A mostly inexperienced Terra Nova offensive line had to think quick in a critical Peninsula Athletic League Bay football opener against favored Sacred Heart Prep on Friday.
With the Gators making wholesale in-game personnel changes to their defensive line, Terra Nova countered with adjustments of their own under the direction of offensive coordinator Tim Adams.
And the Tigers offensive line executed the adjustments to perfection in a 20-13 victory over SHP.
Terra Nova (3-3, 1-0), which has just two experienced offensive linemen, was initially caught off guard when SHP presented a look Tigers coaches hadn't seen scouting the Gators.
"They put some smaller, faster standup defensive ends to pass rush against our big tackles and they lined them up much wider than normal," Terra Nova coach Bill Gray said.
"It created a problem for us."
The unexpected SHP defensive alignment forced Terra Nova to scrap its offensive game plan, with the Tigers going to the ground game more than they'd planned.
The adjustment challenged Terra Nova's linemen to adapt to the new game plan.
"The test is can the offensive lineman process and then execute split-second changes that you have to talk to them about in between series on the bench," Gray said.
"They have to be pretty sharp kids, no doubt about it."
Senior tackle Domonic De Souza, a Division I prospect, anchors the Tigers offensive line, along with senior center David Smathers.
Senior guard Richard Auelua, who played on the defensive line last season, junior guard Paul Noa, and junior tackles Sean Gregg and Aryton Love are newcomers to the offensive line on the varsity.
The mix passed Friday’s test with flying colors, enabling the Tigers to reel off 445 yards of total offense against previously unbeaten SHP (6-1, 1-1).
Quarterback K’Ren Spain and running back Tanner Piccolotti responded well to the adjusted game plan.
Spain rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and Piccolotti carried 22 times for 146 yards.
Spain also completed 11 of 22 pass attempts for 137 yards but had two interceptions.
The Tigers' Plan B yielded the added benefit of engaging an SHP team in a physical battle at the line of scrimmage that the Gators didn't have enough manpower to fight, with most of the smaller private school playing both ways.
"I think that wore them down," Gray said.
Gray expressed concern about Terra Nova’s upcoming opponent, Burlingame, which he said presents some unique challenges.
The Tigers play host to Burlingame in a PAL Bay game on Friday at 7 p.m.
“They (present) a whole different set of problems that we have to address,” Gray said.
The good news for the Tigers is that they won’t be facing anything they haven’t seen before.
Burlingame (2-4, 0-2) runs a Delaware wing-T offense, similar to that which the Tigers faced against nonleague opponents Inderkum and Pioneer.
“They’re extremely well-coached,” Gray said of Burlingame. “They have defended us well in the past and they’ve been able to move the ball on us with the run and the pass.”
Burlingame is coming off a 28-21league loss to Menlo-Atherton. The Panthers opened league with a 10-0 loss to SHP. Terra Nova defeated Burlingame 35-28 in last season’s league meeting.
Burlingame is a potentially dangerous opponent that in Gray’s estimation is better than its record reflects.
“They’ve been hit with some injury problems lately but those kids can come back to play at the drop of a hat,” Gray said.
De Souza on Saturday made an unofficial recruiting visit to San Jose State.
The 6-foot-7 270-pound playmaker has attracted the attention of several Division I programs, Gray confirmed.
De Souza has also excelled in the classroom, which along with his size, strength, athleticism and aptitude, figures to make him an attractive collegiate prospect, Gray said.
Eagles spikers stay hot:
Red-hot Alma Heights Christian extended its winning streak to 10 matches with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-15) victory over Pinewood in a Private School North League match on Friday.
Jade Tu had nine kills Keola Lamadora had 20 assists to lead the Eagles.
The Eagles (12-4, 6-0) have won 16 straight games going back to Sept. 28 league win against East College Prep and 22 of their last 23 games since a Sept. 25 league victory over San Francisco Christian.
Bautista shines in AHC football loss:
Gabe Bautista rushed for 88 yards and scored the Eagles only touchdown on 21 carries in a 52-6 loss to Stuart Hall in a Mission Trail League (8-man) game on Saturday.
Bautista was also the Eagles leading tackler with 10.
The Eagles (1-4, 0-2) play at Pinewood on Friday at 3:30 p.m.