Menlo-Atherton hit St. Francis with a couple of bombs early to take a two-touchdown lead, something no one had done against the Lancers all season,
But the second half was all St. Francis in what ended up as a 49-28 victory.
St. Francis (11-0) moves on to the Central Coast Section Division I championship game against the Serra-Bellarmine winner, Friday in a 7 p.m. start at Westmont High School.
In the first half M-A quarterback Matt MacLeod connected with Jalen Moss on a 61-yard touchdown pass and with Jeremiah Earby on a 58-yarder. He also scored the first touchdown of the game on a 16-yard run.
The Bears had a 21-7 lead after the Earby touchdown, but St. Francis went to the air to score 11 seconds before halftime on a 10-yard pass from Josh Perry to tight end Dillon Golden. On that drive, the Lancers went 68 yards and passed on six of eight plays, showing they can move the ball through the air when needed.
The M-A defense had done a reasonable job of keeping St. Francis running back Viliami (JuJu) Teu in check in the first half. But it was a different St. Francis offense that took the field in the second half, driving 66 yards on 11 running plays to tie the score at 21-21.
"They punched us in the mouth and did a real good job of stopping the run in the first half,'' St. Francis center Alex Bobadilla said. "We came out in the second half and wanted to show who we are.''
So how was the halftime talk, a bit on the fiery side?
"It was a little fiery,'' Bobadilla said. "Definitely loud.''
The rest of the second half was more of the same. The Lancers touched the ball five times in the second half and scored five touchdowns. They ran 32 plays from scrimmage on those five possessions, 31 of them on the ground.
Teu finished with 147 yards rushing, 100 in the second half, on 27 carries with two touchdowns. Camilo Arquette carried 18 times for 121 yards and three touchdowns and the Lancers had 301 yards rushing in all on 51 carries.
MacLeod riddled the St. Francis secondary for 219 yards in the first half on 8 of 9 passing. He was 6 of 16 in the second half for 77 yards with two of the three interceptions he threw.
"We brought two more defensive backs into the game and took out a couple of linebackers,'' safety Nico Andrighetto said. "We played two safeties high so they couldn't get anything deep.''
Earby had five catches for 136 yards and Moss four for 88 for M-A.
There was much mutual respect expressed by players on both teams after the game. Many on both sides knew each other growing up and played Pop Warner football together.
"I know a lot of these guys,'' Andrighetto said. "I've known Jalen Moss since I was 5 years old. He's one of my best friends.''
M-A inside linebacker Andrew Buck was a big part of his team's strong first-half effort on defense, making tackles for a loss on more than one occasion, only to see the St. Francis power running game at its finest in the second half.
"We tried to get everything going again,'' Buck said. "They went to a one-back set and we had to take a player out of the box. Their running game is the best in Northern California. A lot of my friends are on that team, but it hurts.''
M-A finishes the season 9-3.
"I can't say enough good things about the team,'' M-A coach Chris Saunders said. "They never faltered. We came to work early and stayed late nights. The product improved, but we came up short. Too bad we can't play again.''