These next two weeks may prove crucial to Menlo School's football program. The Knights were missing nearly 20 percent of their roster on Friday night and they didn't start the season with too many players.
The 20 players who donned uniforms and took the field in Menlo's 28-7 non-league victory over Soquel at Sequoia High's Terremere Field proved once more that quality counts over quantity.
Still, Knights' coach Mark Newton would like to have a few more bodies available when his team plays Burlingame in two weeks. With no game scheduled next weekend, it becomes Menlo's healing week.
"We're hoping to get a couple back but we're not sure," Newton said. "I'm proud of our guys though. The defense did a really fine job."
Menlo's defense starts with linebacker Charlie Roth, who also happened to enjoy his best offensive game as well, rushing for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"Our defensive line did a nice job of isolating Roth, who had a great game at linebacker," Newton said. "He also did a good job as a running back. We wanted to highlight him tonight."
Menlo (3-2) worked out a game plan that meant running the ball first. Roth and his offensive line took the plans to heart and delivered a sharp, crisp opening drive that covered 61 yards in seven plays.
Roth was responsible for 53 of those yards, including the final two for the early lead.
"First and foremost I have to thank my offensive line," Roth said. "The heart of our team is our line."
There's probably a lot of heart everywhere on a team that carries so few healthy bodies that any kind of specialization is simply not possible.
Garrett Matsuda, for example, not only kicks for the Knights, but also caught four passes for 41 yards, including a touchdown. He's also a defensive back, intercepting a pass that kept Soquel out of the end zone at the end of the first half. He may be responsible for the water bottles too.
Punter Leo Jaimez turned quarterback for a play and found Sam Ferguson for a 26-yard play that led to the Knights' final touchdown. Ferguson also returns kicks. Well, you get the idea.
Austin D'Ambra was 10 of 18 for 123 yards passing. He threw touchdowns of 23 yards to Matsuda and 37 yards to Antonio Lopez.
Will Priestly was credited for two sacks, and while he was certainly active, there were plenty of other bodies flying to the ball.
John Guiragossian, when he wasn't busy helping to open running lanes for Roth, was also causing havoc for Soquel and recorded a sack. Macklan Badger also earned a sack.
"It's the way we have to play," Roth said. "This is really a tight-knot, bonded group and we care about each other. We just need to make sure everybody stays healthy."
In other games Friday, Palo Alto opened its SCVAL De Anza Division season with a 20-19 loss to visiting Wilcox. The Vikings (0-1, 1-4) fell behind by 20-0 before getting on the board just before halftime when Jayshawn Puckett scored from five yards out.
Paly continued its rally with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns as Eli Givens caught a five-yard scoring pass with 6:32 left in the game and a 27-yard TD reception with just 17 seconds left, both from former wide receiver Justin Hull. Two missed PATs, however, proved to be the difference. Hull was sacked on the Vikings' final two-point attempt while trying to win the game.
Palo Alto had an earlier opportunity to score in the second period as it marched all the way to the Wilcox 1 before being stopped.
Gunn (0-1, 0-5) dropped its SCVAL El Camino Division opener to visiting Fremont, 46-0.
Sacred Heart Prep (4-0), meanwhile, will play host to Woodside in a nonleague game on Saturday night (7 p.m.), marking the first night home game in Gators' history. The school has brought in portable lights.