By Jeremy Balan
MOUNTAIN VIEW — Don’t let the score fool you, the Sacred Heart Cathedral defense came to play on the road Friday against St. Francis.
The Irish offense, however, did not follow suit and self-destructed early in a 35-14 West Catholic Athletic League loss to the Lancers.
Without standout senior running back Valentino Miles, who was benched for the first quarter for violating team rules, the Irish (4-2, 1-2) spotted St. Francis (2-4, 1-2) 21 points in the opening frame and never recovered.
Two of the first-quarter touchdowns came on interception returns, beginning what was a rough night for Sacred Heart senior quarterback Jack Harrington.
Harrington also fumbled on a fourth-and-goal play in the final seconds of the first half and lost another fumble on the first Irish possession of the second half.
“It’s always nice when your defense can create turnovers and put points on the board from those turnovers,” said St. Francis head coach Nick Navarro. “We got a good start and got out of the gates well, and that’s what we need to do.”
The Irish actually outgained St. Francis 267-210, but also turned the ball over on downs twice and never challenged the Lancers’ lead.
“We didn’t live up to our end of the bargain,” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee, who also coordinates the Irish offense. “You can’t win in this league when you turn the ball over like that. I don’t know if we were focused, to be honest.”
Miles returned in the second quarter and was one of the lone offensive bright spots for the Irish, running for a game-high 139 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
“It’s an in-house issue and that’s why he didn’t get to play in the first quarter,” Lee said. “But it was reflected in the way he ran the rest of the game.”
The Lancers did score three offensive touchdowns, but were boosted by prime field position throughout.
The St. Francis offense didn’t exactly impress either, but didn’t turn the ball over and leaned heavily on bruising senior running back Durell Crooks, who ran for 138 yards on 21 carries.
With the game decided and the second-team St. Francis defense in, Sacred Heart Cathedral junior backup quarterback Jerry Peralta led the Irish on a 75-yard scoring drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Dan Ryan in the final minute of the game.
Peralta threw for 43 yards on the drive and scrambled for 17 more, but Lee says there is no doubt Harrington will start against St. Ignatius next week.
The Bruce-Mahoney game will present it’s own challenges for the Irish, especially after such a disheartening loss, and Lee is stressing to his team the importance of filtering out outside influences and the pressures that come with the rivalry game.
“A lot of that game is mental and we need to focus on what we do,” Lee said. “It’s great that the alumni come out. We love it and we appreciate it, but we have to focus on ourselves and what we do, nothing else.”
SF: 5:48 — Braden Bishop 33-yard interception return (Jason Shelton kick good)
SF: 0:41 — Bishop 3-yard fumble recovery (Shelton kick good)
SF: 0:04 — David Mapa 60-yard interception return (Shelton kick good)
SF: 9:23 — Mapa 7-yard run (Shelton kick good)
SH: 6:04 — Valentino Miles 1-yard run (Jack Harrington kick good)
SF: 2:21 — Mapa 3-yard run (Shelton kick good)
SH: 0:13 — Dan Ryan 9-yard pass from Jerry Peralta (Jack Harrington kick good)