Big-time nonleague matchups highlight the weekend | August 31, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 31, 2018

Big-time nonleague matchups highlight the weekend

Vikings set to tangle with Cougars; Bears hope to net Monarchs

by Glenn Reeves

Palo Alto and Menlo-Atherton both defeated West Catholic Athletic League opponents in last week's season openers. Both are faced with big road challenges on Friday in the second week of the season.

Also on Friday, Sacred Heart Prep and Woodside both play home openers and Gunn travels to East San Jose to play James Lick. Menlo School, after being awarded a forfeit win last week, finally gets on the field for a home game Saturday afternoon against Piedmont.

Palo Alto at Half Moon Bay, 7 p.m.

After a 21-14 win over St. Ignatius in Nelson Gifford's debut as head coach the Vikings head over to the coast to play a Half Moon Bay team that went 14-1 a year ago and advanced to a state championship game, beating Paly 48-7 along the way.

The Cougars were expected to take a step back this season after having an extremely senior-heavy team turn over, but you wouldn't know it based on their 42-3 win over Jefferson last Friday.

"They are tough as nails, gritty,'' Gifford said. "It will be like playing St. Ignatius all over again. We know we'll be in for a fight.''

Returns were positive for the new offense installed at Paly last week as senior quarterback Jackson Chryst completed 21 of 33 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Two touchdown passes went to Jamir Shepard who had nine catches for 106 yards.

"The guy is a special talent, works extremely hard,'' Gifford said of Shepard. "There's no doubt putting the ball in Jamir's hands is a smart thing for our offense, makes everyone else's job easier.''

Three-sport star Paul Thie caught the other TD pass from Chryst and had 113 yards on six receptions.

Half Moon Bay, which rushed for 382 yards against Jefferson, runs the triple option on offense, a challenge for Palo Alto's defense.

"They run it real well,'' Gifford said. "But what really impressed me was how well they play defense. They tackle real well.''

The Palo Alto defense also stood out against St. Ignatius. Lou Passarello had a sack, Bryon Escarsega-Calderon a forced fumble and Junacio Henley an interception. Kevin Giffen commanded a double team on the defensive line, allowing inside linebackers Wes Walters and Dwayne Trahan to run loose and make tackles.

"To only give up 14 points, I felt pretty good about that,'' Gifford said.

Menlo-Atherton vs. Mitty at Foothill College, 7 p.m.

There are several storylines going into this matchup:

Menlo-Atherton is coming off a 28-0 win over Bellarmine, Mitty off a 42-14 win over Oakdale.

Mitty first-year coach Sione Ta'ufo'ou was the head coach at M-A from 2011-2014. Current M-A coach Adhir Ravipati was the JV coach, varsity assistant and offensive coordinator under Ta'ufo'ou.

"He and I are still friends,'' Ravipati said. "Both of us will be happy when this game is over. It will be fun.''

M-A lost to Mitty 30-23 last year.

"We were so undisciplined,'' Ravipati said. "We had six turnovers. That was one of the low points of the season. The kids have been looking forward to playing them again.''

Sophomore quarterback Shamir Bey sparked the Mitty win a year ago by running for 166 yards and four touchdowns.

"He's the focal point of their offense,'' Ravipati said. "A really talented kid. He has a big frame, a thick lower body. He's tough to tackle. We have to make sure we wrap. We've got to be more physical than them.''

A big takeaway from the Bellarmine game was the performance of Justin Anderson at quarterback for M-A. Anderson, who has received multiple Pac-12 scholarship offers as a defensive back, filled in at QB after injuries to Jack Alexander and Feleti Malupo. All he did was rush for 75 yards and two touchdowns and pass for 124 yards and another TD.

Ravipati said Malupo was 50-50 in terms of being available for Mitty.

"Regardless we will have a package for Justin at quarterback,'' Ravipati said. "When you have a guy that dynamic you want to get the ball in his hands.''

Sophomore receiver Troy Franklin, named the class of 2021 top prospect in the state by 247Sports, is expected back after missing the Bellarmine game. Running back Deston Hawkins and linebacker Songi Eke are also expected back.

Burlingame at Sacred Heart Prep, 3:30 p.m.

Both of these teams are coming off wins, Sacred Heart Prep 21-6 over Carlmont and Burlingame 34-7 over Alvarez.

They have a long history from Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division competition, but this year Burlingame has dropped down to the PAL Ocean, a surprising move considering how competitive Burlingame has been over the years. The Burlingame varsity went 6-5 last season and the JV team went 6-4.

