In 23 years of coaching one of the best prep football teams on the Peninsula, Terra Nova High School coach Bill Gray can only remember Sacred Heart Prep four times.
And according to Gray’s memory — and the record books — the Gators have thus far proved incapable of taming his Tigers.
“We’re probably a little bit of a thorn in their side, because they haven’t been able to beat us,” Gray said. “We’ve been fortunate to come out on top. Most of the games have been very close.”
And come Friday on Sacred Heart Prep’s home field, another close game is expected when SHP coach Pete Lavorato attempts to rally his undefeated Gators and finally defeat Gray’s unbeaten Tigers. It’s a game that will prove critical in crowning this year’s Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division champion.
“It’s about as good as it gets,” Lavorato said. “It’s another game in our schedule, and obviously it’s a bigger game than all the rest. But I think the kids are thinking they need to win this game if they want to win the league championship.”
Both teams stand at 8-0, and both were co-league champions a season ago. And if both hope to triumph this week in Atherton, the play of the offensive line and defense will be key.
Behind a strong O-line, Terra Nova sports a dynamic offense with junior quarterback Anthony Gordon and senior running back John Wallace.
“We’re kind of the opposite, the antithesis of each other. We throw the ball a lot, they run the ball a lot,” Gray said. “The more balanced our offensive attack is, the better we play.”
And a balanced offense is what Lavorato is prepping for.
“You have to play run first against them, which makes it difficult to play pass,” said Lavorato, emphasizing the need to put pressure on the Terra Nova quarterback. “He’s very good. He’s probably not the runner that they’ve had in the past, but I think he’s the best passer they’ve had.”
And while SHP’s main strength is in its senior running backs Andrew Segre and Ricky Grau, Lavorato too has a quarterback that’s worthy of some praise.
“He’s very cool,” Lavorato said of sophomore passer Mason Randall. “He just doesn’t let anything rattle him. He’s not the biggest kid in the world and he’s not real fast, but somehow he has a way of staying alive to get the football down the field.”
With a win, Terra Nova will claim the PAL Bay title. The Gators next week play one final league game against Menlo School.
“We can put all of our effort into one game and they’re gonna have to do it for two,” Gray said. “Our priority is always to win the league championship, and what happens above and beyond that is icing on the cake.”
SHP vs. Terra Nova
WHEN: Friday, 2:45 p.m.
WHERE: Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton
LAST WEEK: Sacred Heart Prep defeated Sequoia 33-3; Terra Nova defeated Menlo-Atherton 57-27
LAST YEAR: Terra Nova defeated Sacred Heart Prep 20-13