Six seasons after the teams met in the Central Coast Section Division IV championship, the Menlo School football team defeated host Carmel, 28-21, in a season opener Saturday afternoon. Menlo held a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter then held off a persistent Carmel team.
"The victory came from the character of our kids; they showed incredible heart, and were really, really tough. They played tremendous, and stuck with it.," Menlo coach Mark Newton said.
When the teams met in the regular season in 2010, Menlo won and snapped a 14-game win streak for Carmel. They met in the 2009 CCS Division IV championship, which the Padres won. Current Menlo assistant coach Tim Benton was a receiver on that team, also under Newton.
"He told them a lot of stories; it helped them realize what a big game this was," Newton said. "A lot of times (Carmel was) our toughest opponent. It was a huge win.
"Our defense played great," Newton added. "Charlie Roth did a heroic with the ball and on defense, and John Guiragossian did especially well, playing essentially every down."
Carmel got things started when John Stivers caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Higman. From there until late fourth quarter, it was all Menlo. Charlie Ferguson's 58-yard run with 1:28 left in the first quarter gave Menlo a 12-7 lead. Roth scored late in the fourth on a 3-yard run, and the Knights held tough after two late scores by the Padres.
Roth finished with 166 yards rushing on 24 carries with two TDs. He also had six tackles, three for loss. One of those resulted in a safety.
"That was the most we've run the ball in a long time. Charlie Roth is a tough kid," Benton said. "And the O-line opened some holes for him to get his legs churning. Once Roth busted off a 70-yard run down our sideline, I think we gained some confidence and were able to settle the nerves."
Ferguson added 88 yards rushing on 10 carries as Menlo had 272 yards on the ground. Ferguson also led the defense with 10 tackles.
Mackenzie Morehead paced the passing game with 134 yards, completing nine of 21 but with three interceptions. Senior RJ Babiera caught three passes for 65 yards plus a TD to help the Knights finish with 446 total yards.
In Marin, Adhir Ravipati made his debut as head coach of the Menlo-Atherton football team on Saturday, but the Bears couldn't present their new coach with a victory as host Marin Catholic rolled to a 42-3 nonleague triumph.
The Bears, 3-8 a year ago, managed just 148 total yards -- 29 in the air and 119 on the ground. The Bears had 41 total plays and made only seven first downs in the tough season opener.
Junior Jordan Mims led the rushing game with 57 yards on five carries and finished the game with 72 all-purpose yards. Junior Stavro Papadakis added 44 yards on 17 carries and completed a pair of passes for 17 yards while sharing QB duties with senior Ben Spindt. The two, however, combined for just four completions in 14 attempts. Senior Justin Friedsam caught three passes for 22 yards. Defensively, junior Christian Wiseman and senior Jack Gray each had eight tackles.
Menlo School closed with two victories, winning the Blue Division and finishing 13th in the 32-team Spikefest I at Milpitas and Independence High schools on Saturday.
The Knights (4-2) won the Blue Division, defeating West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) foe Harker, 25-9, 25-23. Menlo beat Burlingame 20-25, 25-20, 15-8 to advance to the division final.
The Knights opened up play at Milpitas with a 25-11, 25-21 victory over Castilleja, then fell to Notre Dame-Belmont 25-20, 25-20. Menlo suffered its second loss to Carlmont 25-14, 21-25, 15-5.
In four matches -- excluding win over Castilleja, Maddie Stewart totaled 37 kills, hit .372 and delivered six aces. Freshman Sianna Houghton added 21 kills, 23 digs and five aces. Ashley Dreyer added 20 while hitting .385. In four matches, Mia Vandermeer posted 11 blocks. Olivia Pellarin and Dreyer combined for 15.
Kristin Sellers contributed 29 digs and 38 assists while Selina Xu had 21 digs and 49 assists in four matches.
"The team played well throughout the day," said Menlo coach Steve Cavella. "Both setters did a great job running the offense."
Stewart, Sianna Houghton, and Dreyer "got some big kills" to pace the offense for the Knights, who were missing two key players for the tournament in middle blocker Payton Mack and libero Jessica Houghton.
"I was really happy with the performances of Olivia Pellarin and Mia Vandermeer. They both blocked well and made important plays throughout the day," Cavella said. "I was really happy with our effort and I am excited about the possibilities for this season."
Sacred Heart Prep, meanwhile, went 3-2 and finished second in the Red Division (18th overall). In pool play, the Gators lost to Burlingame (15-25, 25-19, 15-7), won over Silver Creek (25-15, 25-16) and toppled Lynbrook (25-20, 25-21). In the Red Division, SHP defeated Woodside (25-15, 25-16) before losing to division champ St. Ignatius (25-14, 25-13).
The Gators (4-2 overall) were led by Cate Desler (43 kills and 19 digs), Natalie Zimits (16 kills and 7 blocks), Lilika Teu (93 assists and 14 kills), Jorden Schreeder (44 digs) and Rachel Cheung (28 digs).
Castilleja won the Green Division and finished 2-3 overall. After falling to Menlo, Woodside and Cupertino in pool play, the Gators defeated Silver Creek (25-16, 25-21) and Milpitas (25-15, 18-25, 15-4) for the division crown.
Gunn finished third in the White Division after losing four straight matches. The Titans played only one set to decide third place, winning that. That final match, however, will be unofficial since the teams didn't play a minimum of two sets.