Football: Sacred Heart’s defense comes up huge against Jefferson

The Sacred Heart defense swarms to tackle Jefferson running back Faitala Tagiaso on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by Aaron Perez)

By Jeremy Balan

It’s becoming a trend.

Sacred Heart Cathedral’s defense can simply lock teams down.

The Irish defense was a driving force again on Friday night at Kezar Stadium, limiting Jefferson to just 127 total yards, while forcing five turnovers in a 45-14 win.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior linebacker John Morello drags down Jefferson's Myles Holmes on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by Aaron Perez)

The Irish (3-0) sacked Jefferson quarterback Jesse Gilson six times in the game, only allowed 10 total yards in the first half and ended the game on a play that is becoming their trademark.

With just seconds remaining, Sacred Heart senior linebacker Viliami Uikilifi recorded the Irish’s sixth sack of the game, hitting Gilson so hard from the blind side that the ball came loose. Then fellow senior Zach Tapel did the rest, returning the fumble 70 yards for a touchdown with four seconds remaining.

“We come out every week and prepare, and every week our game plan changes,” said senior linebacker John Morello, who had two sacks on the night. “The best part of it all is we’re spreading it around. It’s not just one guy, it’s the entire defense. We work well together and we’re starting to get in a groove.”

Despite the constant pressure, Gilson led the Indians (1-2) in rushing with 37 yards (including a 54-yard run) and threw for 49 yards on 8-of-16 passing with two interceptions.

“Our [offensive line] did not play very well. Our guys were open, and Jesse has to be on-target, but with that blitz… We just got outplayed,” said Jefferson head coach Ako Poti. “We didn’t have a very good week of practice, and against a team of this caliber, if you don’t have a good week of practice, you’re not going to be able to compete. We hung around for a few quarters, but they started out well and boy, did they finish.”

The Sacred Heart offense racked up 341 yards, but was also set back by three turnovers, including its first drive of the game.

Sacred Heart senior quarterback Jack Harrington drove the Irish down to the Jefferson 20-yard line, but a throw into the end zone that appeared to be caught in the gusty Kezar wind was intercepted by Jefferson’s Myles Holmes and returned 104 yards to give the Indians a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

The Irish settled in and scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-6 lead into the half, but after a scoreless third quarter, Jefferson cut the lead to 24-14 on a Gilson quarterback sneak early in the fourth.

Like so many times last season, when it counted, the Irish gave the ball to standout senior running back Valentino Miles.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior running back Valentino Miles (right) stiff-arms a Jefferson defender on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by Aaron Perez)

Miles bounced back from two earlier fumbles and ran for 63 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach, and finished the night with 140 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries.

“We had to feed him. We had to feed that horse,” Sacred Heart head coach John Lee said of Miles. “We did, and he came through at the right time.”

Miles may have carried the Irish late, but little-used running back Tom Wallace provided the highlight of the first half. Setting to block as the up-back in punt formation, Wallace called his own number on a fake, took a direct snap and broke away untouched for a 46-yard score to extend the Irish lead to 14-6 early in the second quarter.

“We told Tommy that if he saw a certain front he could think about [calling a fake],” said Lee, who had no idea at the time the fake punt would be executed. “He called that on his own. He saw something so obscure, called it, and he’s a fast kid.”

As well as the game and the non-league schedule went for Sacred Heart, it comes with a caveat.

The Irish were in this exact same situation last season, 3-0 with high hopes for the Central Coast Section playoffs. But all that was squandered with a 1-6 run in the West Catholic Athletic League.

Now, a bye week awaits before their WCAL opener against Bellarmine on Oct. 1.

“We start, in two weeks, a meat-grinder,” Lee said. “We can be the meat in the grinder or the person operating the machine. That’s a decision we have to make collectively.”

