By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Devonte Piper got his yearly touchdown out of the way and now the Menlo-Atherton senior wide receiver is hoping his team can continue its unbelievable resurgence.
The last month has not been kind to the Bears' football team, opening the season with three rather lop-sided losses.
Those bad vibes are history following Menlo-Atherton's stunning 34-6 victory over host San Mateo in a nonleague football game Friday.
"It feels great to contribute," said Piper, who caught three passes for 67 yards, including a magical reception, just off the top of the grass and between two San Mateo defenders, that helped set up the Bears' first touchdown.
Piper also rushed 10 yards for a score in the third quarter, meeting his would-be tacklers head on and muscling his way into the end zone with them.
Remarkably, Piper and junior quarterback Willy Fonua have not had much of a chance to work together. Fonua suffered a mild concussion in M-A's first game against Wilcox, sat out the loss to Los Gatos and had three days of practice before taking on Jefferson.
"I think that's the first time he may have ever thrown my way," Piper said. "It's OK because we came together as a team and we've been working hard in practice. Coming off three losses, we had to get this win."
A healthy Fonua helped. He threw for 138 yards on 12-of-14 passing and a touchdown. He also rushed for another score.
Fonua combined with six other running backs to gain 211 rushing yards, led by Taylor Mashack's 60 yards and Cameron Moody's 54 yards.
"During the bye week we worked on individual attitude," Fonua said. "The past few games we were too quick to put ourselves down. We had to concentrate on mentally preparing for San Mateo."
It was by far the best defensive effort of the season by the Bears. They kept San Mateo out if the end zone until late in the game.
The Bearcats managed a few big plays, but only one resulted in a San Mateo touchdown.
"We played like a team," M-A linebacker Semisi Tuitupou said. "The coaches set the tone and we had a lot of fun playing with each other. San Mateo is a good team and we had to prepare for them."
Even after the Bears (1-3) first drive ended with a fumble, there was no frustration, no outward appearance of getting down on themselves.
M-A simply brushed the pieces into the nearest trash can and returned to the task at hand.
Stas Della Morte caught a 16-yard touchdown on the heels of a bad snap on a punt attempt. Mashack and Charles Washington both scored for the Bears.
Austin Clarence's interception set up the final touchdown. Luke Pinkston added a quarterback sack, helped by the pressure applied by Russell Gurman.
M-A hosts Kings Academy on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Palo Alto 28, Wilcox 15
Palo Alto (1-0, 4-0) took control of a close game and cruised to victory against Wilcox, powered by standout special teams play and a solid offensive effort while opening the SCVAL De Anza Division season on Friday night at Hod Ray Field.
Wilcox (0-1, 2-2) started strong, sacking Paly senior quarterback Christoph Bono for a safety in the first quarter but Bono rebounded from that and an interception on the first possession to throw a TD pass to senior wideout Maurice Williams in the second quarter. Bono missed a field-goal attempt with 1:57 left in the half and the Vikings headed to the locker room with the lead, 7-2.
However, Wilcox surprised the Vikings at the start of the third, ripping off a 56-yard rushing touchdown to take the lead. During the extra point, Williams made a phenomenal play to block the kick, blowing by his blockers the end the play. After that, it was all Paly as junior running back B.J. Boyd had a rushing touchdown and junior running back Dre Hill caught a pass from Bono for another score, making it 21-8 at the end of the third quarter.
Wilcox managed a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, but a kickoff return for a touchdown by Boyd would cap the scoring, 28-15.
Wilcox fumbled with 4:41 remaining in the game and an interception by senior cornerback/wide receiver Davante Adams with less than two minutes to go allowed the Vikings to run the clock out.
The Vikings gave up several sacks and Bono had to use his legs to create opportunities and evade the rush, however Palo Alto mostly contained the Wilcox offensive unit and dominated the game after a sloppy first half.
Bono finished with nine completions for 173 yards while Michael Cullen caught four passes for 58 yards. The Vikings' run game, however, still is a concern as it totaled only 102 total yards on 28 carries.
The Vikings will host Gunn next Friday at 7:30 p.m. for Homecoming.
(--- reporting by Ken Wattana)
Gunn 56, Cupertino 14
The Titans celebrated Homecoming with an easy win over the visiting Pioneers, rushing for 476 yards and tying the school record for most single-game points, set in 2002 in a 56-21 romp over Lynbrook.
Gunn's Josh Jackson carried eight times for 156 yards with quarterback Anthony Cannon adding 148 yards on nine hauls for the best one-two run punch of the season.
"Offensively we ran the ball well," said Gunn coach Bob Sykes. "But we have a lot of things we need to work on defensively."
Sykes' defensive concerns foreshadow the tough competition Gunn will face in the SCVAL De Anza Division, which begins next Friday when the Titans (3-1) week as they open up at unbeaten Palo Alto.
The Gunn offense, however, doesn't have the same concerns, especially after Jackson and Henry Ayala each scored three touchdowns apiece on Friday night.
Jackson scored on runs of 41 yards in the first quarter, 63 yards in the third quarter and also had a 89-yard kickoff return that went the distance. On top of that, he was named Homecoming king at halftime.
"It was a great night," said Jackson. "Winning the game and winning Homecoming king, it doesn't get much better than that."
Ayala, who returned to the field for the first time since the opening game, had a standout effort on both sides of the ball. After Matt Mertz opened the scoring with a three-yard run to make it 7-0, Ayala caught a nice 47-yard pass from Cannon midway in the first quarter to put Gunn up 14-0. Defensively, Ayala made big tackles all over the field and was a force wherever he lined up.
"It was great to get back out there and make some hits," said Ayala. "I've been waiting to get back out on the field with everybody and do my part."
Early in the second quarter, Ayala scored from four yards out on a run to make it 28-0 and Gunn was on its way to an easy win as even after Cupertino scored, Jackson immediately returned the kickoff for a touchdown to make the score 35-7 at half.
In the second half it was more of the Titans as Jackson's final touchdown and carry of the night made score 42-7 early in the third quarter. Later that quarter, Cannon ran 60 yards to extend the lead to 49-7 and then Ayala got the final touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard scamper.
Cannon finished with 151 passing yards, giving him 299 total yards for the contest.
While outgunned, Cupertino played admirably and significantly better than the last time the two teams met last year when the Pioneers turned the ball over six times in the first half as Gunn won 45-0.
On this night, neither team turned the ball over once. Also, both teams converted on all 10 extra-point attempts as three Titans did the honors with Paul Blanchette making four, Dekel Sherman three and Graham Fisher converting for the final point of the night.
(--- reporting by Tom Jacoubowsky)