Menlo was not supposed to get this far. Too many questions, especially at quarterback. This Hayden Pegley kid? Never started a game at QB until this season. Don't call them overachievers, though.
The Knights, with a confident and productive leader in Pegley, earned the right to play for a title.
That they fell short of a Central Coast Section Division V championship, 41-24, at the hands of defending champion Half Moon Bay at Sequoia High on Friday night, takes nothing away from a marvelous year.
The Knights ended their season at 11-2, while the Cougars finished the season at 11-2. Half Moon Bay is the only team to beat Menlo this year.
“It was a tough game,” said Menlo coach Mark Newton. “Half Moon Bay did a great job, really in all three facets. We were hoping we’d be able to slow them down and make some adjustments but we weren't quite able to demonstrate what we did in practice as well as in the game. We need to play mistake-free football and we didn’t quite do that.”
Menlo, which tied the Cougars for the PAL Ocean Division title, totaled 40 yards on the ground, the second lowest team rushing total of the season (27, in its first meeting with Half Moon Bay on Sept. 30).
The Cougars got on the scoreboard first when Chase Hofmann jumped up the middle for a one-yard touchdown, putting Half Moon Bay up 7-0. Hofmann had a stellar game and finished with 218 yards, including two touchdowns.
The Knights answered on their next possession. Pegley found senior wide receiver Evan King on a corner route and he caught it along the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown.
King also caught a 15-yard touchdown pass and finished his season with 1,098 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
In the second quarter, Menlo junior Dylan Williams kicked a 28-yard field goal and the Knights were in reach, 14-10.
With 34 seconds left until halftime, Gavin Tomberlin found a wide open Hayden Von Almen for a 17-yard touchdown and the Cougars took a 21-10 lead heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, Tomberlin connected with Jake Quosig and the running back took it to the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown. Half Moon Bay took a 35-17 advantage into the fourth quarter.
The Knights found themselves within reach with just under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Pegley hooked up with senior Jack McNally down the middle and he completed a 12-yard touchdown, making it a 35-24 Cougar lead.
Menlo successfully executed an onside kick and ultimately drove to the Cougars' one-yard line before a fumble frustrated the Knights and gave the ball to Half Moon Bay.
The Cougars sealed the win when Hofmann took it up the middle and leaped over the defense, making it a 41-24 lead with three and a half minutes left.
“It’s been an incredible season,” said Charlie Ferguson. “I have two older brothers who came through Menlo and they both got the opportunity to play in CCS championship games and were used to winning football games. The seniors did an incredible job setting the tone in practice. I’m proud of this group and I’m really excited about Menlo football moving forward.”