Whatever you happen to think of the fairness of sticking Terra Nova in an elite football playoff division in which they were given little chance of competing, it's hard not to be impressed with the Tigers pluckiness.
Competing against perennial power Bellarmine for a second straight year in the Central Coast Section's Open Division - ostensibly established for some of the Bay Area's biggest and best private school programs - the Tigers held their own in a 33-14 loss on Friday in a game in which they weren't given much of a chance.
The placement of Terra Nova - the 18-team Peninsula Athletic League's seventh smallest school with an enrollment of just over 1,000 - in the Open Division itself raised questions about fairness, especially with the Tigers coming off a Peninsula Athletic League Bay championship that should have given them preferred playoff seeding status - not the high school football equivalent of a death sentence.
The last time the Tigers played in a division other than the Open was 2010, when they won the CCS Division III title.
"We went up in the Open Division and played very well," Terra Nova coach Bill Gray said.
"If we were in our division of enrollment we'd probably still be playing."
Gray's assessment of his team's chances in a lower division was supported by his team's better than expected performance in the Bellarmine game.
Although they didn't play the mistake-free football they'd have needed to play to win, they gave the mighty Bells a scare. Early in the second quarter of a 14-7 game, Terra Nova had a chance to tie the game before a fumble at the Bellarmine 1 ended what could have been an inspired scoring drive.
Still, the results were a lot more respectable than the 56-12 shellacking the Tigers experienced in a first round Open loss to Bellarmine last season.
Quarterback K'Ren Spain was 17-for-37 passing for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception and also rushed for 58 yards including one touchdown to lead the Tigers.
Tanner Piccolotti rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries.
Jaylen Jones caught five passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.
"We played Bellarmine a year ago and we were outclassed and literally embarrassed," Gray said. "This year we played with them."
The Tigers fumble was among four "catastrophic" gaffes that doomed any chance the Tigers had of pulling off what would have been one of the all-time biggest upsets in CCS football playoff history.
"Had a few things gone the other way it could have been a closer game and maybe we could have even won it," Gray said.
Coaches will have an opportunity to voice their complaints about a playoff system that punishes league champions such as Terra Nova the last two years at a CCS evaluation meeting next month after the playoffs end.
Proposals to change the CCS' bylaws will be considered at the meeting, Gray said.
Gray expressed concern about a current system that he says damages competition. He noted that only one league champion (Bellarmine) went on to win a CCS championship in five divisions.
Terra Nova earlier this month won a fourth consecutive league championship for the first time in school history and became just the league's second team to win four straight titles since the PAL Bay's inception. Aragon is the other.
The Tigers had won three straight titles three times.
"When you win a championship four consecutive years that means that you've accomplished it with a completely different set of players," Gray said. "That speaks volumes about your school and your program and your coaches, and especially the kids."
Former Terra Nova girls' basketball standout Terilyn Moe (2012) led Nevada-Reno to a 76-72 nonconference victory over Cal State Fullerton in her NCAA debut on Nov. 9.
Moe is averaging 20.3 points through three games.
She was part of a dynamic Tigers backcourt along with Ivonne Cook-Taylor (2012) who went on to play at Division I programs.
Cook-Taylor is at Texas Tech.