High School football: Sacred Heart Prep’s Carter Shaw delivers with big catch to beat Half Moon Bay

ATHERTON — Carter Shaw didn’t get many chances to show his playmaking skills off on Saturday. But whenever Sacred Heart Prep calls his number, like they did late in their PAL/SCVAL Bay showdown with unbeaten Half Moon Bay, Shaw does not lack confidence.

“When the ball’s in the air, I know I’m getting it — that’s how it is,” said Shaw, the son of Stanford head coach David Shaw — who attended the first half of Saturday afternoon’s game before his Stanford team’s 8 p.m. game against Oregon State. “I come down with something like 90% of those “50-50” balls.”

Shaw did just that, taking Mitchell Taylor’s floated pass away from a Half Moon Bay defender for a 21-yard touchdown with 4:06 left that put Sacred Heart Prep up for good in their 17-7 PAL/SCVAL Bay Division win in Atherton on Saturday. It was one of only two completions on the day for the Gators, but they’ll take that one catch for the 6-foot-3, 185-pound receiver and cornerback anytime.

“He’s a guy that can win 1-on-1,” Sacred Heart Prep coach Mark Grieb said of Shaw, rated as a three-star by 247 Sports. “I think it’s just a matter of getting in sync and giving him an opportunity to make plays. And you know, when we needed it, he came up big. I was really happy with him and the way he played on both sides of the ball.

“For him to go attack the ball, that was a huge play in the game.”

It started as a defensive struggle, with neither team scoring in the first half despite some redzone trips. Half Moon Bay had the better chances, missing a 37-yard field goal and getting inside the Gator 10 on the waning moments of the half, but unable to score.

“A good football game between two scrappy teams that overachieve, and we ended up on the bad side of it,” Half Moon Bay coach Keith Holden said. “We had some redzone possessions where we came up with nothing and that hurts. But you tip your cap to those guys because they play good [defense] and did what they had to do.”

Midway through the third quarter, Half Moon Bay was driving in Gator territory when quarterback Liam Harrington’s pass was tipped by Anthony Noto and intercepted by Andrew Rocha, who raced all the way to the endzone for an untouched 64-yard pick six, a play that Grieb said “changed everything.”

“When I first tipped it, I thought, ‘Please don’t fall into the other team’s hands,’” Noto said. “When I saw Rocha catch it, I just turned around and wanted to go find someone to block.”

When he saw Noto tip the ball, Rocha’s eyes were “as big as saucers, and then to see him blocking for me, they got even bigger.”

Half Moon Bay’s ground-and-pound, double-wing offense was able to build some strong drives all afternoon. They answered the Gators’ touchdown right back with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock and was capped by Owen Miller 5-yard run.

But Sacred Heart Prep’s running game was strong on the day too, even with feature back Andrew Latu leaving the game in the first half with a lower body injury. With Latu out, the Gators turned to Conrad Wilbur in his first game back since tearing his ACL last year in the Valparaiso Bowl.

Wilbur usually plays linebacker on defense and said he only had three varsity carries before this year. But on what turned out to be the game-winning drive, Wilbur got the ball three times and picked up 13, 12 and 10 yards to get first downs and set up Shaw’s sensational score.

“I was just itching to hit someone, to get out there and play — I just wanted to play so bad,” said Wilbur, who didn’t start but subbed in after Latu’s injury. “It’s been a year since I’ve put on pads. First game back, I had to come out firing.”

For the guy Shaw called “the most slept-on player on the team,” his teammates clearly loved just seeing Wilbur back on the field. But they will also take Wilbur setting some key lead blocks for Noto and pick up big runs to help win the game, too.

“It was super inspiring just to see him suit up for practice,” Rocha said. “That’s a guy who you know has wanted it for the past year. Just to see him get out there and have as big of an impact as he did, he’s really, really inspiring and a testament to the spirit of this team.”

Notu added, “I’m so happy he’s back. Me and him have been friends forever. In practice, he was tossing some of the kids — he literally couldn’t control himself because he was so happy to be back.”

Half Moon Bay (5-1, 1-1) will return to Atherton next week for a 3 p.m. Friday game at Menlo School. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart Prep (5-1, 1-0) will head up to play at Burlingame at 7 p.m.

After a season-opening defeat at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Gators have won all four games at home and have held their opponents to exactly seven points when they come to Atherton. Doing this despite losing key players during games has helped build resolve on the Sacred Heart Prep sideline.

“We’re just looking to make plays, keep rolling through teams,” Shaw said. “I trust my o-line, I trust my running backs — we were down to our third-string running backs, and for them to be able to drive down the field, that just shows how good they are.”

Grieb added, “Our defense has been solid all year long, and they stepped up and made plays. … We’ve got guys banged up, so guys had to step in and play that haven’t been playing as much, but I thought those guys that came in the game and played did a great job.”

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