The Peninsula Athletic League’s Bay Division has without any doubt been the best public-school football league in the Central Coast Section this year.
Terra Nova, the last place team in the PAL Bay, beat Salinas 28-17 in nonleague play. Salinas went on to go undefeated and win the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship, one of five ‘A’ leagues in the CCS. The Gabilan includes Palma, San Benito and Aptos.
Three of the four automatic qualifiers for the CCS playoffs from the six-team PAL Bay Division have already been determined. Half Moon Bay (9-0, 4-0), Menlo-Atherton (5-3, 3-1) and Aragon (8-1, 3-1) are in. The fourth automatic qualifier will be determined by this week’s games.
Sacred Heart Prep (3-6, 1-3) is tied for fourth place with Burlingame heading into its home game with first-place Half Moon Bay on Friday at 2:45 p.m. The Gators need to upset HMB and have Terra Nova knock off Burlingame to get the final AQ spot.
The PAL Bay’s fifth- and sixth-place teams have a shot at getting into the CCS playoffs as at-large teams based on power points.
“I think if we win on Friday we’re definitely in,’’ SHP coach Mark Grieb said. “If we lose we still have a chance.’’
The Gators go into that game on a high after pulling out a 25-24 win over rival Menlo School.
They trailed 24-17 before scoring on a 12-yard pass from Brad Yaffe to Kyle Cody with 50 seconds left. Instead of playing it safe and kicking the PAT to go for the tie and overtime, Grieb made the call to go for two and the win. Yaffe connected with Garrett Gavello on a pass for the two-point conversion and the win.
“I guess I was caught up in the moment at that point in the game,” Grieb said. “We had all the momentum. If we go for the tie (Menlo) still has time on the clock and no pressure. If we go for two and make it, now they have pressure on them.’’
Half Moon Bay has had a remarkable season, going 9-0 and outscoring the opposition 414-60. But this is a Sacred Heart Prep team much better equipped to take on Half Moon Bay than it would have been earlier in the season.
“We have improved as a football team and also gotten healthier,’’ Grieb said. “Half Moon Bay has had a tremendous season. They play so hard and are so well coached We will have to find a way to move the ball and hopefully win time of possession. But that’s really tough against them because they’re so efficient on offense. They don’t have a ton of kids, but the kids they have play hard.’’
One factor in SHP’s favor is the memory of last year’s CCS playoffs. The Gators played HMB in the CCS semifinals and lost by a 16-13 score in a hard-fought game.
“A lot of the juniors from that team remember how that felt,’’ Yaffe said. “That gives us incentive to beat those guys this time.’’
Aragon at Menlo-Atherton, Thursday at 7 p.m.
The winner of this game finishes no worse than in second place in the PAL Bay and maintains the possibility of earning a tie for first and co-championship if Sacred Heart Prep upsets Half Moon Bay.
Both teams are headed to the CCS playoffs regardless of the outcome, M-A in Open Division I, Aragon in Open Division II.
“The winner will probably get a home playoff game,’’ Menlo-Atherton coach Adhir Ravipati said. “The loser probably goes on the road. We’re competing for a top-four seed in Division I. It’s going to be a real physical football game from start to finish. The team that is most disciplined will come out on top.”
Aragon’s only loss on the season was to Half Moon Bay, 21-14, by far the closest anyone has come to beating HMB this season. The Dons have two good-sized power running backs in Paul Lautaimi and Camron Grant.
“They’re a very good downhill football team,’’ Ravipati said. “Both running backs are very good and their offensive line is excellent. They’re impressive to watch. They’ve had a lot of success getting North-South. If they’re able to get North-South on us, we’ll be in trouble.’’
Menlo-Atherton has six players who have received scholarship offers from Division I colleges, but only three are seniors. Linebacker Kilifi Leaaetoa announced his commitment to Fresno State earlier this week.
“They have a ton of guys who can run around and be physical,’’ Aragon coach Steve Sell said. “But I don’t want to short-change my guys. I think we have guys who can run around and be physical, too. We haven’t been out-physicaled by anyone.’’
Palo Alto at Wilcox, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Palo Alto (3-6, 3-2) goes into this game as a big underdog. But the same was the case last year and the Vikings emerged with their highlight of the year, a 25-21 upset victory.
“No one was giving us a chance,’’ Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said. “The only people that believed we could win were the people in our locker room. We had a game plan to be extremely disciplined on the defensive end. The kids were physical. Defensive tackles Bryant Jefferson and Troy Henderson played great games. For us to beat Wilcox this time we have to follow the same recipe again.’’
Wilcox (6-3, 4-1), however, goes into this year’s game with a markedly different mindset. Last year the Chargers were coming off a historic offensive performance by their veer offense in an 83-48 win over Saratoga. This year they go in out for blood with the memory of last year’s upset loss as motivation.
“They’ve had this one circled,’’ Sullivan said. “They might have overlooked us a bit last year. When they’re clicking they’re about as good as you’ll see in this area. If they put the ball on the ground at all we’ve got to recover.’’
Menlo School at Sequoia, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Menlo has already clinched one of two automatic berths into the CCS enrollment-division playoffs from the PAL Ocean.
A win over Sequoia would give Menlo (6-3, 4-0) an outright PAL Ocean championship. A Menlo loss and a Hillsdale win over The King’s Academy would result in a tie for first place and a co-championship.
Until this year the Ocean Division received only one automatic berth to the CCS playoffs. But now, with the restructured football playoffs, all “B” leagues get two automatic berths in the enrollment-division brackets, the Division IV and Division V playoffs.
If Hillsdale loses to TKA there would be a three-way tie for second place also involving South San Francisco. Multiple tie-breakers would then go into effect to determine the PAL Ocean’s second automatic qualifier.
Regardless, Menlo needs to shake off the loss to Sacred Heart Prep in the Valparaiso Bowl and come out strong against Sequoia (4-5, 1-3).
“We treat each individual opponent with a tremendous amount of respect,’’ Menlo quarterback Emilio Simbeck said. “We know Sequoia has a good team. They have some big guys and they're a young team also, so there are some unknowns that we have to try to prepare for. We just need to strap down and work on exploiting the coverages and being prepared for anything they throw at us.’’
Mountain View at Gunn, Friday at 7 p.m.
The season started off in unstable fashion when head coach Tony Kelly resigned after a season-opening loss to Soquel.
But assistant coach Brandon Boyd stepped in as head coach and the program has gone through a season of progress, winning three games after only having won a combined five games over the previous four seasons.
The Titans hope to conclude the season on a positive note when they host Mountain View (4-5, 3-2) in their season finale.
Boyd was asked what the Titans need to do to be successful against a Mountain View team that moved down to the El Camino Division after having been in the SCVAL De Anza Division a year ago:
“We’ve got to tackle,’’ Boyd said. “They’ve got some big boys, a fullback slash running back (215-pound Michael Capote) that runs downfield. They like to go with heavy sets, the ground and pound game.’’
Gunn (3-6, 1-4) is coming off a 47-8 loss to Fremont. There were not many highlights, but DJ Barnes had five receptions for 57 yards, and scored Gunn’s only touchdown, to extend his season totals to 66 receptions for 998 yards.