By Jeremy Balan
Sacred Heart Cathedral running back Valentino Miles got the Irish started on the right foot in the first quarter against rival St. Ignatius and boy, did he finish.
The standout senior ran for 230 yards in the second half and finished with a staggering 310 yards on 26 carries in a resounding 38-14 Irish win on Friday at Kezar Stadium, ending a five-game losing streak for Sacred Heart in the first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney series.
The Irish (5-2, 2-2) took a 17-7 lead into halftime, and after forcing two St. Ignatius (2-4-1, 0-3-1) punts to start the third quarter, began their second possession of the half without starting quarterback Jack Harrington, who was out with a leg injury.
Backup quarterback Jerry Peralta entered and handed the ball to Miles on six consecutive plays, capped by a 43-yard touchdown run to give the Irish a 24-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Miles added runs of 74 and 83 yards in the final quarter to set up two more Irish scores and put the game away.
“Jack is a big part of our offense and when he went down, my heart stopped, but it’s a team thing. We believed in each other,” Miles said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. We got the job done today an it’s going to be a memory we have for the rest of our lives.”
Miles may have put the game out of reach, but it was Sacred Heart’s defense that allowed the Irish to build an early lead.
Other than a 61-yard touchdown pass from St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn to Mike Pia in the final seconds of the first half, the Irish defense was dominant, limiting the Wildcats to just 13 offensive plays and 12 rushing yards in the half.
“It’s hard for me to even speak right now,” said Sacred Heart senior linebacker John Morello. “We wanted to dominate and we did. This is a really deep rivalry and I’ve been going to these games for my entire life, and to do this in our senior year — we killed it.”
Stinn threw for 184 yards, but on 11-of-34 passing, and was under constant pressure by the blitzing Irish defense.
“The defense did it once again,” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee. “That kid Stinn is good, and for our defense to harass him like that and force him to make some bad throws — I’m just so proud of what these guys have done.”
The Wildcats racked up 323 total yards, but most came on big chunks of yardage late in the fourth quarter with the game already decided.
“Their scheme is to pressure and that’s what they do,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia. “Obviously we’re disappointed, but [Sacred Heart] is a very good team and they were well prepared.”
Harrington bounced back from a disastrous performance last week against St. Francis and began on fire, connecting on his first five passes of the game to lead the Irish on an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive on their opening possession, capped by a 28-yard strike to Miles.
“That’s why we came out throwing the ball, to build his confidence,” Lee said. “He had to let last week go.”
Harrington was efficient and eliminated the mistakes that haunted him against St. Francis, throwing for 121 yards and three touchdowns on 12-of-19 passing. He also kicked a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter.
“We wanted to come out, hit them fast, hit them hard, and we did that,” Harrington said. “We put those points on the board and didn’t look back.”
Lee was emotional and visibly relieved after the game, as he has taken a considerable amount of heat for his record against St. Ignatius.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Lee said. “I thought we could win, but I didn’t know we could win like this. They displayed heart and soul. I’m just elated right now.”
If the first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney series wasn’t sweet enough, the win likely puts Sacred Heart into the Central Coast Section playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“We want to go into the playoffs winning and go in a high seed,” Morello said. “Wherever we go, I don’t care. We did it and we did it as a team.”
For St. Ignatius, a CCS postseason bid could be slipping away with only three games remaining in the season, but Regalia stressed the importance of preparation moving forward.
“Nothing is going to change,” Regalia said. “We’re going to watch the film, we’re going to learn how to get better as football players and we’re going to keep building this team. Any time you lose, it’s a setback, but you learn and go from there.”
SH: 7:20 — Valentino Miles 28-yard pass from Jack Harrington (Harrington kick good)
SH: 11:57 — Harrington 27-yard field goal
SH: 3:57 — Zach Tapel 7-yard pass from Harrington (Harrington kick good)
SI: 0:09 — Mike Pia 61-yard pass from Jack Stinn (Michael Capitolo kick good)
SH: 2:19 — Miles 43-yard run (Daniel Lalor kick good)
SH: 10:20 — Viliami Uikilifi 9-yard pass from Harrington (Harrington kick good)
SH: 7:54 — Jordan Gomes 1-yard run (Harrington kick good)
SI: 3:26 — Kerry Crowley 7-yard run (Capitolo kick good)
Photo slideshow by Doug Ko and Eric Luis