Menlo-Atherton fell behind for the first time with 1:33 left in its season-opening football game with Bellarmine. And with so little time left there wasn’t much the Bears could do to alter the outcome.
But that didn’t stop them from trying.
With a 29-yard pass completion on fourth-and-10 from Miles Conrad to Troy Franklin and a 30-yard completion from Conrad to Nick Anderson, M-A had improbably advanced the ball to the Bellarmine 6-yard line with 4.1 seconds left. It was a fourth-and-1 situation. But with a five-point deficit a field goal attempt was not an option. So when Conrad’s desperation pass intended for Franklin in the end zone sailed incomplete, M-A’s last-ditch effort had fallen short and Bellarmine emerged with a 21-16 victory.
The same result occurred in last year’s season opener, a game Bellarmine won 34-20. The Bears, however, turned the tables with a 21-0 win over the Bells in the CCS semifinals and went on to win the CCS Open Division I championship. They can only hope to get another shot at Bellarmine later this season.
On this occasion Bellarmine was the more disciplined and better conditioned team. M-A was penalized 10 times for 87 yards; Bellarmine just three times for 25 yards.
“We didn’t execute and made a lot of mental mistakes,’’ Menlo-Atherton coach Adhir Ravipati said. “Hopefully this humbles us a little bit and makes us work on the little things.’’
Late in the game when Bellarmine rallied to take the lead the Bells were firing off the line of scrimmage while M-A’s defensive line looked fatigued.
“That was a huge factor in the game,’’ Bellarmine coach Mike Janda said.
M-A couldn’t have been happier about the way the game began. Bellarmine kicked off to start the game. Anderson received the kick, dropped the ball, picked it up, and ran 98 yards for a touchdown.
Bellarmine squib kicked the rest of the game.
“He’s an exciting player, a dynamic weapon,’’ Ravipati said of Anderson.
Bellarmine tied it on a 45-yard touchdown run by Austin Ajiake, who carried 29 times for 176 yards and scored all three Bellarmine touchdowns.
M-A went back on top 10-7 on a 43-yard field goal by Spencer Corona with 8:32 left in the second quarter.
M-A’s defense forced a three-and-out to start the third quarter and on the first offensive play of the second half Conrad completed a long pass to Franklin who fumbled the ball forward into the end zone where it was recovered for a touchdown by fellow receiver Joey Olshausen.
That gave M-A a nine-point lead.
Bellarmine again was forced to punt and M-A put together a 14-play, time-consuming possession that took the game into the fourth quarter, but ended with no points for the Bears on a bad snap on a field-goal attempt.
That seemed to give the Bells momentum and they went 89 yards in six plays for a touchdown to make the score 16-14.
And then Bellarmine’s Anthony Magri made an interception of a deflected pass and returned it 22 yards to the M-A 28 with 5:42 left. Nine running plays later Ajiake plunged in from the 1-yard line to give the Bells their first lead of the game.
Conrad carried 13 times for 51 yards and completed 11 of 25 passes for 198 yards. Kilifi Leaaetoa gained 56 yards on eight carries. Franklin, a freshman playing his first high school game, was the leading receiver with five catches for 103 yards. Corona had four grabs for 61 yards.