Following his 257-yard performance last Friday against Aptos, St. Francis standout running back Viliami (JuJu) Teu was already looking forward to his team's next game and offered up his own feelings about it without prompting.
"M-A has some athletes, it will be a great game,'' Teu said. "We all grew up together.''
He then proceeded to reel off the names of Menlo-Atherton players he grew up playing football with: "Jalen Moss, JoJo Flood, Matt MacLeod, Dane Fifita. I played in an all-star game with Thomas Taufui, but I've known him since second grade. It will be awesome.''
No. 5 seed Menlo-Atherton (9-2) plays at No. 1 St. Francis (10-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals.
Teu is from East Palo Alto, as are many players on the M-A team. He played Pop Warner football for the Menlo-Atherton Vikings, where he teamed up with MacLeod, M-A's quarterback, and Moss, among others.
"The kids that know each other, played Pop Warner together, that'll be fun,'' St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno said. "I'm sure both sides will enjoy that.''
The game not only features friend against friend. How about brother vs. brother?.
Former St. Francis running back Landon Baty is flying in from New York for the game and has a $100 wager on the line with his brother, Turner Baty, the former M-A quarterback.
"He seems to think the Bears will pull it out,'' Landon wrote in an online exchange, "but claims we `steal all their players.' I think he wishes he chose SF.''
Former M-A standout Skyler Thomas, now playing defensive back at Oregon State, said that he and his brother, Darius Thomas, the former three-sport athlete at St. Francis, have been exchanging trash talk, "just a little bit.''
Once all the pregame fun is over the two teams will decide on the field which team goes on to the Division I finals to play the Bellarmine-Serra winner. St. Francis, unbeaten and with a win over De La Salle on its resume, goes into the game as the clear favorite.
"Yeah, they're pretty good at football,"' M-A coach Chris Saunders said. "We'll need to identify No. 4, JuJu. He's the guy, he's probably the best player, the most dominant player in the Bay Area and Northern California. A special talent.''
Teu has rushed for 1,993 yards and 25 touchdowns. A 200-yard game has become routine for him. In the big game against Serra two weeks ago he carried 45 times for 344 yards, smashing records left and right.
M-A gave up 100 points the first two games of the season to Bellarmine and Tuaklatin of Oregon, but since then has won nine in a row. The M-A defensive front of Mone Ngalu, Semisi Vainikolo and David Tangilanu will face a severe test matching up with the ultra-dominant St. Francis offensive line.
"In league play, with the exception of the Half Moon Bay game, our defense has been pretty much lights out," Saunders said. "Against Salinas we were in their backfield the entire game. This week will be a challenge going up against the best rushing attack in Northern California. We've got to be up to the challenge."
Who is going to stop whom? On the other side the St. Francis defense will be tasked with containing M-A's passing game. MacLeod has thrown for 3,019 yards with 34 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
"We'll play with some different personnel groups, put in an extra defensive back,'' Calcagno said. "It's tough to emulate in practice, but we'll get them coached up.''
The Lancers have faced plenty of spread teams and shut them down. Can they do the same against M-A?
"That's the big question,'' Saunders said. "They're very solid defensively with 11 very good football players on the field at all times. And Matt Scharrenberg is one of the best high school defensive coordinators around. It will be a little bit of cat and mouse. We have some top-end speed. Our challenge will be to find a way to get our playmakers the ball. When we do that I feel pretty good about our chances."
No. 4 Menlo School (11-0) at No. 1 San Benito (9-1), Friday 7 p.m.
Menlo passed its first playoff challenge with flying colors, beating No. 5 Half Moon Bay 47-28 in a quarterfinal matchup at Menlo. Now the Knights will take the bus ride down to Hollister to play the No. 1 seed.
"They play great team defense, a very active defense,'' Menlo coach Todd Smith said.
Smith is familiar with the area. He is from Morgan Hill and played at Gavilan College alongside a number of players from Hollister.
"It's a big thing for their town,'' Smith said. "The whole town rallies around the team.''
The Haybalers had shutout wins over Alisal and Santa Teresa, allowed only three points against Christopher and six to Monte Vista Christian. The most they've allowed in a game was last week in a 31-28 quarterfinal win over Burlingame, Their only loss was by a 17-14 count to Salinas.
That defense will be in for a test against Menlo, the top scoring team in the CCS. Menlo has scored 496 points in 11 games, an average of 45.1 per game. Sergio Beltran has completed 73.8% of his passes for 2,929 yards with 48 touchdowns, one shy of the CCS record of 49, and only six interceptions. He has also rushed for 1,018 yards and averaged 9.9 yards per carry.
QB Tyler Pacheco plays a similar role for San Benito as the team's leading rusher with 819 yards and 14 touchdowns, as well as passing for another 12 TDs with just one interception.
"He does a great job in the pocket,'' Smith said. "He runs strong, has good vision, quick feet. They do a good job with misdirection.''
The key to coming out successful?
"Stop Pacheco,"' Smith said.
