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From the mundane to the dramatic, SHP football nabs a victory

by Rick Eymer / Palo Alto Online

Andrew Latu flashed through a hole created by Sacred Heart Prep football teammates Mason Chetcuti and RJ Stephens so fast no one had a chance to react, least of all the Sacred Heart Cathedral defense, which tried to chase him downfield to no avail.

Just like that, the Gators shucked off a scoreless first half en route to a 28-21 nonleague victory over the visiting Irish Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

"He was through the hole fast," Chetcuti said. "His vision is unbelievable. It was electric."

It was also the first play of the second half and Latu's 70-yard touchdown run surpassed the combined offenses of both teams from the first half.

Receiver Luke Renert and quarterback Jack Herrell combined two minutes later with the passing version of a big strike.

Moments before, SHP's Carter Shaw somehow ran down Cathedral's Ray-John Spears after a long 84-yard run, forcing and recovering a fumble at the Gators' five-yard line.

"I think we caught the safeties cheating," Lenert said of a slant route that led to a 95-yard touchdown pass. "Andrew's run kick started us and we were good from there, though it did get shaky for a second."

Lenert said Herrell, in his first year as the starter, kept things cool in the locker room during halftime and that confidence rubbed off on the rest of the team.

"He was never worried," said Lenert, who caught two passes for 134 yards. "He said we'd go out and make a big play."

Herrell said it's all part of the job description.
 
"One of the most important things a quarterback can do is to stay cool, calm and collected," Herrell said. "I wasn't worried because I have the utmost confidence in my teammates. All the coaches here are amazing but Jason Armstrong, who leads strength and conditioning, really kept me focused in the first half when we struggled."

Luke Renert makes nice catch to set up touchdown.

Sacred Heart Prep's longest play of the first half was Herrell's six-yard keeper. Latu was six yards down field before anyone knew where he was.

As mundane as the first half played out, the Gators turned in several defensive plays to keep it that way, including a sack by Latu, an interception by Mat Bucher and tackles for a loss by John Adrian Dioli, Jack Halloran, Brandon Hsing and freshman Aseli Fangupo.

The Irish rallied to tie the game with 5:48 remaining to play. Lenert's one-handed grab on the next possession turned into a 39-yard gain to the Irish 1-yard liner, from where Luis Mendoza scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns.

SHC took a 21-20 lead with 1:35 to play thanks to a 95-yard kickoff return.

Just like his halftime talk, Herrell stayed cool, calm and collected to lead SHP on a game-winning drive. Jake York's 32-yard reception and a SHC penalty put the Gators into position.

Sacred Heart Prep plays at St. Ignatius next Saturday.

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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