By Jeremy Balan
LOS ALTOS HILLS — Three yards separated Sacred Heart Cathedral from a win over favored Archbishop Mitty in both team’s West Catholic League opener on Friday at Foothill College.
But it was Sacred Heart’s last offensive play that will haunt the Irish faithful.
After cutting the Mitty lead to 33-32 on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Sean Murphy to Jeivon Parker with 33 seconds remaining, Sacred Heart head coach John Lee did not hesitate sending the offense back on the field for the potential game-winning conversion.
Murphy handed the ball off to fullback Harry Libarle, who tried to break through the Mitty line, but was stopped well short. Libarle did not have a carry in the game prior to the play.
“It was an option play and we didn’t get the front that we wanted [from Mitty],” Lee said. “We were out of timeouts and it was a triple option play. It was just the read [Murphy] made. He could have given to Libarle, to [the running back] or he could have kept it himself. He made the first decision, did the best he could, and I’m not going to hold it against him.”
The Irish (3-1, 0-1) still had a shot at an onside kick, but Mitty recovered the kick and kneeled to run the clock out.
What may be most troubling to the Irish was the two extra points missed earlier in the game.
“It hurts, but I wouldn’t change it. I’d go for two again,” Lee said.
The heartbreaking ending spoiled an impressive Irish comeback that began late in the second quarter when Mitty (2-2, 1-0) appeared to be pulling away.
Mitty senior quarterback Kyle Boehm found tight end Tom McCullough for a 14-yard touchdown pass to push their lead to 26-7 lead with 36 seconds remaining in the half, but Murphy led the Irish on a frenetic last-second drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Taylor Johns with just three seconds remaining in the half.
The Irish faced another 13-point deficit late in the third quarter, but rallied back again on the strength of Murphy, who completed his final eight passes of the game after a shaky first half. He finished with 250 yards on 15-of-24 passing.
While Murphy and his stable of receivers provided much of the flash for the Irish, junior running back Valentino Miles led the running game with brute force.
Mostly on runs between the tackles, Miles pounded out 144 yards and three touchdowns on a season-high 27 carries, including a 26-yard touchdown run to cut the Mitty lead to 33-26 with 9:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“He was outstanding once again,” Lee said. “He plays with emotion and when he gets his motor going, he really get it going. I can’t say enough about him.”
While the Irish offense was impressive again, it was their Mitty counterparts that were the undisputed stars, led by Boehm.
The senior, who will play for UC Berkeley next year, was as explosive as he was efficient through the air, passing for 328 yards on a perfect 13-of-13 completions. He also had two touchdown runs on quarterback sneaks.
“He gutted one out there at the end,” said Mitty head coach Matt Haniger. “Our pass protection was awesome and that enabled him to lead this team.”
Boehm’s favorite target was senior wideout Brandon White, who was a consistent deep threat throughout. White had five receptions that went for more than 37 yards and finished with 231 yards on just six receptions.
The Monarchs did not attempt a punt in the game, but turnovers, specifically two lost fumbles in the second half, kept the Irish alive.
But it was Irish turnovers on their first two drives (both in Mitty territory) that allowed the Monarchs jump out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter.
“[The turnovers] killed us. They absolutely killed us,” Lee said. “We shot ourselves in the foot twice and that gave them two scores.”
For Mitty, who struggled a bit in non-league play, the win is a welcome one, regardless of how close the game was.
“We’ll take it. A close win is better than a close loss,” Haniger said.
In the end, Sacred Heart couldn’t pull off the upset on the road, but it showed that it can compete with the WCAL elite.
“I know they’re going to come back,” Lee said. “They could have quit at 26-7 and they didn’t. We’re gonna get ’em.”
M: 7:13 — Kyle Boehm 1-yard run (Cameron Vaca kick missed)
M: 1:08 — Brandon White 48-yard pass from Boehm (Conversion failed)
SH: 6:24 — Valentino Miles 1-yard run (John Harrington kick good)
M: 4:47 — Rocky Meszaros 21-yard run (Vaca kick good)
M: 0:36 — Tom McCullough 14-yard pass from Boehm (Vaca kick good)
SH: 0:03 — Taylor Johns 26-yard pass from Sean Murphy (Harrington kick missed)
SH: 6:27 — Miles 4-yard run (Murphy kick good)
M: 4:06 — Boehm 2-yard run (Vaca kick good)
SH: 9:55 — Miles 26-yard run (Murphy kick blocked)
SH: 0:33 — Jeivon Parker 22-yard pass from Murphy (Conversion failed)
Photo slideshow by AJ Canaria