Menlo-Atherton quarterback Matt MacLeod's completion percentage is a little bit down this season, 56% as opposed to 70% last spring. But his yards per completion is way up at a sky-high 21.2 yards per catch.
Offenses built on the short passing game customarily have plenty of passes thrown to running backs and tight ends, a phenomenon often described as an extension of the running game. High percentage, short gains.
MacLeod has completed 64 passes, 52 of those to his three wide receivers —-- Jalen Moss (26 for 490 yards), Jeremiah Earby (19 for 529) and Johnnie Barbie (7 for 148).
"We're getting a lot of catch and run,'' M-A coach Chris Saunders said.
"You don't get too many opportunities in a coaching career to have a quarterback and receivers like this group.''
So you might as well go for it. Bombs away.
MacLeod has thrown 15 touchdown passes this season with two interceptions, bringing his career totals to 42 TDs and four picks. Moss has seven TD receptions, Earby five, Barbie two and H-back Johno Price one.
Earby, who has committed to Cal as a defensive back, is averaging 27.8 yards per reception.
"A special talent,'' Saunders said.
"Our run-pass option is where we're getting a lot of explosive plays. Matt's ability to make decisions is extremely impressive. I trust him a lot.''
Here's a look at this week's games:
Menlo-Atherton at Half Moon Bay. 7 p.m.
The Bears lost their first two to Bellarmine and Tualatin of Oregon before winning three in a row, over McClymonds, Pleasant Valley and Oak Ridge. Half Moon Bay (1-3) lost its first three games to three strong teams, Salinas, Serra and Los Gatos, before blowing out Lowell 56-13.
"They're a triple option team with a second-year quarterback (William Moffitt) and that makes them scary,'' Saunders said. "They play their hearts out. They ended up getting blown out, but they played toe to toe with Serra, used up an entire quarter milking the clock on one drive. Our point of emphasis will be getting them off the field.''.
Valley Christian at St. Francis, Friday 7 p.m.
This is the first of three major tests remaining for St. Francis, along with the Holy War game against Bellarmine on Oct. 22 and the regular-season finale Nov. 8 at Serra.
Valley Christian (4-1, 2-0) has a couple special athletes in Jurrion Dickey, a wide receiver from East Palo Alto who is being very heavily recruited, and quarterback Jakson Berman, the WCAL 100-meter champion. Berman has completed 55 passes so far this season, 36 of them to Dickey, who has taken 10 for touchdowns.
For St. Francis (4-0, 2-0) it's all about the power running game. Viliami Teu has rushed for 658 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 8.7 yards per carry. Teu's emergence has allowed the Lancers to use Camilo Arquette sparingly at running back and have him focus primarily on playing linebacker on defense. Arquette has 25 carries in four games for 218 yards, also 8.7 per carry.
"They'll play eight in the box against us,'' St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno said. "We're going to establish the run like we always do. I'm not going to change the game plan. When we play Valley they're usually pretty close games. Not 45-42, low scoring.''
Hillsdale at Menlo, Saturday 3 p.m.
The other school with Menlo in its name, Menlo School, is putting up stratospheric passing numbers, albeit against a much lower level of competition than what M-A has faced. Sergio Beltran has had two seven-touchdown games as well as a six. In five games he's thrown 25 touchdown passes and completed over 80% of his passes.
Menlo (5-0, 1-0) has played one close game, a 15-6 win over Terra Nova, and has won its other four games by margins of 57, 50, 41 and 37 points.
The way Hillsdale is playing, Saturday's game has the potential to be a close one and should go a long way toward deciding the PAL Ocean Division championship.
Hillsdale (4-1) has won four in a row since a 14-13 season-opening loss to Terra Nova, is averaging 188 yards rushing per game and 146 passing.
"Hillsdale is dynamite up front,'' Menlo coach Todd Smith said. "It comes down to: are we going to stop the run, and how well are they going to defend the pass?There's no secret what everybody is doing.''
Menlo is scoring an average of 46 points per game while allowing only 7 per game.
"We have very good team chemistry right now,'' Smith said. "Our defense has played great.''
Smith went on to mention strong safety Robby Enright, inside linebacker Tyler Flynn and defensive end Cort Halsey as defensive standouts, along with nose guard Ralston Raphael.
"He's the most underrated nose guard in the CCS,'' Smith said of Raphael. "If you don't double-team him something bad will happen.''
Gunn at Los Altos, Friday 7 p.m.
After losing to Monterey, Gunn (4-1, 1-0) has steamrolled four opponents, outsourcing them by a combined 203-43. And with a 49-0 blowout win over Saratoga last week, the Titans look like they might dominate SCVAL El Camino Division opposition in much the same manner as last spring, when they went 5-0.
