Simbeck breathes life into Menlo football title hopes


Lucky for Menlo that Emilio Simbeck is a fast healer. Two weeks ago Simbeck was rushed to the hospital.

“I was in excruciating pain,’’ Simbeck said. “I couldn’t even breathe.’’

That run to the emergency room turned out to be the result of an infected tonsil, an acute case of tonsilitis.

The Menlo quarterback missed last week’s football game against Woodside. But he wasn’t about to miss Friday’s showdown with Hillsdale.

Simbeck not only played, but threw for a career-high 263 yards and four touchdowns to lead Menlo to a surprisingly one-sided 33-10 victory and into sole possession of first place in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division.

“Two weeks ago to the day I was in the hospital,’’ Simbeck said. “Now two weeks later I’m playing a game that could win us the league title in football. Puts everything in perspective.’’

After seeing his weight drop from 185 to 165, Simbeck started to regain his strength and put a few of those pounds back on, tipping the scale at 172 on game day.

“I was really nervous coming back,’’ he said. “But the offensive line did an incredible job.’’

David Schmaier and Landon Smith caught two touchdown passes apiece. Schmaier also had an interception return for a touchdown.

Simbeck said he likes the way those two receivers complement each other.

“David is fast, a deep threat,’’ Simbeck said. “Landon is super quick over the middle, an interior threat.’’

Menlo (6-2, 4-0) took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown. Ten of the 12 plays were passes with the touchdown coming on a 32-yard pass to Schmaier on third and 5.

Hillsdale (7-1, 3-1) responded with a 13-play drive of its own and kicked a 25-yard field goal to draw to within 6-3.

Menlo turned the ball over on downs on its next possession and Hillsdale struck on a 42-yard pass from Jeremy Teatek to Joey Sabel to take a 10-6 lead.

But Menlo grabbed the lead at halftime thanks to another lengthy drive, this one a 12-play, 87-yard possession that culminated with a 10-yard TD pass to Smith.

So it was 12-10 at halftime. But the second half was all Menlo.

An interception by Dillon Grady, his sixth of the season, set up a 50-yard touchdown pass to Schmaier.

Hillsdale turned it over on downs and Menlo went 65 yards in eight plays with Smith catching an 8-yard pass for the touchdown and then catching another pass from Simbeck for a two-point conversion, making the score 26-10.

Schmaier’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown put the game away.

“This was a huge win, by far our best game of the season,’’ Schmaier said. “I’d argue that this was a bigger game for us than the Valpo Bowl. We were real hungry for this win. A great statement win. It might get us a No. 1 seed in CCS. And this is the first time in 14 or 15 years that Menlo has a chance to win an outright PAL title. We just really wanted this game. We kept our foot on the gas pedal and a couple of breaks went our way, like my interception.’’

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