The Menlo School football team cleared what was considered its greatest obstacle to date with minimal difficulty, defeating Hillsdale 55-21 Saturday afternoon in the homecoming game at Menlo.
Many observers considered the game with Hillsdale to be a showdown between the two top teams in the PAL's Ocean Division. Menlo (6-0, 2-0) passed that test with flying colors and is now tied for first place with Capuchino heading into Friday's game at Aragon (4-2, 1-0).
"I am more than happy,'' Menlo coach Todd Smith said. "We were the best version of ourselves. We played high level football for four quarters.''
Quarterback Sergio Beltran threw five more touchdown passes to bring his season total to 31.
"Menlo has really good athletes and a great quarterback,'' Hillsdale coach Mike Parodi said.
Menlo took the lead on the first pass Beltran threw, a 53-yard touchdown pass to Carter Jung. Beltran finished 19 of 23 for 290 yards, completing the final 15 passes he attempted. Jung was the leading receiver with six catches for 112 yards.
Cort Halsey scored Menlo's next touchdown when he intercepted a batted pass in the Hillsdale end zone. Halsey also scored two more touchdowns on passes thrown by teammates Beltran and Jake Bianchi, and was on the receiving end of another throw for a two-point conversion. He had five receptions in all for 70 yards.
"Cort Halsey played his tail off on both sides of the ball,'' Smith said.
Menlo led 22-0 before Hillsdale got on the scoreboard on a 1-yard run by Corey Violette with 6:43 left in the second quarter. A 42-yard pass from Liam Smith to Zach Leighton brought Hillsdale (4-2, 0-1) within 22-14 with two minutes left in the half.
But Menlo struck back with dispatch, dispelling the unfamiliar notion of a close game, going 65 yards on five plays and scoring on a 31-yard pass from Beltran to Halsey to make it 28-14 at halftime.
Then Menlo took the second-half kickoff and put together a game-deciding sustained drive, rather than a quick strike, going 77 yards in 10 plays with Robby Enright scoring on a 4-yard pass from Beltran, Enright's first of two touchdowns.
"That first drive of the second half, we chomped off six minutes and scored a touchdown,'' Smith said. "That was our best drive of the year.''