A most intriguing matchup. Plenty of size and athleticism will be on display Friday when Menlo-Atherton takes on Milpitas in the Central Coast Section Open Division I championship game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Independence High.
Milpitas has long been known for having the biggest offensive and defensive lines in the CCS. Nor are the Trojans in any way lacking when it comes to talent and speed at the skill positions.
M-A has come to mirror Milpitas in some ways. The Bears have a big line, one that won't be at much of a size disadvantage as most teams going up against Milpitas.
They also have talent and speed at running back with Jordan Mims (1,724 yards rushing, 9.6 yards per carry, 22 touchdowns) and at quarterback with Aajon Johnson, a rugged and physical performer who takes a lot of hits running the option, but has still passed for 1,824 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 979 yards and 14 touchdowns.
But for Milpitas advancing to a CCS title game has become a virtual rite of fall. This is the fifth time in the last six years the Trojans have played for a CCS championship.
The Bears were last in a CCS final in 2011 when they lost to Serra in the Division II game. They won CCS titles with a run-oriented team in 2008 that had a coaching change at mid-season, and with a passing team in 2002, coached by Martin Billings.
"How big and how fast they are -- they definitely look the part,'' M-A coach Adhir Ravipati said of Milpitas. "I don't think rumor has done them justice. I understand why they've had the success they've had the last couple of years.''
Both teams are 10-2 on the season. Milpitas lost two league games: to Los Gatos and Wilcox.
M-A lost its first two games of the season, to Bellarmine and Marin Catholic, but got a big win against Bellarmine last Friday, 21-0 in the CCS semifinals. The Bears also have wins over both Los Gatos and Wilcox.
But Milpitas, with all its unique capabilities, is a difficult team to prepare for.
"How do you simulate that kind of size and speed in practice?'' Ravipati said. "And they run so many different formations, everything from the scrum to the spread. We have to make sure we don't get caught in the window dressing. And they have guys who are so versatile that they don't have to change personnel.''
Milpitas turned in its most impressive performance of the season last week, rallying from a 28-10 deficit to beat San Benito 35-28. The Trojans are deep at the skill positions, but everyone who plays them has to account for the Bracy twins, Tyree and Tariq. Tyree is the quarterback. Tariq is a speedster who leads the team in rushing (981 yards, 9.7 per carry, 9 touchdowns) and receiving (32 catches, 22.7 yards per reception, 10 TDs.)
Now after a 0-3 start in 2015 in his first year as head coach and a 0-2 start this year, Ravipati has watched his team weather the storm and advance to the CCS championship game.
"We made a covenant where the kids take on rules and responsibilities,'' Ravipati said. "One of the goals we put in there was to win a CCS championship. This is a step in that process of how to achieve success. The kids are excited for this opportunity. There are 92 teams in the CCS. Ten are still alive and five get to keep playing.''