon ripped off a 60-yard touchdown run with 2:25 to go in the first for St. Ignatius’s only score.
Archbishop Riordan hung tight with San Jose-Bellarmine, but couldn’t get over the hump at San Jose City College, losing 34-20. After the Bells took a 7-0 lead with 7:56 to go in the first on a four-yard run, the Crusaders responded with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Adham Abdelghani to senior Marcus Williams, and then a two-yard touchdown run by Jalen Camp 3:31 later. Bellarmine struck back with a Tyson Garcia TD with three seconds left in the first, putting Bellarmine ahead for good.
The Bells went up 21-13 with 7:31 to go in the first half, and then Abdelghani hit Joshua DeJesus for a 65-yard score on Riordan’s next play from scrimmage. That was as close as the Crusaders would get the rest of the way.
San Mateo-Serra put a hurting on San Jose-Archbishop Mitty, 42-6. In the Padres’ 10th straight win over Monarchs, Nate Sanchez scored three touchdowns and Malakai Rango added two. Serra had a running clock by the half, up 35-0. Backup quarterback Daylin McLemore rushed for a touchdown with 5:15 left.
Luke Bottari went 10-of-10 for 191 yards in the first half, and finished 12-for-13 for 211 yards and an interception, which Derrick Smith came down with off of a deflected pass.
Sanchez finished with 78 yards on 11 carries, while hauling in three catches for another 78 yards. Rango had three touches, including a 25-yard run, a 7-yard scoring run and a 1-yard touchdown run.