Sports

M-A has PAL Bay title in hand; Gunn looking for SCVAL title

Menlo and SHP are ready for the Valpo Bowl

Dylan Susbilla and his Gunn teammates will be playing for a SCVAL El Camino Division title on Friday night. Photo by Butch Garcia.

Two weeks ago it appeared as though Friday’s game between Menlo-Atherton and host The King’s Academy would decide the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division championship. M-A, a defending state 3-A and Central Coast Section Division I champion, had just beaten Sacred Heart Prep, the other team in an apparent three-team chase for the division title. TKA, the defending CCS Division V champion, was 7-0.

But since then TKA lost twice, to SHP and Terra Nova, and M-A, after blasting Burlingame 42-0 clinched the division title last week without playing, receiving a win by forfeit from Aragon to improve to 6-3 on the season and 4-0 in the PAL Bay.

Not being able to play last Friday was a disappointment on several levels, but it also provided some benefits.

“The good thing was we got some guys back who were hurt,’’ M-A coach Steve Papin said, mentioning lineman Uate Uhila, receivers JD Carson and Jayden Stanley and strong safety Eric Stuart.

One player not able to come back is Skyler Thomas, a starting defensive back a year ago as a sophomore who hurt his shoulder in a scrimmage against Los Gatos, then re-injured it in practice when he was preparing to see his first game action of the season.

A good thing that M-A is blessed with depth.

While the TKA game has lost some of its luster with the Bears already having clinched the Bay title, it still has importance for Papin and the team.

“Our goals were to win league,’’ Papin said. “Even though we’ve wrapped up league we want to go undefeated for the second year in a row.’’

CCS playoff matchups will be announced Sunday in the new competitive equity format. Papin said he expects, barring upsets in the final week of West Catholic Athletic League play, for M-A to be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed in Division I and to play St. Ignatius or Mitty in the first round

If the Bears are a No. 4 seed or better they would get a home game in the first round.

“Then we could do our Senior Night,’’ Papin said of the event that didn’t take place due to the Aragon forfeit. “But you never know, the way the points go we could be a 5 and have to go on the road.’’

Gunn at Homestead, 7 p.m.: Gunn coach Jason Miller was already calling it the Hoedown at Homestead last Friday, hours after beating Cupertino.

Gunn, Homestead and Saratoga are in a three-way tie for first place in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League’s El Camino Division standings and Gunn has already defeated Saratoga. So a win over Homestead would give the Titans their first league title since 2012.

“Our guys are excited,’’ Miller said. “It took a while. During the long days of practice I told them their reward would be one day playing on the big stage. This is their reward.’’

Both teams employ run-oriented offenses. Gunn is averaging 47.7 points and 10 yards per carry on the season out of its double-wing scrum offense. Homestead is led by the running back duo in Harold Rucker III and Jared Wade.

“They have superior athletes,’’ Miller said. “It will be a challenge to match up with their talent. For us it will be a bare-knuckles, back-alley fight, an irresistible force against an unmovable object. We’ll see who imposes their will It’s an old-school matchup, a shootout at the OK Corral.’’

Gunn will be without top lineman Ken Erlan, who injured a knee against Cupertino.

“It’s a huge hole,’’ Miller said. “At times he’s been the best lineman in the league.’’

Neil Hanson will be asked to fill in for Erlan on the offensive line.

Palo Alto at Milpitas, 7 p.m.: Milpitas is not the powerhouse it was for a number of years earlier this decade. But Palo Alto coach Nelson Gifford is wary of the Trojans, nevertheless.

“There’s no doubt Milpitas still has talent,’’ Gifford said. “They just don’t have first round NFL talent.’’

Palo Alto (6-3, 3-2), the third-place team in the SCVAL De Anza Division standings, is coming off a 36-7 win over Mountain View. Gifford was most pleased with the number of players making contributions.

“Our offensive line played very well.’’ Gifford said. “It’s been a huge struggle for us since losing Alberto Ruiz (knee injury against Wilcox), a leader and our best offensive lineman. Michael Young got his first start at right guard and it was like he’d been out there all year. Sebastian Rice at right tackle and Bryon Escarsega-Calderon at left guard. Bryon has been a defensive specialist for us. I told him we needed him to change gears and limited his snaps on defense. He stepped up. And Patrick Crowley didn’t play. We ran the ball and protected without two of our best guys.’’

Mountain View coach Shelley Smith paid the Paly defense a compliment after watching his team get held to seven points.

“He said that’s a fast defensive team,’’ Gifford recounted. “That’s a big compliment when an opposing coach says that.’’

Sacred Heart Prep vs. Menlo School at Sequoia, 7 p.m.: These two Atherton neighbors are in different divisions of the PAL and heading in different directions, but this game — the Valpo Bowl — is always a big deal to both student bodies.

“Having them so close geographically and being so close demographically, competing with people you know is fun,’’ Menlo coach Josh Bowie said. “It raises the stakes as well. Games like this — throw the records out the window.’’

SHP (6-3, 3-2) finished in a tie for second place with Terra Nova in the PAL Bay. Menlo (3-6, 1-4) is in fifth place in the PAL Ocean. But a win for the Knights would go a long way toward erasing the frustration the team has experienced.

“They’re good, they run the ball real well and that’s something we’ve struggled with,’’ Bowie said. “We’ve got to find a way to get it done. Both of our records are 0-0. Anything can happen. Look what Burlingame did.’’

Bowie was referring to Burlingame upsetting Sacred Heart Prep 21-14 last Friday, a week after losing to M-A 42-0.

“It’s human nature to look at their record and some of the scores of their games and maybe overlook them a little bit,’’ SHP coach Mark Grieb said of the loss to Burlingame. “But the things they do on offense and defense are tough to defend. They were really fired up. I thought our kids played hard and did some things well. Two or three or four plays in the game are the difference in if you win or lose. A learning experience for sure. It gives us that extra incentive to improve as we prepare for the playoffs.’’

Woodside at Jefferson, 7 p.m.: Woodside (2-7, 2-2) is coming off a 54-0 win over South San Francisco, an outcome that surely raises the spirits of a Woodside team that has gone through some difficult times.

“You have to take that in perspective,’’ Woodside coach Justin Andrews said. “South City is really struggling. But, yeah, that was a huge pick me up.’’

The Wildcats won’t have such an easy time of it this week against Jefferson (6-3, 3-1), the second-place team in the PAL Lake standings.

“They’re dynamic,’’ Andrews said. “Some good ball carriers and a physical line. It’s a challenge, one we’re excited about. We have to make sure we don’t have an off-game, like against Capuchino (a 48-14 loss), like we never got off the bus. If we play we can compete. If we just show up Jefferson will wipe the floor with us.’’

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