The annual Valpo Bowl, which pits rivals Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep, has lost some of its luster for next Friday's showdown.
While both teams entered their respective PAL Bay Division games with title hopes on their minds, both exited with sobering defeats and thoughts of possible titles gone.
On Friday afternoon, Sacred Heart Prep (3-1, 8-1) suffered its first loss of the season, a 29-15 defeat to first-place and unbeaten Terra Nova.
On Friday night, Menlo-Atherton senior quarterback Brian Keare threw for 287 yards and accounted for five touchdowns to lead the Bears to a 49-28 victory over crosstown rival Menlo.
The Bears improved to 3-2 (6-3 overall) while the Knights dropped to 2-2 (6-3 overall). M-A has won four of its past six and are averaging 40 points in those wins.
"Our offensive coordinator did a great job with the game plan," said M-A head coach Sione Taufoou. "The offense executed and we got it done."
"Our coaching staff figured out all the weakness in their defense," said Keare. "It was nothing different from what we planned on doing - that's credit to them (coaches) for the work they put in."
The Knights came right out of the gates with a 97-yard kick return from senior Peter Bouret for a quick 7-0 lead.
Keare connected with senior wide receiver Ryan Roberts for a 71-yard touchdown and cut the Menlo lead to 14-13 in the second quarter. Roberts finished with 111 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Menlo senior quarterback Jack Heneghan ran in for a one-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter giving his team the 28-13 lead. Heneghan had a solid first half with 196 yards and three touchdowns, but was taken out in the second half due to an injury. Heneghan is averaging 346.5 passing yards a game.
The Bears answered on their next possession with a four-yard pass from Keare to senior Oliver Bucka to trim the Knight lead to 28-21 going into halftime.
Keare came through again for the Bears in the third quarter and hooked up with senior wide receiver Spiro Papadakis for a 36-yard touchdown and tied the game at 28-28. The senior finished with 97 yards and two touchdowns.
Menlo-Atherton senior linebacker Brian Jaggers intercepted Menlo backup quarterback Austin D'ambra and ran in for a 36-yard touchdown to give the Bears the 35-28 lead -- their first of the game.
"You see the ball coming your way and you get excited," said Jaggers. "I just caught the ball and ran it back for my team -- that's what it's all about."
The Bears wouldn't look back after the score as they tacked on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Menlo gave up a total of 439 total yards.
The Knights offense had no answer in the second half as D'ambra couldn't pick up the slack for Heneghan as he threw for only 48 yards and was picked off three times.
M-A senior running back Isiah Nash ran in for a two-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to cap off the win for the Bears. Nash had a solid game with 116 yards and a touchdown.
Menlo-Atherton will take on host Woodside in nonleague action next Friday while the Knights square off against second-place Sacred Heart Prep as both are now playing for high CCS seeds.
"This is a big win for us," said Keare. "We'll have to keep level heads, come out and bring energy to practice and stay with it till next week until we get to playoffs, and from there just keep pushing on."
Earlier in the day, SHP's title hopes disappeared quickly as Terra Nova (5-0, 9-0) captured the Bay Division crown for a fifth straight time by scoring three times in the first quarter.
Terra Nova is headed to the CCS Open Division playoffs while Sacred Heart Prep will defend its section title in Division IV.
The Gators came into the game having allowed only 44 points all season. The most any team had scored was just 12. Terra Nova's high-powered offense, however, changed that stat quickly as the Tigers held a 20-0 lead with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
SHP took the second-half kickoff and moved 76 yards in eight plays with Mason Randall capping the drive with a five-yard TD pass to Andrew Daschbach. Terra Nova, however, answered with an 87-yard TD drive of its own to take a 26-7 lead and squash any hopes by the Gators.
Andrew Segre's one-yard TD run in the fourth quarter only brought the Gators a little closer on a day they needed much more.