SHP has kept Burlingame on the schedule with this non-league game.

"Burlingame is a well-coached, disciplined football team,'' Sacred Heart Prep coach Mark Grieb said. "They do a great job every year. They don't always have the biggest guys or the fastest guys, but they're tough to play against. They fly around to the football. We lost to them last year which was a disappointment for us as a football team.''

Burlingame won the 2017 matchup 28-17.

Grieb praised his team's defensive effort against Carlmont.

"It was a great team effort,'' Grieb said. "The thing that stood out was the energy on defense, the way we tackled, the way we pursued to the football. That unit kept us in the game, gave us good field position on offense.''

Linebacker John Willard and linemen Ben Horvath, Jake Davison and Jack Kirkham were particularly effective.

The Gators will need a similar defensive effort against Burlingame's Wing-T ground game. The Panthers rushed for 307 yards against Alvarez, led by Curtis Lauti's 117 yards on 11 carries.

Gunn at James Lick, 7 p.m.

With 24 players on its roster, Gunn cannot afford injuries to key personnel. That's what happened in the team's opener against Soquel. After quarterback Solomone Paletua and running back LeeMaster Howard went out with injuries a 20-0 lead turned into a 40-26 defeat.

First-year Gunn coach Jason Miller said their availability this week would be a game-time decision.

"The first half we looked like a CCS contender,'' Miller said.

Jack Dellenbach is the backup at quarterback, Kylen Liu at running back.

Howard carried 12 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns and had an interception before leaving the game. Paletua had 82 yards on 12 carries. Sophomore fullback Richard Jackson had 75 yards on 11 carries and halfback Philip Doan 50 yards on 10 carries as those four players combined for 367 yards rushing.

"I think you'd be hard pressed to find a team at Gunn that controlled the line of scrimmage the way we did,'' Miller said. "And we have four sophomores on the offensive line.''

James Lick is coming off a 22-18 loss to Harker. Quarterback Salvador Lopez passed for 193 yards and rushed for 62.

"He is really athletic, the straw that stirs their drink,'' Miller said. "A dual threat, we'll need to keep him controlled the best we can.''

The Comets, the alma mater of former Stanford Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett, went 0-10 last year and go into the game on a 15-game losing streak.

Sequoia at Woodside, 7:30 p.m.

Woodside plays its Week 10 rivalry game against Menlo-Atherton, but there's no doubt Woodside's biggest rival is Sequoia, its opponent this week in the second game of the season.

"No matter how much I try to downplay it there's added electricity in the air the week we play Sequoia,'' Woodside coach Justin Andrews said.

After a dispiriting 0-10 season last year Woodside started off with a bang, beating South San Francisco 41-6 last Friday.

"Even though we're trying to keep it in perspective there's no doubt that after going winless last year it was good to get back in the win column,'' Andrews said.

Sequoia, which has made a road trip out of the area for a game every year since Rob Poulos took over as head coach, did so last week in its season opener, losing at Newport Harbor 30-13.

In the win over South City, Woodside quarterback Brody Crowley threw only five passes, but completed four for 111 yards and a touchdown. Nathan Yoho was the leading ball carrier with 73 yards on eight carries. Christian Ochoa and Nolan Irion were in on eight tackles apiece.

Piedmont at Menlo School, Saturday at 2 p.m.

Menlo got a win without taking the field last week when Mission of San Francisco forfeited the season opener. The Knights were raring to go but had to redirect their energy to this week.

"We adapt, we move on,'' Menlo coach Josh Bowie said. "We got a lot of good work in.''

Piedmont has already played two games, winning them both, 28-7 over Justin-Siena and 55-24 over Rodriguez of Fairfield.

"They look good on film,'' Bowie said. "Their identity is to run the football. They play two backs, a lot of I formation. They will spread you out, but at the end of the day they want to run the football.''

Bowie takes over from Mark Newton, who retired after 14 years as Menlo football coach. Both coordinators return, so the Knights should not be radically different than in years past. The program has most always been known for the passing game and with Kevin Alarcon, who impressed when he saw action as a sophomore last season, at quarterback, they should be able to put the ball in the air once again.

"On offense we can't beat ourselves,'' Bowie said. "More than anything the challenge for us is to keep focused on the task at hand. The guys are tired of going up against each other. They want to hit a different colored uniform. We're excited to get going.''

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