Making up for lost time after losing its first three games of the season, the Menlo-Atherton football team rolled to its second straight impressive victory with a 35-14 dismantling of King's Academy to open the PAL Bay Division season Thursday night at Sequoia High.
The Bears (1-0, 2-3) had hoped to play their Homecoming game under the lights at their own field, but a court injunction brought by neighbors prevented temporary lights from being brought to the school.
Despite not being able to play a home game at home, the Bears battled back from a 14-0 deficit in the second quarter and scored 35 unanswered points to claim the victory. M-A now has outscored the opposition by 69-20 in its past two games.
The Menlo-Atherton offensive line had a lot to do with the comeback as the Bears rushed for a remarkable 320 yards on 39 carries. M-A head coach Sione Taufoou singled out Noah Stid, Taylor Karis, Ricky Vea, Ausia Mataele, Tiulipe Lolohea and Semisi Mataele for opening holes for running backs Cameron Moody (15 carries, 112 yards) and Junior Sakalia (nine carries, 83 yards), who accounted for four touchdowns. Moody scored on runs of 12, two and seven yards after Sakalia had run one in from 25 yards in the second quarter to make it a 14-7 game at halftime.
The Bears' defense also was outstanding as it picked off two passes and recovered four fumbles, turning three of the recoveries into TDs.
Menlo-Atherton did give up 166 rushing yards to Stanford-bound Amir Carlisle, but limited the rest of the Knights to just 157 yards.
M-A quarterback Willy Fonua contributed 95 passing yards to the Bears' total of 415 offensive yards, including a five-yard pass to Michael Culhane for the final touchdown of the impressive victory.
Boys' cross country
Gunn was second and Palo Alto ninth at the annual SCVAL Preview on Thursday over the 2.95-mile course at Crystal Springs in Belmont. The Titans tallied 63 points, just failing to catch first-place Cupertino (57). The Vikings trailed with 259 points.
Gunn juniors Peter Chen (16:17) and Andrew Prior (16:20) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while Gunn senior Rory Runser was eighth in 16:28. Nikolai Solgaard was Paly's top finisher in 17th (17:01).
Girls' cross country
Gunn showed why it is ranked No. 1 in the Central Coast Section with dominating performance at the SCVAL Preview on Thursday over the 2.95-mile course at Crystal Springs in Belmont.
The Titans scored 35 points, placing four runners among the top 10. Senior Erin Robinson won going away in 18:26 while junior teammate Kieran Gallagher was second in 18:49. Freshman Sarah Robinson, Erin's sister, was fifth in 19:40 while junior Melia Dunbar was 10th in 20:11. Senior Rachel Bent wrapped up the scoring with a 17th place in 20:40.
Palo Alto was a solid second with 86 points with Mountain View third with 111. Paly senior Susan Heinselman led the Vikings with a sixth-place finish of 19:44. Sophomore Chika Kasahara was 14th (20:22), senior Leigh Dairghi was 20th (20:46), senior Grace Cain took 21st (20:53) and junior Lydia Guo came home 25th in 21:14.
Menlo School tuned up for a big showdown next week at Harker with a 7-0 victory over visiting Sacred Heart Prep in a West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) match on Thursday.
The defending champion Knights (4-0, 9-2) now have gone 172-0 in league matches since the start of the 1994 season and have won 16 straight league titles since then. They'll visit Harker on Tuesday in the first of two matches that will determine whether Menlo's remarkable league winning streak remains intact.
Giannina Ong, Kristy Jorgensen, Christine Eliazo and Laura Gradiska – all underclassmen – swept the singles while dropping only 13 games as Sacred Heart Prep fell to 2-2 in league (9-5 overall).
In the PAL Bay Division, host Menlo-Atherton began the second half of league play by avenging an early season loss with a 5-2 victory over Aragon. The Bears (6-2, 7-4) are still in the hunt for the PAL regular-season title, trailing both Aragon (6-1) and unbeaten Burlingame.
