Menlo-Atherton's high-octane football team puts on a show

Tangikivila Lui gets ready to make a play. Photo by Bob Dahlberg.

Big play M-A.

There's no other way to describe it. It had people scratching their heads. It didn't make sense.

A question floated around the Los Gatos High press box Friday night: When was the last time Los Gatos gave up 56 points in a football game? Or how about 41 points in the first half?

Nobody knew. Nobody had ever heard of such a thing.

Not until they all witnessed it as Menlo-Atherton put on a scintillating display of big-play ability in a 56-41 nonleague victory. The Bears are 2-2 heading into PAL Bay Division play.

M-A goes to Burlingame for a 7:30 p.m. league opener.

M-A scored six touchdowns in building a 41-21 lead at halftime. Those TDs came on plays of 41, 39, 89, 98, 27 and 24 yards.

Time of possession was all Los Gatos, but so what? M-A only ran 15 plays from scrimmage in the first half. Los Gatos ran 42. And M-A had a 20-point lead, scoring two rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns and two return touchdowns.

De’Marshaun Payton got the scoring cavalcade started with a 41-yard TD run on the third play of the game and Miles Conrad connected with Spencer Corona on a 39-yard TD pass.

But then after Los Gatos tied it 14-14, a key sequence occurred. Freshman Troy Franklin returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown on the first kickoff return of his high school career.

Opposing teams already had to worry about Nick Anderson, who had a 98-yard kickoff return against Bellarmine and then a 68-yarder against Mitty.

“We have a lot of playmakers, a lot of athletes,’’ Franklin said.

Then with Los Gatos on the verge of tying it up again, M-A linebacker Kilifi Leaaetoa came up with a huge hit on Los Gatos running back Will Fordyce at the M-A 5-yard line. The ball flipped up into the air, M-A defensive back D’arius Gibson came down with it and ran it back 98 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 lead.

“That was a big momentum play,’’ M-A coach Adhir Ravipati said.

Los Gatos proceeded to go on a time-consuming 80-yard drive to pull to within 28-21, So M-A made another lightning strike. Anderson streaked 61 yards on the kickoff return and Payton scored on a 27-yard run on the first offensive play.

That made it 35-21, and then Payton scored his third touchdown of the half on a pass from Conrad to make it 41-21 with less than a minute left before halftime.

Every time Los Gatos scored in the second half and harbored thoughts of a comeback, the Bears immediately retaliated as Conrad threw touchdown passes of 25 yards to Corona and 8 yards to Franklin.

Payton, in his second game for M-A, carried 19 times for 166 yards. Conrad had a very efficient game passing, completing 10 of 15 passes for 172 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

“De’Marshaun is the running back we need for our offense,’’ Conrad said. “The offensive line did a great job opening holes. And when we get the running game going it takes the pressure off me.’’

But even with all the fireworks, Ravipati was concerned about his team’s defense. Los Gatos rolled up 539 yards of total offense.

“Defensively we had so many blown assignments,’’ Ravipati said. “Forty-one points is way too many to give up. We have a lot of work to do.’’

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