Before the start of the season Dillon Grady didn’t know if he would be a starter for the Menlo School football team.
“Coming into the season I knew this team could be great, had a chance to be the best team in Menlo history,’’ Grady said. “Individually, I didn’t have a spot at all. I wanted to play safety but with nine returning starters I didn’t know if I would start.’’
But as the season unfolded Grady not only earned a starting and starring spot in the secondary, but has played multiple roles, serving as the team’s kicker and punter and kick returner while also filling in admirably at running back.
In Saturday’s 35-8 win over Jefferson in the Central Coast Section Division V playoffs Grady had two interceptions, bringing his season total to eight, and returned one of them for a touchdown. He also caught a pass for a touchdown and has now scored 94 points on the season.
“He’s been an incredible all-around utility MVP,’’ Menlo coach Mark Newton said. “We thought he’d be a starter on defense but didn’t know how good a running back he could be. Once (Aidan) Israelski got hurt, that’s when we found out he’s Superman.’’
No. 2 seed Menlo (7-4) advances to host No. 6 Scotts Valley in the Division V semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m.
Grady got knocked out of last week’s regular-season finale against Sequoia with a bruised shin. He was back at practice Monday and ready to go. Newton gave him one less job against Jefferson, allowing sophomore Santiago Garcia-Mendez do the place kicking.
“I don’t mind, he’s a great kid,’’ Grady said. “But I enjoy kicking.’’
So it was a light day for Grady with no PATs to kick. All he did was play safety and running back, catch a TD pass, return kicks and punt.
Jefferson (8-3) took the opening kickoff and in nine plays drove from its own 35 to the Menlo 22. But on fourth and 3 Grady picked off a short pass and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown.
Two plays later he made another interception, but this time his return concluded with a fumble that Jefferson recovered.
The Grizzlies then ran six more plays from scrimmage before turning the ball over on downs. At that point Jefferson had run 19 plays from scrimmage and Menlo had yet to run a play, but led 7-0.
Menlo’s offense took advantage of a short field to score two second-quarter touchdowns. After taking over on the Jefferson 21 following an 11-yard punt, Emilio Simbeck connected with David Schmaier on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Later in the quarter Grady ripped off a 35-yard punt return, giving the Knights the ball on the Jefferson 8. On the first play Simbeck passed to Grady for a TD and a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Jake Shiff scored two second-half touchdowns, one on the ground and one on a pass from backup quarterback Kevin Alarcon. His 10-yard scoring run gave Menlo a four-touchdown lead with 7:24 left in the third quarter. It came on a play in which blocking back Mafi Latu shifted from the right side to the left side, Shiff took the handoff and ran left, following Latu into the end zone.
“Emilio Simbeck made that check at the line of scrimmage,’’ offensive coordinator Jason Ward said. “It’s nice when you have a smart quarterback who makes you look good.’’