Menlo-Atherton High and Menlo School have had a history of athletic rivalries over the years, but one has never taken form on the football field.
That could all change, as well as the landscape of the PAL Bay Division, when the two Atherton rivals battle Saturday in a critical league matchup.
Both schools posted impressive division wins last weekend to set up Saturday's homecoming matchup at Menlo, which will feature emotion as high as the stakes. Kickoff is 2 p.m.
"Saturday will be exciting and both teams have been anticipating this for a while," said M-A second-year coach Bob Sykes. "We'll have to work really hard this week. We'll be ready to go."
Because of different league affiliations throughout the years, M-A (2-0, 4-1) and Menlo (2-1, 4-1) haven't played on a yearly basis. With both schools now in the same league, enjoying early season success and battling for the top spot of the Bay Division, Saturday's game could be the start of a yearly rivalry.
"It is a rivalry," said Menlo coach Mark Newton, "because of the proximity of the schools, the private versus public school issue, the fact a lot of the kids have competed against each other for a long time and that some of them live right next door to each other.
"For us, it's a big game because it's homecoming. We'll just try to focus on what our objectives and goals are, and what we need to do to get better."
Newton would rather not focus too much on how good the Bears are, who are downright scary.
"This is like Stanford-USC," Newton said. "M-A is four times our size (in students) . . . and this could be the best M-A team ever. I've been watching them play and I think they have six or seven Division I players. That says a lot . . . They could play in the WCAL."
Newton's biggest concern is the Bears' defense, which allowed Terra Nova just 14 points last Friday. Menlo also played Terra Nova and lost, 21-14, to open division play.
"They just pounded Terra Nova," Newton said of the Bears.
For Menlo not to absorb a similar pounding, the Knights' defense needs to keep the Bears in check. If the game remains close, then anything can happen because both teams have players who can break a game open.
Saturday's winner, meanwhile, will have more than bragging rights for the remainder of the school year. If M-A wins, it will remain perfect in league play and on top of the Bay Division with its toughest league competition in the rear view mirror. A Menlo triumph forces a log jam atop the division and will give the Knights all tiebreakers over M-A.
Last Friday night, M-A had little trouble disposing of host Terra Nova as senior running back Will Latu gained 178 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. The Bears went up 20-0 and cruised behind a solid defense that allowed the Tigers just 181 yards of offense. M-A generated 389 rushing yards for the game, and needed only nine passing attempts.
Menlo, meanwhile, rallied from a couple of first-quarter deficits in whipping host South San Francisco, 28-13 on Friday. Senior quarterback Travis Boyce threw for 223 yards, connecting with senior receiver RJ Carver on a 70-yard touchdown pass and junior receiver Jerry Rice, Jr. on a 14-yard scoring pass in leading Menlo to its second straight win.
The Knights also welcomed back senior two-way player Jack Mosbacher, who missed four weeks with a high ankle sprain. Mosbacher rushed 18 times for 93 yards while helping balance his team's offensive attack.
Mosbacher didn't play much defense against South City, but will be back doing double duty against the Bears.
"It's all hands on deck," Newton said.
Palo Alto 28, Mountain View 21
The Vikings found themselves in an uncomfortable position on Friday in a critical SCVAL De Anza Division matchup. They were playing their first road game in a month, needed a victory to end a two-game losing streak, and were playing without key personnel.
By controlling the line of scrimmage, the clock, and receiving big plays on both sides of the ball from senior receiver/safety Mike Scott, Palo Alto (1-1, 3-2) captured a crucial victory over the Spartans (1-1, 3-2).
Paly took its new-found momentum against visiting Milpitas (1-0, 2-3) Thursday night. Milpitas is coming off an easy 62-6 pasting of Santa Clara. After Milpitas, Paly will visit first-place Wilcox on Oct. 19.
With a couple tough games remaining on the schedule, Paly needed to beat Mountain View to stay mathematically alive in the De Anza Division race and further its chances of qualifying for the postseason.
The Vikings won, despite the absences of senior running back Sione Mataele and junior receiver Bobby Holman. Both were out due to illness.
"This was definitely a big win for us," said Paly coach Earl Hansen. "It was a huge confidence-builder."
Scott lifted a Paly offense, which has stuggled the past two weeks, with eight catches for 119 yards. He also returned an interception 71 yards for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Will Brandin completed an efficient 15 of 20 passes for 159 yards and rushed for three one-yard TD plunges. Senior running back Brandon Boyd filled in for Mataele and led the Paly ground game with 74 yards in 21 carries.
Paly's defense did a great job shutting down Mountain View's running game, allowing the Spartans a paltry 19 yards on 18 carries. Paly forced five turnovers, three of them fumbles. Ryan Drebin, Donnie Salas, Jordan Jefferson and Will Holder were among the defensive standouts along with Scott.
Scott's interception return came with 3:13 left, but Mountain View quickly rallied with a TD and then recovered an onside kick. The Spartans were driving for the potential tying TD when Holder intercepted a pass at the Paly 10 and returned it 88 yards to end the threat.
Paly produced touchdown drives of 79, 78 and 49 yards and ran 20 more plays than Mountain View.
Monta Vista 35, Gunn 0
Gunn (0-2, 2-3) came out flat and was no match for high-scoring Monta Vista (1-0-1, 2-2-1) in dropping a SCVAL El Camino Division decision last Friday night to ruin its homecoming. In their first two league games, the Titans have been outscored 44-6.
"We just couldn't get anything going", said Gunn coach Matt McGinn after Friday's loss.
The Titans will attempt to get in the win column on Friday at 7 p.m. when they host Fremont (0-1, 3-2).
Sacred Heart Prep (1-0, 4-1) drew a bye last week and will continue Bay Football League action on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth in San Leandro.