By Andrew Preimesberger
Palo Alto Online Sports
Senior running backs Cameron Moody and Taylor Mashack outran Salinas for a combined 381 yards and five touchdowns to lead Menlo-Atherton to a dominating 49-14 Central Coast Section Division I semifinal win over visiting Salinas on Friday afternoon.
Second-seeded M-A (9-3) moved into the CCS championship game on Dec. 3 at Terra Nova High (3 p.m.) against top-seeded Serra (10-2), which beat Milpitas (8-4), 49-28, Saturday.
"It's unbelievable how far they've come this year," said M-A coach Sione Taufoou, whose team started out 1-2. "We're extremely excited for next week."
The Padres aren't strangers to the Bears either.
"We scrimmaged them in the summer, so we know we could play with them," Moody said. "They have speed over there, we have to step it up in practice this week."
The M&M running duo set the table early for the Bears as they ran for 243 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone. Mashack scored on a 85-yard touchdown run, breaking away from three would-be tacklers who had hands on him, to put the Bears up 21-0 early in the second quarter. The Bears led 35-7 at halftime.
The Bears' offensive line powered the way for Mashack and Moody as the running game totaled a season-high 472 yards. Senior offensive linemen Luke Pinkston and junior tackle Tom Bucka led the blocking effort.
"I'm gonna give all our credit to the O-line today," said Moody, who rushed for 230 yards on 14 carries. "They played hard and they knew it was going to be smashmouth. They were big."
The Cowboys' offense struggled with only 230 yards against a tough Bears' defense, which kept the Salinas offense in check while forcing five turnovers -- three on interceptions.
Salinas senior quarterback Matt Leighton was ineffective as he threw for just 34 yards on 4-of-11 passing and the Menlo-Atherton defense limited Raymond Cerda, Salinas' 1,000-yard rusher, to 33 yards on 12 carries.
Salinas, meanwhile, had no answer for M-A's speedy offensive backfield. Mashack added 151 yards rushing on just four carries, including a 53-yard TD run in the first half.
In other CCS games Friday:
Second-seeded Bellarmine (11-1) advanced to the Open Division finals on Dec. 2 with a 29-0 blanking of No. 6 Mitty (7-4-1) at San Jose City College. The Bells will face the winner of Saturday's other semifinal between Palo Alto and St. Francis.
In Division IV, No. 4 seed Sacred Heart Prep (8-4) saw its season end in a 34-7 semifinal loss to top-seeded Palma (10-1-1) at the Salinas Sports Complex. Palma will play No. 2 Carmel (12-0), a 59-35 winner over Monte Vista Christian, in the finals.
Sacred Heart, the defending Division IV champion, averted a shutout when Jack Larson hit fellow senior Pat Bruni for a seven-yard TD with under six minutes to play in the game. Larson completed 16 of 29 passes but for only 113 yards. He was intercepted three times.