Prep football: Menlo-Atherton returns to the winner's circle | News | Palo Alto Online |


Prep football: Menlo-Atherton returns to the winner's circle


Menlo-Atherton got its first football win while breaking in a new running back last time out in a 30-7 win at Palma.

De'Marshaun Payton saw his first action for M-A and carried 13 times for 107 yards.

"He didn't show up consistently last spring,'' M-A coach Adhir Ravipati said.'"We met over the summer and he committed to making a change. The players wanted him back. He didn't play the first two games due to a program rule.''

Payton is a 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior.

"He's a tough runner, elusive, makes guys miss and is stronger than he looks,'' Ravipati said. "In the open field he is tough to catch. Only a junior, he's got a lot of upside.''

Kilifi Leaaetoa and Jhavante Hill handled the running back duties the first two games. But both start on defense as well. Going forward, Payton and Serra transfer Deston Hawkins, who becomes eligible Oct. 6 for the Sacred Heart Prep game, will be the primary running backs.

M-A, the defending Central Coast Section Open Division I champion, started the season with losses to Bellarmine (21-16) and Mitty (30-23).

"We had a team meeting,'' Ravipati said. "This kind of success, this kind of hype was all new for us. So it was about getting the kids mentally in a good place again. Beating Palma was a good team win. We're starting to hit our stride a little bit.''

The Bears continue their difficult nonleague portion of the schedule with a game at Los Gatos on Friday at 7 p.m. Los Gatos, a perennially tough program, opened with a win over Pioneer before losing to Corona del Mar and San Benito.

"They're just like us, mirror images,'' Ravipati said. "They could just as easily be 3-0.''

Last year a 35-28 win over Los Gatos was a key to M-A turning its season around, going on to win 12 in a row and appearing in a state championship game.

Gunn at Andrew Hill

The atmosphere around the Gunn football program is verging on euphoric. The Titans have scored 101 points the last two weeks in wins over James Lick (49-27) and Harbor (52-20).

"Team morale is up,'' said head coach Brandon Boyd, who took over following the resignation of Tony Kelly prior to the James Lick game. "When you put up 100 points over two games you must be doing something right.''

But the biggest challenge thus far lies directly ahead in Gunn's first road game of the season at Andrew Hill (2-0), Friday at 7 p.m.

"They have a really talented quarterback who likes to scramble, one ground-and-pound guy and another speedy, elusive running back,'' Boyd said. "Definitely, their skill position players will be one of our biggest challenges so far this season. They have some good speed and some big guys up front.''

For Gunn, Hudson Alexander has thrown for 982 yards and 15 touchdowns over three games.

"He's a big guy, not easy to take down, and he gets the ball out on time,'' Boyd said. "He keeps plays alive with his legs.''

DJ Barnes has been Alexander's favorite target with 25 receptions for 400 yards and five touchdowns. along with Solomone Paletua (14 catches, five TDs) and Lee Howard (13 catches, three TDs).

Woodside at Christopher

The Wildcats came oh-so-close to their first win and a big upset last Friday before dropping a 35-29 decision at Leigh. The Longhorns broke loose with a screen pass to pull it out with a touchdown in the final minute.

Woodside (0-3) had 22 players suited up and only five offensive linemen. But the result was a big improvement over the double-digit losses the team suffered the first two weeks against Capuchino and Carlmont.

"A lot of young guys showed progress and really grew up,'' Woodside coach Justin Andrews said.

Junior quarterback Joseph King passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Derek Smith had five catches for 105 yards and Luis Robles four for 90 yards.

Woodside travels to Gilroy to play Christopher (3-0) on Friday at 7 p.m.

Christopher, led by junior quarterback Ben Sanford who has thrown for 808 yards and 10 TDs, is averaging a shade under 38 points per game.

"Christopher has a lot of playmakers and an offensive system that gives you so many different looks, so many formations and motions,'' Andrews said. "I've been trying to figure out how they installed so much, so soon.''

Aragon at Palo Alto

A really tough start to the season for Palo Alto isn't expected to get a whole lot easier Friday when the Vikings host Aragon (2-0). The Dons impressed in a 28-27 win over Aptos in their opener, and followed up with a 35-0 win over South San Francisco.

Palo Alto (0-3) has been outscored 90-13 the last two weeks in losses to Half Moon Bay and Mitty.

"The defense played better than it had been,'' Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said of the Mitty game. "The offense ... we showed the team the film. There were some massive holes we didn't hit.''

Making matters more difficult was the absence of running back Paul Jackson III, a 1,000-yard rusher each of the last two years who sat out the Mitty game due to an injured hamstring. Sullivan said he does not expect Jackson back for several more weeks.

Aiden Chang filled in for Jackson against Mitty and rushed for 65 yards.

The Aragon game is the Vikings' final non-league game. They open Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division play Sept. 22 at Homestead.

"We know what our number one goal is every year, to win a league title,'' Sullivan said. "We want to make sure we're playing at that level and do some damage. It would be great to get a win, but we've just got to start playing better.''

Sacred Heart Prep at McClymonds

Sacred Heart Prep is looking to bounce back from a 34-10 loss to Hillsdale. But the Gators will be in for a unique challenge when they travel to Oakland to take on McClymonds, Friday night at 7.

McClymonds, a school with a legendary athletic history, is in the midst of a big-time run in football. The Warriors, the defending state Division V champions, go into Friday's game on a 14-game winning streak that started with a 32-22 win at Sacred Heart Prep on Sept. 17 of last year.

The previous year McClymonds was 12-0 and on a 21-game winning streak when it played SHP for a Northern California championship and got blasted 56-20 at Independence High.

So there's some history.

"McClymonds is extremely talented,'' SHP coach Mark Grieb said. "They're athletic. They've got guys who can run and they're aggressive. They present a lot of problems.''

But Grieb's primary focus is on his own team.

"We can't worry about McClymonds,'' Grieb said. "We need to go back to basics and improve on every phase of the game.''

Palma at Menlo School

Adding Palma to the schedule initially looked like a major upgrade for Menlo. That was before the Chieftains were outscored 70-13 in losing their first two games. But a look at who they played -- St. Francis and Menlo-Atherton -- indicates the traditionally-strong Salinas parochial school may be much better than the point differential suggests.

Menlo's experienced defensive front has collaborated in allowing only 29 points over its first three games in a 2-1 start. Cal commit lineman JH Tevis leads the team in tackles with 17, has had 10 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Safety Dillon Grady has come up with four interceptions and also handles the team's kicking. He is 12-of-12 on PATs, has made the one field goal he has attempted and has eight touchbacks on kickoffs.

Quarterback Emilio Simbeck has completed 28 of 49 passes for 378 yards and has yet to throw an interception. David Schmaier is the leading receiver with 10 catches for 207 yards. Aidan Israelski did not play in the season opener against East Nicolaus, but has taken over the team rushing lead since then with 127 yards over the last two games against Stevenson and Piedmont.

Menlo hosts Palma on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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