Fly offense of Sacred Heart Prep rolls up 365 yards of total offense in shocking running clock victory
All week leading up to his team’s matchup with El Cerrito on Saturday night in the Northern Regional Division III Bowl Game at Richmond De Anza, Sacred Heart Prep’s Pete Lavorato was singing the praises of junior linebacker and part-time running back Ben Burr-Kirven.
In a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, the 11-year Gators’ head coach and Canadian native that helped lead his hometown Edmonton Eskimos to five Grey Cup titles in a 10-year Canadian Football League career, called Burr-Kirven “the best high school player I’ve ever coached.”
What Lavorato didn’t tell the Chronicle but did tell Burr-Kirven was despite being used sparingly at running back most of the season, he was going to be called on a lot more against El Cerrito.
Not only did Burr-Kirven respond, he literally took over, rushing for 161 yards and four touchdowns in a shocking 42-7 running-clock victory that propels Sacred Heart Prep (13-1) into the CIF Division III state championship bowl game.
“With our running backs a little banged up, coach told me I was going to have to go both ways all game,” said Burr-Kirven, who came into the game with only 28 carries for 216 yards and six touchdowns.
“Yes, yes,” said Lavorato emphatically when asked if he was saving his star for the big stage. “This kid showed tonight he’s the real deal.”
Not only that, but the 6-1, 200-pound senior who’s been getting some recent heavier D1 college attention, pretty much sealed the deal.
After El Cerrito went three-and-out on its first series, Burr-Kirven capped a seven-play 63-yard drive in which he accounted for 41 yards rushing, with a 9-yard TD run.
The next time Sacred Heart Prep got the ball, and after the first of two lost fumbles by El Cerrito, last week’s NorCal Player of the Week Andrew Segre (96 yards rushing, one TD), scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 14-0 Gators after one quarter
The teams traded series in the second quarter until an ill-conceived attempt by El Cerrito punter Marquis Pippins to run for a first down came up short. Two plays later and with 2:25 remaining in the half, Burr-Kirven streaked around left end and used his speed to accelerate past everyone 45 yards to paydirt for a score that made it 21-0, and pretty much took the starch out of El Cerrito.
“We never doubted ourselves,” said Burr-Kirven, who also had a sack and a forced fumble on defense. “They overlooked us a little bit but we knew we could win this game.”
El Cerrito (12-3) never really got untracked. The Gauchos only had 13 yards of offense when Sacred Heart Prep took its 14-0 lead, and besides losing two fumbles their combined quarterbacks were sacked four times. In the miserable first half, they had seven penalties to none for SHP.
Quarterback Keilan Benjamin was injured in the second quarter and was replaced by Adarius Pickett (17 carries, 72 yards, one TD) in the Wildcat formation, and then by Arizona State-bound wide receiver Jalen Harvey. Benjamin returned when Harvey tweaked his ankle but he had to leave again, however by this time the officials were about ready to signal a running clock.
That happened when Gators’ sophomore quarterback Mason Randall, who only threw three passes all game, connected with Mitch Martella on a tipped pass that went 47 yards for the game’s final score.
The bottom line is Sacred Heart Prep was crisper, sharper, hungrier, hit harder, and came ready to rumble. The team may not have the D1 college level talent of El Cerrito, but they were far superior on this occasion, and that’s what counts in the playoffs.
“Some people thought we couldn’t win this game, and that’s interesting,” Lavorato said. “We showed we can play some pretty good football. Now, to coach in a state championship game is a dream come true.”
Whether or not upstart Sacred Heart Prep can duplicate the feat next Saturday in Carson at noon against unbeaten Corona del Mar (Newport Beach) and win a state title remains to be seen, however one thing is for sure, while many prognosticators are munching on crow, the Gators are chopping away and chomping for a CIF D3 Bowl Game victory.