No easing into the season. No gradual increase in the difficulty level of opponent played.
Menlo-Atherton opened its season Friday against Bellarmine Prep, the oldest and most accomplished program in Central Coast Section history.
The Bears came out on the short end of a 34-20 score, but there was plenty to feel good about in the respectable nature of the result.
“The thing I liked about the kids is that they didn’t fold,’’ M-A coach Adhir Ravipati said. “We were down 27-7 but then came back to make it 27-20. There are things we can build on.’’
Needless to say, a whole lot of progress has been made since last year when the Bears opened with a 42-3 loss at Marin Catholic and followed that up with a 61-7 loss to Oakdale.
Aajon Johnson came off the bench and played most of the snaps at quarterback. He scored two touchdowns and passed for one.
“Our offensive line picked up the tempo,’’ Johnson said. “We should’ve beat them. We gave them 21 points off turnovers.’’
Johnson completed seven of 12 passes for 140 yards. His 33-yard touchdown pass to Mekhi Blackman brought the Bears to within 27-20 with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
Johnson also carried 19 times for a net 23 yards.
Jordan Mims, a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago, carried 16 times for 97 yards.
But, in what was a predictable outcome, Bellarmine’s power running game was very hard to stop. The Bells completed only two passes for 21 yards, but ran 50 running plays for 289 yards.
Austin Ajiake carried 20 times for 120 yards and Brandon Manigo, who broke a 65-yard touchdown run on Bellarmine’s first play of the game, finished with 18 carries for 111 yards.
“I’m proud of the kids,’’ Ravipati said. “Hopefully we’ll get another crack at them in November.’’