Football: Sacred Heart Cathedral survives Terra Nova comeback

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior running back Valentino Miles runs behind a group of blockers against Terra Nova on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

A series of missed opportunities was the theme for Sacred Heart Cathedral’s 2010 football season, but the Irish dismissed those demons in their first game of the 2011 season.

Despite blowing a 19-0 halftime lead, the Irish rose to the occasion when it counted, executing a nine-play, 69-yard drive in the final minutes to edge defending Central Coast Section champion Terra Nova 32-31 on Friday at Kezar Stadium.

“It was desire, straight up desire,” Sacred Heart head coach John Lee said of the Irish fourth-quarter effort. “With a three-touchdown lead [at the half], we need to finish it. The seniors didn’t like some of those results last year and they didn’t let it happen again.”

Terra Nova senior quarterback Chris Forbes gets ready for a hit by Sacred Heart's Matt Hewitson on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by Doug Ko)

An injury limited Sacred Heart Cathedral senior running back Valentino Miles’ touches in the fourth quarter, when the Irish needed their final score they turned to their standout runner, who took an inside handoff and scored from 4 yards out with just over a minute remaining to put Sacred Heart up for good.

Miles still finished with a game-high 129 yards on 18 carries, but was contained for large portions of the game. Big runs of 51, 24 and 21 yards contributed to most of his total.

“When we needed him the most he scored,” Lee said. “I think he was frustrated, but he was determined all night to do that.”

Miles may have put on the finishing touch, but senior quarterback Jack Harrington laid the foundation on the final drive. Harrington went 4-for-6 on the drive, including a crucial 12-yard completion to fellow senior Zach Tapel on fourth down on the Irish 32-yard line.

“I told coach, put me at the Z and I’ll get you the first down,” Tapel said. “I had confidence in myself, my line and my team that we’d get it.”

Harrington threw for 146 yards on 17-of-30 passing, ran for 51 yards on 11 carries and scored three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing).

“Our offense is heavily run-based and [Miles] is a great running back, so our goal was to get the ball into his hands, but Terra Nova did a great job of stopping the run,” Harrington said. “We had to go to other options to move the ball.”

Leading up to the game Lee emphasized the need to contain Terra Nova quarterback Chris Forbes, and the Irish did just that in the first half, limiting the senior to 56 yards on 5-of-13 passing and 19 rushing yards.

Unfortunately for the Irish, that success didn’t last in the second half.

Forbes was nearly unstoppable after the halftime break, completing 12-of-18 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns went to his favorite target, Matt Manessis, who terrorized the Sacred Heart secondary in the second half with six receptions for 201 yards.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior quarterback Jack Harrington breaks through the Terra Nova defensive line on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by Doug Ko)

The Irish defense broke down several times in the second half, but was stellar in the first half, and sacked Forbes six times in the game, led by senior linebacker John Morello’s three sacks.

After Miles’ score, Forbes was leading the Tigers down the field again, until an interception from Sacred Heart senior linebacker Villiami Uikilifi with 32 seconds left sealed the victory.

The Irish sideline erupted after the interception, but the tone on the Tigers’ sideline was markedly different and was expressed by Terra Nova head coach Bill Gray after the game.

“We showed a lot of character coming back, but you know — and you can quote me — when a private school plays a public school, you’re playing 12 guys instead of 11,” Gray said, in a reference to the game officials. “You can quote me, because I’m hot. Read between the lines, do whatever you want, okay? This is not good. If you’ve got some guts, put that in the paper.”

The Tigers were flagged eight times in the game, including a 15-yard personal foul on Sacred Heart’s game-winning drive. The Irish were penalized six times.

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
SH: 11:50 — Kelvin Saunders 21-yard fumble return (Jack Harrington kick good)

Second Quarter
SH: 9:36 — Matt Hewitson 9-yard pass from Harrington (kick failed)
SH: 6:29 — Harrington 9-yard run (conversion failed)

Third Quarter
TN: 7:13 — Safety
TN: 3:28 — Elias Vargas 32-yard pass from Chris Forbes (Ivan Mailangi pass from Forbes on conversion
TN: 0:04 — Nick Manessis 25-yard pass from Forbes (Manessis kick good)

Fourth Quarter
SH: 9:44 — Harrington 14-yard run (Harrington kick good)
TN: 9:16 — Manessis 85-yard pass from Forbes (Ryan Virgin pass from Forbes on conversion)
TN: 2:30 — Manessis 62-yard pass from Forbes (conversion failed)
SH: 1:04 — Valentino Miles 5-yard (conversion failed)

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10 Comments

  1. WCAL Fan says:

    Coach Gray unfortunately has always struck me as a bitter man. His comment just exemplifies a manner that is only going to reflect negatively on a nice comeback. It’s not a “backing his players”; it is setting in their minds (beyond high school football) a built-in excuse for life.

  2. IC Stars says:

    Sorry Bill, but the refs have had it in for Sacred Heart for years. They waved-off a flag against Terra Nova late in the game and the next play was a wide-open pass my grandmother could have made. This was one ugly game that the Irish were fortunate enough to win.

  3. Fan says:

    Luck of the Irish! Great comeback! Glad to see them step up in that last drive. That personal foul flag was a gimme and give it to Tapel for selling the little shove out of bounds. Although the way SH played in the first half it didn’t look like they would need a comeback. Morello was a beast with the 3 sacks and other timely hits and stops. Harrington played well and was glad to see the coach let him air it out some. Great running when he called his own number. Only bad pass was the interception trying to force it, that one just eat it or throw it away. Ragusa great corner play and some nice hits. Hewittson needs to stay home. On that last Terra Nova touchdown he lost the receiver trying to come up to stop Forbes’ scramble and let the receiver go untouched down the sideline for the score. The O opened some nice holes for Miles but he was getting pounded and got absolutely rocked on the play he got hurt on. Give him some toughness props for coming back in and scoring. But everyone on SH sideline and stands held their breaths when he did go down because they really don’t have another back with his size and talent and to lose him would be a big chunk of their offensive fire power.

  4. sports time says:

    What a good football game this was, both teams played their butt’s off and at the end someone had to win. SHC showed character with TN making a nice comeback and it went to the last minute. Congrats to both teams for playing with pride and toughness!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Last night game was great for both teams. It showed great effort, great adjustments and great comebacks for both team. I think it taught both teams to play hard, remember to play four quarters and don’t dwell on calls that don’t go your way. Great lesson for all.

  6. anon says:

    I missed the game last night, and I was wondering if anyone could tell me who started on the Irish offense and defense including what positions they played. It would be much appreciated.

    On a side note, glad to hear it was a great game for both teams. Go irish!

  7. BEE-STING says:

    keep up the good work IRISH. zach n jeivon keep gettin bee stings.

  8. sour grapes... says:

    Hey Coach Gray, the refs you had at Kezar will probably be the same refs you will undoubtedly see more than once this season because the same officials cover both SHC and Terra Nova. So if they help you win at Terra Nova this season what will be the excuse?

  9. Jake in SF says:

    Congratulations to both teams for a hard-played, close-fought game. And for Coach Gray, please remember something I forgot during the game: the officials are people doing the best that they can. There were a few plays you may see on film that might help you accept that it all evens out, more or less, in in the end. Ultimately, a winner has to play so that an official’s misjudgment doesn’t affect the outcome. Easy enough to say as a winner; harder to accept otherwise.

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