The progress Terra Nova's youthful football team showed in victories over Pioneer and Salinas last month was encouraging.
But the Tigers performance in defeat last week was even more impressive.
Up against the toughest of measuring sticks, the Tigers more than held their own in a 34-28 nonleague road loss to an Inderkum of Sacramento team that was by far the toughest opponent they've faced all year.
"The fastest and most physical football team - public school team - we have ever played since I've been at Terra Nova," Tigers coach Bill Gray said.
For reference, Gray has been coaching at Terra Nova since 1990.
After digging itself into a 28-6 hole midway through the second quarter, the Tigers scored 22 unanswered points to tie what seemed like a lost cause by the end of the third quarter.
The Tigers had chances to take a lead in the fourth quarter, with one drive ending on a 21-yard field goal that bounced off the upright, and the controversial reversal of a pass interference call stalling another.
Terra Nova played its best game of the year in its bid for what would have arguably been one of the state's biggest upsets of the year.
"No doubt, in all three phases of the game," Gray said when asked if he felt the Tigers played their best game of the season.
The Tigers came out flat, something Gray attributed in part to stiff legs after a two-hour bus ride.
But once they got going, the Tigers were hard to stop.
Senior quarterback K'ren Spain had a career game, completing 31 of 51 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for two touchdowns.
Terra Nova's defense held Inderkum's high-powered offense to six points in the second half and forced two turnovers (Zack Foxgrover had an interception, and Clark Tolero recovered a fumble). The Tigers' excellent special teams play included a blocked punt.
"For the first quarter and a half it seemed like we were still on the bus, but once we adjusted and figured out we could play we were just fine."
And whereas early season losses to Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ignatius revealed some of the team's glaring weaknesses, the Inderkum game revealed strengths.
"It was a very hostile environment and the kids showed a lot of character and courage," Gray said.
Junior Jaylen Jones has emerged as Spain's go-to receiver.
Jones caught 12 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns (all season highs) in the Inderkum game.
He's caught 37 passes for 378 yards through five games, with at least four receptions in every game and at least one receiving touchdown in all but one game.
"He's certainly our fastest player," Gray said.
"He's a very talented kid, we just need to get him the ball."
Alma Heights Christian spikers on a roll:
Alma Heights Christian's girls' volleyball team defeated Eastside College Prep 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 22-25, 25-10) in a nonleague game on Friday for its third straight win and its fourth victory in five games.
Jude Tu had 16 kills to lead the Eagles and setter Keola Lamadora contributed 26 assists.
In case you missed it:
Hernandez who transferred out of Terra Nova to Capuchino after his freshman year, recounts a visit from Hall of Famer Stan Musial when he was an 18-year-old in minor league camp.
It didn't come up in the interview, but Hernandez, considered the best defensive first baseman of all time, has developed a strong following in support of his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Hernandez would have to be voted in by the Veteran's Committee.
Terra Nova's football team has bye this week. The Tigers open Peninsula Athletic League Bay on Oct. 12 when they play host to Sacred Heart Prep at 7 p.m.
The Gators (4-0) open PAL Bay on Friday against Burlingame. They're coming off a 42-0 thrashing of King's Academy and have outscored their four nonleague opponents by a combined 170-9.
Alma Heights Christian's football team had a bye last week. The Eagles (0-4,0-1 Mission Trail League) will seek their first win when they play host to freelance El Sobrante Christian (0-4) in a nonleague game on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
ESC is coming off a 54-0 loss to Pinewood and has been outscored 212-22 through four games.