KEZAR STADIUM — For the second week in a row, Sacred Heart Cathedral faced a top defensive line, armed with pass rushers with multiple major Power 5 offers. For the second week in a row, the Fightin’ Irish lost.
This week, though, against powerful Mountain View-St. Francis, Sacred Heart’s defense held one of the top teams in northern California to just two scores.
In a 14-0 loss the week before the Bruce Mahoney Game against St. Ignatius, the youthful Irish grew up, and despite a disjointed offense under new sophomore quarterback Cian Dowling, had encouraging moments, as far as head coach Barry McLaughlin was concerned.
“We got better,” McLaughlin said. “There were times we had four sophomores on offense, two on the O-line, receiver and quarterback. We grew up, learned from our mistakes last week, and we’re competing. We just need results now.”
Sacred Heart (2-3) held St. Francis (4-1) to just 236 yards of total offense, and made two goal-line stands, the first ending with a strip by Anthony Heard inside the five-yard line, and the other forcing a missed field goal at the end of the third quarter. On the latter drive, Raphael Cervantes made a stop at the seven on running back Andre Bishop, Evan Dere halting leading rusher Opeti Fangupo (114 rushing yards) twice inside the 10.
“The most important thing from tonight is, we were telling them they can compete, and with this game, they believe they can compete,” McLaughlin said. “We kept them off balance. That’s all we tried to do.”
Fangupo was responsible for the first score, punching it in from one yard out with 5:49 to go in the second quarter.
From there, likely Stanford-bound Joshua Pakola provided intense pressure off the edge, forcing an interception. The Lancers threw a pick on the next drive, returned for 10 yards by Tyrice Ivy Jr., but Pakola once again struck with a sack to end the first half.
St. Francis forced a three-and-out to open the half, sniffing out a screen, and then scored their second touchdown, on a 20-yard wheel route to Anthony Landphere with 6:29 to go.
On the ensuing kickoff, Dere came in hot and leveled Landphere, which sent him to the sidelines for the rest of the game.
After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and an ineligible receiver down field on the next Irish drive, Afa Sanft scored a breakup and then a sack to force a punt.
The Irish wouldn’t advance any further into Lancers territory than the 43-yard line.
Dowling, a transfer from St. Ignatius, had not played yet because of transfer rules, and went 9-for-20 for 36 yards and two interceptions, but after going 2-for-8 with a pick in the early goings, heated up later on and made good reads down field, but his timing was just a hair off on two would-be long gainers.
“He’s played freshman football, so he got thrown in against the best defense in the league,” McLaughlin said. “It is what it is. He has to play football … He has to protect the ball, but he brings an element. The talent’s there. Now, we’ve just got to clean things up.”
For the second straight week, Heard was held in check. After rushing for 343 yards over the first three games of the season, he was held to just 31 yards on 15 carries against Valley Christian last week, and 16 yards on eight carries on Friday.
“We’ve got to get Anthony the ball, but if Anthony’s in the backfield, there’s a lot of people in the backfield,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve just got to find the balance to get the offense going.”
With Dowling now in the mix, the Irish need to find a balance to the offense headed into the Bruce Mahoney Game, slated for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“With St. Francis, they’re a great team defensively, they have individual talent; with Valley, they had the team speed that was unreal,” McLaughlin said. “I think this is going to prep us for a nice little run.”
The Wildcats have a pair of good backs in senior Mark Biggins and sophomore Jahsai Shannon who will be tough to handle.
“Coach [John] Regalia always does a great job,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve coached against him my whole career. This will be the 16th time, between here and Riordan. They’re going to be a well-coached team and a well-prepared team. We’ve got to bring our A-game.”
Marin Catholic evened their record to 3-3 with a resounding 35-6 win over Terra Linda on Friday.
Mission moved to 3-2 with a 46-0 win over Washington (1-4) on Thursday at Kezar Stadium.
Jelani Al Malik scored a 61-yard touchdown to highlight the win, with McKinley Oliver passing for 41 yards and rushing for 94 and a pair of scores, one 2-yard touchdown and a 25-yard rumble. Julian Milton had 37 receiving yards, 16 rushing yards and a four-yard rushing touchdown, plus a pick-six, which he returned for 32 yards. Will Delaney added a 16-yard rushing touchdown, and Jeleel Bender rushed for seven yards and added a 25-yard touchdown reception from Jamariea Burroughs.
The Bears have now won three straight.