No. 7 Mountain View (6-5) vs. No. 3 Sacred Heart Cathedral (4-7), Saturday 6 p.m. at Kezar Stadium
The Spartans went on the road last Friday and knocked off No. 2 seed Live Oak, 28-21. Now they will see if they can pull off another upset.
SHC is coming off a 21-0 win over Leigh.
"They've got some big boys,'' Mountain View coach Shelley Smith said. "They're physically as big as St. Francis or Bellarmine. We will have to be on our game.''
When Mountain View has been successful this season it has moved the ball on the ground with its Wing-T offense, won time of possession and kept the opposing team's offense on the sideline. But Leo Navarro, the team's top running back, went down with a season-ending injury against Los Gatos.
Navarro had rushed for 725 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 9.4 yards per carry. So his absence is a big loss for the team's ball-control offensive plan.
"We're running back by committee now,'' Smith said.
Sophomores Dillon Daniels and Arturo Hernandez filled in for Navarro against Live Oak along with fullback Min Kant.
Quarterback Jackson Steffen threw three touchdown passes and made two interceptions on defense against the Acorns. He's thrown 17 TD passes on the season with two picks.
Smith expressed concern about SHC running back Jerry Mixon, a cousin of Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals, and dual-threat quarterback Ray-John Spears. He knows his team is in for a big challenge playing against a battle-hardened WCAL team.
"They're 4-7, but look at who they played,'' Smith said.
No. 3 Sacred Heart Prep (4-7) at No. 2 Hillsdale (9-2), Friday 7 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep and Hillsdale already played once this season, back on Sept. 24, a game Hillsdale won 20-13.
"Our old friends Hillsdale, we get to see them again,'' SHP coach Mark Grieb said.
That game was in the middle of a four-game losing streak for SHP in which all four losses were by seven points or less. Hillsdale controlled the clock and time of possession, running 57 plays from scrimmage to 36 for SHP.
Still, the Gators were down on the 1-yard line at the end of the game before a false start penalty moved them back to the 6. Then with 8 seconds left a pass fell incomplete and the clock ran out.
"Hopefully it won't go down to the last 8 seconds again,'' Grieb said.
The Gators finally broke out of their season-long pattern of playing close games with a 42-0 win over Alisal last Saturday in the Division IV quarterfinals. Hillsdale also came close to posting a shutout in its first playoff game, leading Lincoln 28-0 until late when the Lions got on the scoreboard for a 28-7 final.
"We've gotten better, Hillsdale's gotten better,'' Grieb said. "I think it will be a good matchup.''
At the beginning of the season Grieb lamented how difficult it was to schedule non-league games, but noted that Hillsdale was always willing to play.
"They've always been a measuring tool for us,'' Hillsdale coach Mike Parodi said. "One of the top programs in our area, I've always felt if we can hang with them, if we can beat them we know we can be a decent team.''
On the line, a trip to the Division IV finals against the Homestead-Santa Teresa winner.
"We're one of only 20 teams in the section still practicing,'' Parodi said. "We want to earn the right to practice on Monday.''
Keys to the game?
"Hillsdale is really efficient running the ball,'' Grieb said. "We've got to contain their quarterback. And we've got to do the things our kids do well, like establishing the run.''
"First downs will matter, time of possession matters,'' Parodi said. "And we'd better take advantage of opportunities. You don't usually get second chances against them. If something hits, you'd better score.''
No. 7 St. Francis SCP (8-3) at No. 6 Los Altos (8-3), Friday 7 p.m.
The unlikely Los Altos saga continues into the CCS semifinals. After a start to the season that never seemed to get untracked, Los Altos advanced to the postseason thanks to a SCVAL bylaw after tying with Cupertino and Gunn for first place in the El Camino Division.Then the Eagles went down to Soquel and pulled out a come-from-behind 36-30 victory last Friday.
So it's on to the semis, and with the unexpected bonus of playing at home after St. Francis SCP knocked off No. 2 seed Cupertino.
"There's some excitement around campus, I expect a full crowd,'' Los Altos coach Dave DeGeronimo said. "But Los Altos isn't used to us playing this late. We haven't had a playoff game at home since 2006."
In the win over Soquel, sophomore quarterback Jimmy Flynn completed 11 of 18 passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions. Zach Fagin caught three of the touchdown passes. Cole Rafferty had eight catches for 86 yards and one receiving TD, along with a 99-yard kickoff return.
St. Francis had little trouble in a 38-13 win over Cupertino. After losing their first three games of the season the Sharks have won eight in a row. They rushed for 322 yards against Cupertino.with Johrdan Garibay, who has 1,362 yards rushing on the season, accounting for 172 against the Pioneers.
"They're very efficient on offense, we can't miss assignments," DeGeronimo said. "They're a 20 personnel, like Clemson, two running backs, no tight end, more of an H-back style. They spread you out, pull their guards and have an efficient screen game.
"We will need to stop the run and keep their offense on the sideline."