By Jeremy Balan
After Riordan upset St. Ignatius two weeks ago, the question arose leading up to the Crusaders’ matchup with Sacred Heart Cathedral — Would they be able to do it again?
That question was answered quickly and emphatically by the Irish, specifically junior running back Valentino Miles, in Sacred Heart’s 55-6 win over Riordan to keep the Stanfel Cup on Friday at Kezar Stadium.
Miles scored on the Irish’s (4-3, 1-3) first two offensive plays from scrimmage on touchdown runs from 10 and 58 yards out, and nearly scored on the Irish’s third play on an 84-yard scamper that ended at the Riordan 1-yard line.
“It couldn’t have started any worse for us. We got into a hole and couldn’t dig out of it,” said Riordan head coach Bryan Blake. “Valentino Miles is a hell of a football player. That’s a Division I football player there, no doubt. We’re going to see him on TV really soon.”
Miles finished with 296 yards and five touchdowns in the first half on just nine carries.
“He came out with an attitude and something to prove,” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee. “That had a lot to do with the offensive line, though. They just opened holes that were just outstanding.”
Miles, who was out with a concussion in Sacred Heart’s loss to Bellarmine last week, didn’t see game action in the second half, but feels he needs to carry the load going forward for the Irish.
“I had a chip on my shoulder,” Miles said. “I didn’t play last week, so I had a lot to make up for. I’m just going to keep trying to keep up the good work and hopefully we can make [CIF-Central Coast Section playoffs]. I want to carry this team to the promised land.”
The win is the third consecutive for Sacred Heart against Riordan (1-6, 1-3), the first time the Irish have accomplished that feat since the two schools began playing in 1970.
“It’s a special day and a fun day,” Lee said. “Any league win is a good win, but when it involves a trophy, that’s even more special.”
Heading into the halftime break with a 41-0 deficit, Riordan got its only score on a quarterback option run from Evan Williams, but the Irish responded immediately on the ensuing kickoff with a 91-yard return for a touchdown from Gary Moore.
Special teams play was another plus for Sacred Heart, as the Irish got an immediate boost from senior Zachary Tapel, who returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to set up Miles’ first score.
The Irish also had a standout defensive performance, specifically from senior cornerback Kyle Church, who shut down Riordan standout wide receiver A.J. Lewis for almost the entire game. The only breakdown was a 40-yard reception from Lewis in the third quarter.
“He’s our best [defensive back] and we told him to follow [Lewis] wherever he goes,” Lee said. “Kyle played his butt off and that’s all we wanted to see. We shut him down and that’s a testament to our defense and preparation.”
Ultimately, Sacred Heart probably needs to knock off either St. Francis or Valley Christian, along with St. Ignatius in its final three games to clinch a CCS bid, but Lee remains optimistic.
“I tell the kids that I don’t want to talk about playoffs,” Lee said. “I want to approach everything one day at a time. We have to stay focused and if we keep playing like we did tonight, we’ll be fine.”
Riordan’s struggles this season have been well documented, but the impact of this season won’t likely be felt until things turn around in the future. Even with the loss, one thing Blake was happy about was the overall experience.
“The experience of playing on this big stage and in this stadium was a positive,” Blake said. “Maybe we learned that we have to prepare ourselves a little better going forward for our younger guys. Hopefully that can be something we can learn.”
SH: 11:42 — Valentino Miles 10-yard run (Sean Murphy kick good)
SH: 9:46 — Miles 58-yard run (Murphy kick good)
SH: 5:17 — Murphy 2-yard run (Murphy kick good)
SH: 0:15 — Miles 25-yard run (Murphy kick good)
SH: 8:11 — Miles 28-yard run (Murphy kick missed)
SH: 1:07 — Miles 50-yard run (Murphy kick good)
R: 9:45 — Evan Williams 5-yard run (Conversion failed)
SH: 9:32 — Gary Moore 91-yard kick return (Murphy kick good)
SH: 7:46 — Zachary Tapel 22-yard run (Murphy kick good)