Staying on top will be no easy matter. Several challenges lie ahead for both the Bears and Gators, who host Crystal Springs Upland at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Menlo School (9-2-1, 3-1) remains in close contact with Sacred Heart Prep (11-0-1, 5-0) and could make things even more interesting depending on the outcome of Friday night's 6:15 p.m. match at Harker (9-2, 4-1). The two schools are a game behind Sacred Heart Prep, which beat the Eagles, 4-2, on Wednesday.
M-A (8-3-1, 6-0-1) has a match at South San Francisco (9-0-4, 4-0-3) on Friday at 4:30 p.m. that will go a long way in deciding the title race. The teams tied, 1-1, in the league opener.
The girls races are also taking shape, with Menlo School (12-1-1, 3-0-1) at the forefront of the WBAL standings and Menlo-Atherton (5-6-2, 3-1-1) just behind Aragon (8-3-1, 4-1), a team the Bears, who played Thursday, defeated earlier in the season, in the PAL.
Gunn (7-5-2, 6-0) leads the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division, just ahead of Los Altos (6-6-1, 6-1) heading into Friday's game at Wilcox (8-6, 3-3).
Priory (8-3-1, 2-2) continues to keep things interesting and has an important match at Notre Dame Belmont (8-5, 3-1) on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep (5-3-5, 0-2-2) also reintroduced itself into the WBAL race after tying Menlo on Tuesday. The Gators and Knights were both in action Thursday.
The Sacred Heart boys have been nothing but consistent this season, led by senior Liam Johnson, one of the more dynamic players in the area.
Johnson, Chase Dolinko and Tommy Hogan each scored a goal and recorded an assist as Sacred Heart Prep took sole possession of first place with its win over Harker.
Alexi Stravropoulos, Kyle Nilsson, Kevin Box and Ethan Veghte are also among the Gators who have played at a high level.
Napoleon's goal, taken from 35 yards out, appeared to be a routine save but the ball took a strange hop and kicked off to the right just as the goalkeeper got into position to short hop it. There were no defenders around for yards.
His reaction? He turned around and shrugged as if he had no idea what just happened. A few teammates came over to congratulate him but there was no wild celebration as one might expect after a goal that helped keep Menlo-Atherton squarely in charge of the league race.
"I'm still surprised," Napoleon said afterward. "I'm really not known as the scoring type. I usually set up other guys. But I saw a lot of space and figured why not shoot. I kind of flicked it up in the air."
M-A coach Leo Krupnik felt the Bears managed to win despite not playing at their best.
"I didn't think we played well but we came up with a big win," Krupnik said. "I felt it was a hard-fought, ugly win and you need some of those during the season. It was a good game to bring us back to earth."
Krupnik also thought Napeleon had better options than to shoot but liked the results.
"He always has the green to shoot but that was not his best option at the time," he said. "Fortunetly it went in."
Sophomore defender Cole Trigg gave the Bears a 1-0 lead. Senior midfielder Jude Carabetta-Goncalves chased the ball into the corner and sent a crossing pass to the far post that found Trigg, who headed the ball into the back of the net about 15 minutes into the contest.
After losing to Sacred Heart Prep in the first game back from winter break, M-A owned a 3-3-2 mark, a result of an aggressive schedule that featured five games against teams who made last year's Central Coast Section tournament, two that eliminated M-A over the past two post-seasons.
"On a bad day we could be caught off guard," Krupnik said. "We came back from the winter break and that gave us a beginning."
Wednesday night was Bears' fifth straight win and was the first goal they allowed since losing to the Gators."We took some losses but that got us into good efforts," Napoleon said. "Honestly, we just bonded as a team and pushed forward."
Trigg was joined on the back line by Brandon Ortega and Seamus Robinson, who provided several key defensive plays.
Against Harker on Wednesday, Johnson opened the scoring for Sacred Heart Prep, assisted by Hogan. Aidan Basset made it 2-0 with a little help from Dolinko. Harker scored to make it 2-1 at the half.
The Eagles also scored the first goal of the second half to tie the match before the Gators responded with an unassisted goal from Hogan and Dolinko's goal, with an assist to Johnson.
Menlo scored twice in the first three minutes of its 6-2 win over Eastside and took a 3-0 lead into halftime.
Senior Jonny Ebrahimian scored 40 seconds into the game on an assist from junior Trevor Perez. Less than two minutes later, senior Ben Lasky took a feed from sophomore Christian Corcoran for the Knights' second goal. In the 31st minute, Lasky and Corcoran connected for an encore.
After Eastside opened the second half with a goal, junior Nico Monsalve, with an Ebrahimian assist, scored with 25 minutes left.
The Panthers added their second goal with 5:55 left. Menlo had an answer, scoring twice in the last minutes. Aaron Morgan, on an Aaron Cheng assist, scored with three minutes left, then Bobby Shove took a corner kick and Sal Argueta delivered on a rebound.
This story contains 1001 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.