M-A, SH Prep has developed into pretty strong rivalry


For years rivalries between Atherton schools in football didn't amount to much. Menlo School and Menlo-Atherton were on different wavelengths. Sacred Heart Prep didn't start playing football until the late 1990s.

Once SHP got its program going, a natural small-school rivalry came into being between the Gators and their neighbors, Menlo.

But then the SHP program accelerated beyond the furthest reaches of most anyone's imagination, winning two Central Coast Section Open Division championships and making two state final appearances.

Menlo-Atherton, the large public school in town, had its ups and downs. There was a CCS title won with T.C. Ostrander at quarterback and Martin Billings as head coach in 2002 and then another CCS title with a team that featured multiple running backs and multiple head coaches in 2008. Before and after there was a lot of mediocrity.

But the Bears (4-2, 2-0) are on the upswing now under second-year head coach Adhir Ravipati. They are on a four-game winning streak and in first place in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division.

Sacred Heart Prep got off to a shocking 0-5 start this season, before notching its first win the last time out, 28-24, over Aragon.

The battle for Atherton supremacy, Part I, takes place Friday when Menlo-Atherton plays at Sacred Heart Prep in a 3 p.m. game.

SHP still plays Menlo School in week 10 as its traditional rival every year. But the game with Menlo-Atherton has gained in importance from a competitive standpoint in recent years.

"When I got here 14 years ago there was no rivalry,'' SHP coach Pete Lavorato said. "We would've gotten killed. But the last six years the games have gotten pretty close. The kids know each other which makes it more fun.''

"It will be a fun, local game,'' Ravipati said. "It's going to be a tough one. Throw the records out. Sacred Heart Prep is much better than a 1-5 team. Their schedule was as tough or even tougher than ours.''

SHP lost non-league games to San Benito, Palma, Riordan and McClymonds without running back Isoa Moimoi, the team's top returning skill position performer from last year.

Moimoi returned from his hamstring injury in a 14-7 loss to Burlingame, then rushed for 120 yards in the win over Aragon.

"It sure was nice to get a win,'' Lavorato said. "I felt like we played better, and that's really what's important. The offensive line played well. Overall the defense played quite well.''

After losing to Bellarmine and Marin Catholic to start the season, Menlo-Atherton has gotten it going with wins over four quality opponents.

"They're very good, big and strong with a tremendous defense,'' Lavorato said. "We have to control the ball, not have too many three and outs. Move the ball down the field and try to make first downs. On defense we need to try to take away the big play. Their tailback and quarterback are both very explosive, very athletic. So we have to play assignment football. We can't just fly around. If one guy doesn't do his job it's a big play.''

Palo Alto is coming off a 42-0 loss to Milpitas. The next guys can't be as good, right? Well, maybe not. But Wilcox, Paly's opponent Friday, is fresh off an 83-48 win over Saratoga.

That's not a basketball score.

"Shocking,'' Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said. "That's definitely something that got our attention very quick. There were a lot of big eye balls when I told the team the score.''

Wilcox runs the veer offense, something opposing defenses rarely see. The Chargers average 380 yards rushing and 10.0 yards per carry on the season. Against Saratoga they rushed for 630 yards and 17.5 yards per carry.

And Saratoga beat Palo Alto 35-21 the previous week.

"You have to be disciplined on every play,'' Sullivan said. "One misplay and they go 75 to 80 yards.''

Woodside is also coming off a lopsided loss, 57-14, to Half Moon Bay. The Wildcats will try to get back in the win column at home against The King's Academy.

"We knew we had our hands full,'' Woodside coach Justin Andrews said of the matchup with Half Moon Bay "They're a good team but we made them better. We did not bring our 'A' game.''

Woodside and TKA both went 4-0 in non-league play but are 0-2 in the PAL Ocean. Marcelous Chester-Riley rushed for more than 100 yards in each of Woodside's four wins. He's been held under 100 in the two losses.

"It's because of us not consistently making plays in the passing game,'' Andrews said. "A lot of drops, a lot of penalties. When we convert on the pass it opens the box for him.''

Menlo School bounced back from a loss to Half Moon Bay to defeat TKA 31-21.

It was by far the best day of the season for Menlo QB Hayden Pegley, who completed 16 of 19 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, running back Charlie Ferguson continued his epic season. After being held to 23 yards in the loss to Half Moon Bay, Ferguson rebounded with gusto, carrying 27 times for 200 yards against TKA. He has 953 yards rushing in six games this season on 110 carries with 13 touchdowns and an 8.7 yards per carry average.

It will be a challenge for Ferguson and the Menlo ground game to keep that kind of production going against a physical South San Francisco front. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. Friday at Menlo.

Gunn (2-5, 0-3) will have its sights set on breaking into the win column in league play when the Titans host Lynbrook (3-4, 0-3) on Friday at 7 p.m.

Edmond Wu has passed for 642 yards and eight TDs to lead the Gunn offense. Etienne Daadi has rushed for 526 yards and 6.1 yards per carry.

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