WCAL schools ready to take on Atherton schools | September 6, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 6, 2019

WCAL schools ready to take on Atherton schools

M-A and Serra to play at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara

by Glenn Reeves

Coming off a 51-14 blowout win over Bellarmine, confidence is high on the defending state champion Menlo-Atherton football team. But head coach Steve Papin is concerned heading into the most hyped games of the week in the Central Coast Section, Friday night at Levi's Stadium against Serra.

Papin said on Tuesday that the team's energy at practice left a lot to be desired.

"I don't know if they've been reading their press clippings or what,'' Papin said. "I'd expect them to be more focused, It's an honor to play on the big stage in a marquee game.''

Serra is coming off a 58-21 demolition of a Pittsburg team that was expected to be very good this season.

M-A's win over Bellarmine was impressive within a historical context. One longtime observer said it might be the most lopsided loss Bellarmine has ever incurred to a public school opponent, considering the 48-14 halftime score and the running clock employed in the fourth quarter.

But the Bells are going through a down cycle. Last year they went 2-8 and this year are expected to finish near the bottom in the West Catholic Athletic League standings. So the win has to be put in context.

M-A obviously had much more speed, athleticism and talent than Bellamine. That won't be the case this week.

"They have athletes all over the place,'' Papin said of Serra. "Athletes and skill at every position. It will definitely be a challenge.''

Adding to Papin's concern is the knee injury suffered against Bellarmine by top lineman Uate Uhila, the team's starting center. Cornerback Skyler Thomas missed the Bellamine game with a shoulder injury he received in the scrimmage against Los Gatos and could also be out against the Padres.

Serra's skill position threats include quarterback Daylin McLemore, running backs Nate Sanchez and Hassan Mahasin and wide receiver Terence Loville.

Kickoff is tentatively scheduled for 7:30. The game is the nightcap of a double header with Wilcox playing San Benito in the first game.

Overfelt at Palo Alto, 7 p.m.: The Vikings will be looking for an offensive ignition in their home opener after losing 23-7 at St. Ignatius, a game in which the team's offense was held scoreless.

"I have full confidence we can go out and move the ball,'' Gifford said.

Overfelt is coming off a 34-32 win over Piedmont Hills.

"They're as physical as any team we'll play, they can run the heck out of the ball,'' Gifford said. "That was a wild game with Piedmont Hills. It could have gone a dozen different ways. That's high school football. Anything can happen.''

Gifford pointed to some positive things that happened in the SI game: the strong play of the Paly defense, a promising outing for sophomore quarterback Danny Peters in the second half.

"The negative plays in the end really cost us being competitive in that game,'' Gifford said. "The emphasis this week will be getting the guys in position to do their jobs consistently.''

He looked back on his own coaching experiences for inspiration.

"I coached a game early in my career at Laney where my running backs fumbled five times and we lost 6-3 or 9-6,'' he said. "I felt it was all my fault. I didn't feel good, my guys didn't feel good. We ended up playing pretty good, rushed for 2,800 yards.

"My last year at Fremont we had a stinker against Homestead (losing 36-13 in the season opener). Then we played at Leland on Pat Tillman night with the temperature around 110 degrees on a night when all these other games were canceled due to fires. A mom pulled my left tackle out of the game an hour before kickoff.''

Fremont lost that game 49-20, but went on to win six of its final eight games of the season, scoring 398 points over those eight games, an average of just a shade under 50 points per game.

James Lick at Gunn, 7 p.m.: Neither of these teams has had much success in recent years, but both are coming off resounding wins in their season openers.

Gunn blasted Prospect 59-34 while James Lick beat South San Francisco 41-7.

They played in the second game of the season last year at James Lick with the Comets winning 52-36.

"They handled us pretty good last year,'' Gunn coach Jason Miller said. "The kids are looking forward to showing we're a better team this year, looking forward to playing them.''

James Lick is the alma mater of the only Heisman Trophy winner to ever come out of a Santa Clara County high school, Jim Plunkett, who of course doubles as the only Heisman Trophy winner in Stanford history.