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
J: 7:13 — Myles Holmes 104-yard interception return (kick missed)
SH: 4:00 — Valentino Miles 15-yard run (Jack Harrington kick good)

Second Quarter
SH: 9:34 — Tom Wallace 46-yard run (Harrington kick good)
SH: 7:05 — Miles 9-yard run (Harrington kick good)
SH: 0:07 — Harrington 28-yard field goal

Fourth Quarter
J: 11:28 — Jesse Gilson 1-yard run (Chris Dismuke pass from Gilson on conversion)
SH: 6:24 — Miles 3-yard run (Harrington kick good)
SH: 4:47 — Miles 32-yard run (Harrington kick good)
SH: 0:04 — Zach Tapel 70-yard fumble return (Harrington kick good)

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  1. IC Stars says:

    First SHC win over Jefferson since a 6-0 victory in 1933.

    • IRISH 85 says:

      IC Stars I;m almost positive SH beat them in 1982 when they had a great running back by the name of Tyrese Knox. Who later went onto play at Nebraska

  2. big guy 24 says:

    SHC looked good on Defense in the 2nd half. WCAL teams too tough and disciplined…Go Irish!!

  3. Fan says:

    The defense was solid! Ragusa and Tapel with INT’S and their linebackers Morello, Villiami, & Lalor have motors that are nonstop. They are either making the tackle or always are around the play. The O line picked up especially after Coach Cabos got on them (Love the way he coaches=accountability). Other then the INT Harrington played well directing the offense. Great call by the up back, shows that he is reading and seeing the field well. Always the little tangible things to be done to get through league play.

    • IC Stars says:

      That was a great call on the fake punt. Jefferson was on its heels the rest of the game. Now the offense needs to be more consistent. They got a workout with Terra Nova and with St. Mary’s, SHC had the reserves in a lot.

      • Fan says:

        Just read the article from the Riordan game. At this point SH would win over Riordan. Both played the same opponent and had wins but the route to the win was vastly different with SH dominating and Riordan escaping with a win. Right now SH has the best defense of the 3 WCAL city schools and I believe of any other city school. I would think that they are in the lead for takeaways and sacks, anyone have those stats????

  4. wcalsf says:

    I would agree SHC would be favored against Riordan this year, but the win yesterday against SM was without DJ Harvey and Armani McFarland. Take away SHC’s MIles and their top wr and the results may be the same, but not lopsided. with on-third the team sophmores, the crusaders could be a year away of being a legitimate contender.

  5. Cityfan SF says:

    I agree that SHC looks better than Riordan at this point after non-league play. However, their wins over St. Marys are apples n’ oranges. SHC scored 5 defensive TDs off turnovers, so the score can be deceiving. Riordan played w/o their starting RB and WR, and almost blew a large lead.
    I think the Irish will win against the Crusaders, primarily on their defense as Riordan’s offense is young and starting to settle in. I can also see Miles running well against the Riordan defense. We’ll see in a couple of weeks!


    if you check the scores from the two previous games the Crusaders have not gotten blown out like they have in recent years. In reality, Riordan should be 3-0 instead of 1-2. The first two games they lost by a touchdown after “shooting themselves in the foot” with penalties.

    Sacred Heart is looking good but let’s face it look at the teams they played. Their toughest opponent so far has been Terra Nova, in which TN shouldve came out victorious.

    St. Ignatius is on the come up this season. Be sure to look out for the Wildcats.

  7. Fan says:

    Ok granted that Riordan was missing two key players on offense, I still believe SH has the better defense by far. Again SH & Riordan could have played some tougher preseason games that didn’t happen. Do you really think they would play a De La Salle, Cardinal Newman or Logan in the preseason. Only SI played Marin Catholic (rank 7th in North Coast according to MaxPreps), so the real test to me is when they play in the league where all of the south bay teams are ranked (as is SH in the CCS at 9).


    Word around the league today is that, today Valley Christian’s Runningback Byron Marshall recieved an MRI that revealed he will miss the next two games. That puts Riordan in favor of an Upset! below is the link

    • Johnny Drama says:

      Unless Steve Sewell and Derek Loville will suit up for Riordan, they are still significant underdogs against VC. If Riordan wins, I will wear IC Stars’ SH sweatshirt at the BM Game.

      • cityfansf says:

        Good knowledge, Drama…lol! However, I think it’s RIordan’s Defense that will be challenged as they haven’t really stopped the run in non-league play.

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