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Sacred Heart takes charge of Valpo Bowl in second half

by Glenn Reeves / Palo Alto Weekly
Menlo School made a game of it in the first half before heavily favored Sacred Heart Prep established order in the second half and pulled away for a 28-7 victory Saturday in the 18th edition of the Valparaiso Bowl.

Menlo (4-1) struck first on a hook and ladder play. On third and 17, Sergio Beltran connected with Chris D’Alencon on a 16-yard completion. D’Alencon lateraled to Carter Jung who streaked down the left sideline to complete a 61-yard scoring play with 3:29 left in the first quarter.

Menlo's Carter Jung races downfield after taking a lateral from Chris d'Alencon. SHP's Beck Anderson gives chase. Photo courtesy of Pam McKenney/Menlo Athletics.

Menlo’s defense did a good job of stymieing the SHP offense for much of the first half. But the Gators put together a 75-yard drive late in the second quarter that culminated with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Purcell to Zach Freire to make it 7-7 at halftime.

The second half was a different story.

“It was really just the attitude,’’ SHP coach Mark Grieb said. “We started slow. Menlo had a great game plan against us. Attacking them and finding a running game changed the whole complexion of the game.’’

SHP (5-1) took the second-half kickoff and went 67 yards in six plays to take the lead on a 3-yard run by Andrew Latu. Purcell hit Will Mackie for 21 yards and Beck Anderson for 33 yards on the drive.

Then SHP attempted an onside kick, recovered it, and went 49 yards in seven plays -- all on the ground. Latu’s 4-yard run made it a two-touchdown lead.

“They did a couple things we weren’t expecting in the first half,’’ Purcell said. “We changed up our attack with some double moves and a lot of running up the middle in the second half.’’
 
An interception by Ryan Wong gave the ball back to the Gators and they scored their third touchdown in three second-half possessions when Paul Barton raced 29 yards on a reverse on the first play of the fourth quarter. Jonathan Martinez’s PAT made the score 28-7, which held up.

Beltran completed 17 of 28 passes for 236 yards. But the Menlo ground game, which head coach Todd Smith considered important to his team’s chances of pulling off an upset, was held to a net 12 yards.

“We did a good job on defense in the first half,’’ Smith said. “(Purcell) was very uncomfortable in the pocket. They found a chink in our armor and scored late. They were the better football team in the second half.’’

After a 3-7 season in 2019, Menlo won all four games it played against Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division competition this season before losing to SHP of the PAL Bay.
 
“Gratification doesn’t come from going 4-1,’’ Smith said. “Gratification comes from what the kids had to go through, the obstacles they overcame with COVID and six sophomores playing.’’

The Gators rushed for 153 yards. Alec Tonas led the way with 56 yards on 12 carries.

“He came up huge,’’ Grieb said of Tonas. “We had an emotional victory last week (a 29-26 win over Half Moon Bay decided in the final seconds) and it was hard to get fired up, even for this being the Valpo game. But our team rose to the challenge, like they have all year. I’m real proud.’’

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Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12