Sacred Heart Cathedral quarterback Cian Dowling escapes pressure in a game against Serra on Oct. 26, 2018 at Kezar Stadium. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

SF Preps: Sacred Heart Cathedral fades for second straight week

Fightin’ Irish fall 35-21 to Palma at Kezar after a strong start

A youthful and explosive Sacred Heart Cathedral team got off to a roaring start for a second straight week, but just as was the case in last week’s loss to Acalanes, they couldn’t keep it going for a full four quarters, allowing five straight touchdowns in a 35-21 loss to Palma.

Whereas last week’s game was characterized by struggles defending the pass, this time it was the run defense that was pushed to the limit, as was expected with Palma running back Anthony Villegas.

“He’s such a good runner and such a powerful runner, which caught up to us in the end,” said SHC head coach Barry McLaughlin.

Villegas ran for four touchdowns for a second consecutive week, leading the Chieftains back from an early two-touchdown deficit. His 64-yard run tied the game at 14 early in the third quarter, and six minutes later he scored from six yards out to give Palma (1-1) the lead for the first time.

While Palma can reliably expect to give the ball to Villegas 30-plus times every week, the running back position is still very much a work in progress for the Fightin’ Irish, who entered 2019 with the near-impossible task of trying to fill the void left by the now-graduated Anthony Heard, who averaged nearly seven yards per carry last season as a first-team All-City back.

“You don’t just replace a guy like Anthony,” McLaughlin said.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (0-2) did have some success playing the hot hand, getting a 65-yard touchdown run from Kieran Cormican on the third play of the game and taking a 14-0 lead on a four-yard score from sophomore Derek Reagans III in the second, but the depth chart at running back is still very much up in the air.

There was no shortage of positive signs from players like Reagans, but mistakes proved costly for the second straight week. Trailing 21-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Irish fumbled at the goal line, then gave up a barrage of big pass plays, much like last week’s game. Palma sophomore quarterback Luke Rossi opened up a two-score lead with two quick completions, a quick hitter to Micah Olivas that turned into a 50-yard gain and then a 30-yard touchdown to J.T. Amaral, a junior who’s able to get free when defenses lock in on the explosive Jon-Jon Berring.

From there, it was a return to the run game that allowed the Chieftains to put the game away, with Villegas dragging tacklers for an 18-yard score barely two minutes later.

The Irish run defense will have another mighty task at hand next week, traveling to Aptos to take on a Wing-T team that appeared in a Northern California championship game next year.

“We’ve just got to play smarter,” McLaughlin said. “Aptos will be fun; it’s going o be a different type of test, but it’s going to be a good test.”

Other SF Preps Football Scores:

Lowell 0, Dougherty Valley 38

Balboa 0, Woodinville (Wash.) 55

Washington 6, San Jose-Harker 20

Mission 12, Santa Clara 36

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