The Highlanders competed with one of the best teams in the Bay Area for a half on April 9, but succumbed on the road to Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton, 16-4.
Goalkeeper Paul Pappas was outstanding, making 14 saves. The Gators (13-0) fired 48 shots in the game.
“He has been our rock in goal all year,” Highlanders coach Ryan Price said. “He has bailed us out countless times. His play just keeps getting better and better, so we’re going to keep riding him the rest of the season and he’ll be the reason we do some special things.”
Added midfielder Marshall Petty, “Paul is a beast. He has been playing well the entire season. It seems against the biggest teams, he has the best games.”
Sacred Heart Prep is ranked third in the Western Region by Inside Lacrosse, and second in California by MaxPreps. Scheduling teams such as the Gators is key to preparing for the playoffs, according to Price.
“We don’t get as much of it in our league games,” he said. “We have a very senior-strong team that has played together for a long time. They consider themselves pretty good, so I wanted to schedule this year to let them prove to themselves and the rest of the state that they are pretty good.”
Said attacker Rex Peters, “Honestly, we learn from these teams. They have some great players. You can see how fast they can sling the ball. We kind of copy them.”
The score was just 6-3 in favor of Sacred Heart Prep late in the first half, when Tommy Barnds scored with just 6.5 seconds left until halftime. The goal was the first of nine in a row for the Gators, as they dominated the second half with their speed and possession skills.
Barnds was unstoppable all day, scoring four goals and handing out five assists. Petty said of Barnds, “He’s a sniper, for sure.”
“We emphasized keeping the ball on offense,” Barnds said of the second half. “The more you have the ball on the offense, the more rested your defense is; the more tired their defense is, the more you can score.”
Larry Hart also had four goals and an assist for Sacred Heart Prep.
Petty scored two goals for Piedmont. Miles Fawcett handed out two assists. Sam Reynolds and Peters had the other goals for the Highlanders.
“We did some really good things,” Price said. “Our defense played better than I’ve seen them play in a long time despite giving up the goals we did. Our offense was finally moving and playing as a team and getting possessions, especially in the first half. The second half we just weren’t able to keep up. We were gassed a little bit.”
Barnds said he was impressed with Piedmont.
“They were a tough team,” he said. “Pretty physical. You had to work for every goal against them.”
Photos by Sam Deaner from the O’Dowd game