Gunn rushed for 452 yards in the win over Prospect with Cory Hallada (187), Eitan Smolyar (105) and Phillip Doan (100) leading the way. Quarterback Aidan Everett completed only three passes, but they all went for touchdowns -- two to Jack Dellenbach and one to Kylen Liu -- both baseball teammates of Everett's.

Miller is unsure about the availability of Richard Jackson (knee), the leading returning rusher from last year's team, and linemen Leo Ye (ankle) and Sione Fisiiahi (coach's decision).

Defense was the team's big issue last season and judging by the 34 allowed against Prospect, might be judged to be a continued area of concern.

"We gave up a kick return and a fumble return,'' Miller said. "So really the defense gave up 21. And you see 59 points scored and you think all is perfect. But when we watched the film we saw so many mistakes. We've got to improve there as well.''

Carlmont at Woodside, 7 p.m.: Woodside coach Justin Andrews is hoping the first-game jitters the team showed in the loss to Sequoia are over and a better showing is in store for Friday's home opener.

"It was clear that breaking in a lot of new starters as well as players new to the game of football, that they were caught in the bright lights,'' Andrews said. "Once they slowed down in the second half they showed they could play a little bit of football.''

Woodside trailed 27-0 at halftime in an eventual 40-20 loss.

"Our focus this week is to clean up things on our end,'' Andrews said. "Assignment errors, the failure to execute the little things that we've done a thousand times in practice. This week we need to do those things early instead of wasting a whole half.''

Carlmont is coming off a 28-7 loss to Sacred Heart Prep and will be hungry for a win.

"They run far more than they pass,'' Andrews said. "We'll have to make sure our guys are gap sound and our linebackers fill aggressively.''

Menlo School at Piedmont, 7 p.m.: Menlo certainly got the season off on a positive note with a 65-0 win over Fremont of Oakland. Without a doubt the Knights will face a tougher test this week at Piedmont (1-1).

"They're physical up front and run the football pretty good,'' Menlo coach Josh Bowie said. "Hopefully our boys have worked hard enough to be up to the challenge.''

Justin Sellers and Kevin Alarcon both saw time at quarterback against Fremont and Bowie said both will play against Piedmont, as well. They were rotated by series in the Fremont game. Menlo completed six passes against Fremont but three went for touchdowns.

Four running backs combined for five rushing touchdowns. Ryan McKee, who was out all last season after suffering a concussion, scored twice. Junior Sam Chung was the leading ground gainer with 47 yards on five carries.

Defensively Miles Hester returned a fumble for a touchdown.

Last year Menlo lost to Piedmont 30-28.

"They're better than they were last year but so are we,'' Bowie said. "It should be a good game Friday night in Piedmont.''

St. Ignatius at Sacred Heart Prep, Saturday, 3 p.m.: Both teams are coming off impressive opening-week wins.

"This is a potentially great rivalry,'' Sacred Heart Prep coach Mark Grieb said. "We have similar kids, a natural rivalry. It started in the playoffs.''

Last year Sacred Heart Prep beat St. Ignatius 13-7 in the opening round of the CCS Open Division III playoffs.

"I'm sure they'll want revenge,'' Grieb said. "We had a hard time moving the ball. They had a hard time, too.''

Both teams turned in sterling defensive efforts last week. SHP beat Carlmont 28-7 and St. Ignatius defeated Palo Alto 23-7.

"We will have our hands full moving the ball against a real good defense,'' Grieb said.

In the win over Carlmont, Grieb cited linebackers JP Frimel, Tevita Moimoi, Cav Williams and Ben Ramsey on a unit that held Carlmont under 100 yards rushing.

St. Ignatius held Palo Alto without an offensive touchdown and to negative yards rushing.

Grieb said that St. Ignatius filled an open slot on the schedule after Saratoga and San Mateo (two teams from 'B' leagues) said they didn't want to play SHP. The game is set for a 3 p.m. start due to some players from each team taking the SAT in the morning.

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