The Bears came out on fire with quick wins at the top three singles – losing only a total of seven games. Aragon (6-1 league), with its back against the wall, played very tough in the remaining matches. The Dons won at No. 4 singles to close their deficit to 3-1. Things got even tighter when Aragon won the first set in two of the doubles matches, winning at No. 3 to make it a 3-2 score. The Bears finally closed out Aragon at No. 2 doubles with Siena Roat-Shumway and Lindy LaPlante posting a 6-3, 6-1 victory.
Menlo-Atherton remained just a game back of first-place Burlingame in the PAL Bay Division race with an important 25-19, 25-22, 19-25, 25-15 victory over visiting Carlmont on Thursday.
The Bears (5-1, 12-6) were led by senior Regina Mullen's 21 digs and 12 kills while fellow senior Diane Seely produced 10 kills with five blocks. Senior Sofi King set up the hitters with 25 assists while freshman Pauli King contributed 11 digs and six kills for the Bears.
In the WBAL (Foothill Division), host Sacred Heart Prep (2-0, 12-7) tuned up for next Tuesday's showdown at Castilleja with a 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 victory over Harker on Thursday. Jesse Ebner had 11 kills and two blocks while Sarah Daschbach added 10 kills and 14 digs for the Gators.
In another WBAL (Foothill Division) match, senior Jazmin Moledina and freshman Maddie Huber had 17 kills apiece, and their career highs led Menlo School to a 25-12, 27-25, 22-25, 25-14 win over visiting Notre Dame-San Jose (0-2, 15-6) on Thursday night.
The Knights (1-0, 14-6) opened league play with contributions from many sources. Moledina hit .429 and added seven digs, three blocks and an ace. Huber added 13 digs, two blocks and an ace while hitting .324.
After a fast start propelled them to a first-game win, Menlo trailed 22-16 in the second when sophomores Kendyl Denenberg and Charlotte Kohlberg came off the bench. Denenberg's serving sparked an 8-0 run, and the improbable comeback put Menlo up two sets to none, instead of leaving the match tied. Denenberg finished with three aces and six digs, and Kohlberg had seven digs, two blocks and five aces, including three during her own long serving run to blow open the fourth set.
Notre Dame rebounded to capture the third game, with junior Nicole Richards doing much of the damage, but Menlo used a long service run from Kohlberg midway through the fourth to put the set, and the match, out of reach.
Menlo freshman Melissa Cairo had a team-best 19 digs, junior Natalie Roy had 10 kills and seven digs, and sophomore Drew Edelman tallied four kills, four digs and three blocks. Sophomore Alexandra Ko had 46 assists and six digs.
In the WBAL (Skyline Division), host Pinewood dropped a 25-10, 25-20, 25-13 decision to Crystal Springs on Thursday. The Panthers fell behind early due to being tentative, saw the Gryphons serve well in Game 2 and couldn't solve tough blocking in Game 3. Lizzy Field led Pinewood with 13 kills, two blocks and two aces while Adrienne Whitlock had 19 assists and five digs.
Boys' water polo
Getting a career-high seven goals from sophomore Brett Pinsker, the Palo Alto boys' water polo team opened the second half of SCVAL De Anza Division play with a solid 15-8 swamping of visiting Los Gatos on Thursday. It was the Vikings' (5-2, 6-5) second win over the Wildcats and set Paly up for Saturday's nonleague test against Campolindo (Moraga) at Gunn High at 6:30 p.m.
Aaron Zelinger added four goals for Paly while goalie Daniel Armitano had six saves and a steal. Paly converted 15 of its 24 shot attempts with Pinsker making seven of nine and Zelinger making all four of his.
In PAL Ocean Division action, despite battling back from an early deficit and getting to within one goal at the half, the Priory boys' water polo team let things get away in the third quarter and dropped a tough 15-10 decision to visiting Aragon on Thursday.
The Panthers (3-4) scored six goals in the second period – three by John Jernick – to get to within 7-6 at intermission. Priory, however, managed just a single goal in the third quarter and fell behind by 11-7 entering the final period as Aragon scored three times in the first minute. The Dons then scored three of their four goals in the fourth quarter on 6-on-5 situations to hold off Priory, which also got two goals each from Ryan Valentine and Eric Turnquist.