Gunn coach Jason Miller, however, is concerned about the matchup with Los Altos, which defeated Monta Vista 34-6 in its El Camino opener last Friday.
"Los Altos is a lot bigger and stronger than us and very experienced,'' Miller said. "That Saratoga score is a little misleading. They had switched to an offense similar to ours, so for our defense it was like playing against our scout team.''
Filippi Montes, Winston Qiu, Denzel Davis and Eric Wang were singled out by Miller for their play on defense and contributions to the shutout over Saratoga.
Los Altos coach Dave DeGeronimo was happy to get in a full game against Monta Vista after having two games postponed due to COVID issues and another one halted in the second quarter due to poor air quality.
But even after all that, there was a bomb threat at Los Altos early Friday to put the game in jeopardy.
"Kids were out there three hours in the sun,'' DeGeronimo said. "It would be nice to have a normal week.''
Against Monta Vista, sophomore quarterback Jimmy Flynn threw three touchdown passes, two to Cole Rafferty and one to Zach Fagin. Greg Schumann ran for two more TDs.
The big question for any team preparing to face the Titans is how to contain their double-wing ground attack.
"Anytime you're facing the scrum you have to change your defense, you have to load the box,'' DeGeronimo said. "We're obviously the underdog.They're very good at freeing their guys to make plays. You have to be sound on defense.''
Terra Nova at Sacred Heart Prep, Saturday 3 p.m.
After four consecutive losses, none by more than seven points, the Gators (1-4, 0-1) must figure it's time to break out the anti-venom and treat the snake-bitten team.
"I've tried to be honest with the kids and stressed we have to focus on the things we can change,'' SHP coach Mark Grieb said. "We can't change some of the games we've played or the teams we're going to play. We just have to focus on getting better at what we do.''
Last Friday's PAL Bay opener was a particularly bitter pill to swallow as Burlingame scored with 11 seconds left and converted a two-point conversion to pull out a 22-21 victory.
"We need to keep that long-term perspective, that those five games help us be a better football team,'' Grieb said.
This is the PAL Bay opener for Terra Nova, which went 4-1 in non-league play, and is led by Dominic Gordon, the third Gordon brother to play quarterback for the Tigers..
"The schedule is not going to get any easier,'' Grieb said. "Hopefully we can put ourselves in position to come up with some wins in league and get into the playoffs.''
Santa Clara at Mountain View, Friday, 7 p.m.
After a 42-27 loss to Wilcox, Mountain View (4-2, 1-1) will play the other school from Santa Clara.
There's quite a difference between the two programs. Wilcox rushed for 430 yards against Mountain View, 320 of it and all six touchdowns by Luther Glenn. Santa Clara High (3-2-1, 0-2) has had a tough time the first two weeks of De Anza Division play, losing to Palo Alto 63-13 and Los Gatos 35-0.
"We can't take anybody lightly,'' Mountain View coach Shelley Smith said. "Paly took Homestead lightly and look what happened there. Santa Clara always plays us tough.''
The Spartans came out in the first half against Wilcox and passed more than they had all season in an attempt to loosen up the Wilcox defense. Leo Navarro broke a couple of long runs for touchdowns in the second half before Wilcox pulled away at the end.
"We're going to focus on special teams and get back to basics,'' Smith said. "Defensively we have to make sure we handle responsibilities correctly. We've got to get after it if we want to be a playoff team.''.
El Camino at Woodside, Friday 7 p.m.
Woodside (1-4, 0-1) kept it close a week ago in a 21-7 loss to unbeaten San Mateo in a PAL Lake opener.
El Camino, under the direction of longtime and well-liked coach Archie Junio, comes in at 0-5
"It's easy to look at this as a game to get back on track,'' Woodside coach Justin Andrews said. "I'm sure El Camino is looking at it the same way. They took it to us last season.''
Andrews was referring to a 34-7 El Camino victory in the spring.
Middle linebacker Jakob Jackson and lineman Tau Latu played well for Woodside against San Mateo.
"Jackson made 20 tackles,'' Andrews said. "He was flying all over the field. Latu finally had the kind of game I knew he was capable of. On offense we took turns making catastrophic mistakes.''
Sequoia at Scotts Valley, Friday 3:30 p.m.
Sequoia (2-3, 1-0) got off on the right foot in PAL Lake play with a 27-0 win over Mills
"We made two stops in the red zone, our linebackers did a great job,'' Sequoia coach Rob Poulos said of Winston Crum, Guy Martinez and Dan Martinez. .
Jaymason Howard carried 16 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He has 522 yards rushing on the season and is averaging 9.7 yards per carry. Dan Martinez added 68 yards on six carries.
The game with Scotts Valley (4-1) was added to the schedule to replace South San Francisco, which isn't fielding a varsity team this season.