Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 3, 2010

Gunn, Menlo kick off season with openers Friday

The 2010 high school football season gets under way this weekend for three teams that made the Central Coast Section playoffs last season and one that missed out in 2009 but has goals for a return.

Kicking things off Friday night will be Gunn and Menlo School, both of which enjoyed long-awaited success in '09. The Titans visit Yerba Buena while the Knights travel to Hillsdale, both at 7 p.m.

Gunn went 7-4 last season, advancing to the CCS playoffs for only the third time in school history. By going 5-1 and tying for the SCVAL El Camino Division title, Gunn was promoted to the tougher SCVAL De Anza Division this season.

Thus, winning nonleague games will be crucial to Gunn's success this season. The Titans will be led by senior quarterback Anthony Cannon, senior running back Josh Jackson, senior running back/receiver Henry Ayala and a big offensive line that features Keenan Venuti (6-5, 235) and Inoke Lui (6-4, 280). The defense is anchored by seniors Jim Hinton, Matt Mertz and Elias Baker, among others.

Placekicker Paul Blanchette could play a significant role for Gunn, which returns seven players on offense and defense.

Menlo won its first-ever CCS playoff game last season and didn't stop there until reaching the CCS Small School Division finals, finishing 9-4. The Knights lost senior QB Danny Diekroeger, who set all kinds of passing records with 4,187 yards (second-most in NorCal history) and 35 touchdowns.

Senior Robert Wickers replaces Diekroeger and will have returnee Beau Nichols in the backfield and returning receivers Tim Benton and Jordan Williams to throw to. Mafileo Tupou (6-4, 230) anchors the defense along with Brad Eckert and Nathan Rosenblum. Defense will be crucial for the Knights, who allowed 31.1 points a game last season, Menlo will play in the PAL Ocean Division this season.

On Saturday, Menlo-Atherton will open its season at home against Wilcox while Sacred Heart Prep travels to San Lorenzo Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Sacred Heart Prep went 8-4 last season (4-1 in the PAL Bay Division) but lost running backs Matt Walter (1,738 yards) and Chris Gaertner to Stanford. The Gators will attempt to be more balanced this season with senior QB John Geary likely to throw more.

Colin Terndrup, Robert Ojeda and newcomer Pedro Robinson will run the ball, two-way lineman Brian Moran (6-7, 305) will open holes and plug them, and Hunter Shaw appears to a solid contributor at linebacker.

At Menlo-Atherton, Sione Ta'ufo'ou takes over as head coach following four years as an assistant at Menlo School. He inherits a team that went 1-9 last season, but returns nine players on offense and 10 on defense.

The offense will revolve around QBs Michael Culhane and Willy Fonua, junior running back Cameron Moody, plus senior receivers Stas Della Morte and Davante Piper plus junior Austin Clarence. On defense, senior nose tackle Semisi Mataele leads the way with senior linebackers Dan Mohr and Semisi Tuitupou playing key roles.

Priory was scheduled to open its eight-man season on Saturday at Crystal Springs, but the game was cancelled following a mutal decision between the schools' athletic directors.

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