Sports

M-A, Menlo School prepare for CCS football semifinals

 

On Nov. 25, 2016 Menlo-Atherton registered its biggest win of the season, a 17-0 victory over Milpitas that gave the Bears the Central Coast Section Open Division I championship.

One day shy of a year later M-A plays Milpitas again with its season on the line in a 7 p.m. CCS semifinal matchup Friday at Milpitas High.

But this time around. roles are reversed.

“We graduated most of our team and their whole team has come back,’’ Menlo-Atherton coach Adhir Ravipati said.

Milpitas is 11-0 this season, seeded No. 1 in the CCS Open Division I playoffs, and has absolutely manhandled and dominated its schedule, outscoring 11 opponents 469-58.

“They are extremely athletic and extremely physical with a lot of guys playing since they were sophomores together,’’ Ravipati said.

The Bracy twins have been a formidable 1-2 combination. Tariq, a running back being recruited by the likes of Notre Dame and multiple Pac-12 schools, has rushed for 1,232 yards on just 130 carries with 17 touchdowns. Tyree, the team’s quarterback, passes sparingly. He has completed 60 of 103 passes, but with 21 touchdowns. Over one-third of his completions and over one-fifth of his attempts have gone for touchdowns. Jaw-dropping ratios. Tuni Faletau Fifita, another Division I recruit, is the top receiver with 29 catches for 611 yards and 10 TDs.

“The Bracy brothers are an absolute load and Fifita is a heck of a playmaker,'' Ravipati said. “It’s going to be a tall order. But our team has gone through a lot of adversity this year, learned a lot of lessons. We’re going to have to play well to have a chance. But I feel we’re battle tested.’’

Nine of the 11 teams the Bears have played this season advanced to the CCS playoffs.

M-A (7-4), the No. 5 seed, won at No. 4 San Benito in the opening round, 37-21. Milpitas beat No. 8 Bellarmine 35-7.

“They are such an explosive football team,’’ Ravipati said. “They rack up points in a hurry. They are a big play waiting to happen.’’

Ravipati listed his team’s keys to being successful:

“We’ve got to limit the number of explosive plays they make, force them to go on long drives, We can’t have any mental mistakes.

“Offensively we’ve got to find a way to run the football, be able to convert third downs and move the chains.

“And don’t give up any lost yards or big plays on special teams. Win the field-position battle.’’

Having tremendous size and athleticism is nothing new for Milpitas. When the Trojans have fallen short in recent years it has often been the result of a lack of discipline.

“We haven’t been a very disciplined football team this year, either,’’ Ravipati said. “The more disciplined team in the fourth quarter will probably win.’’

Division V

Menlo School, on a quest to make program history, will host Scotts Valley in the CCS Division V semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Menlo (7-4), the No. 2 seed, defeated Jefferson 35-8 in the opening round. Scotts Valley, the No. 6 seed, upset No. 3 Soledad 24-17.

Scotts Valley (7-4) beat Los Altos 35-7 in its season opener and lost to Terra Nova 63-21 the following week before staying down in the southern part of the CCS the remainder of the season. The Falcons lost to Soledad 19-3 during Mission Trail league play, and finished behind Soledad in the league standings, but evened the score last week in the CCS playoffs behind running back Anthony Locatelli, who scored the winning touchdown in the final minute.

“They don’t make many mistakes, are very efficient in all three facets of the game,’’ Menlo coach Mark Newton said. “They have a solid offensive and defensive line that gets off the ball quickly. They have a tight end (6-foot-6 Carson Spence) who looks like a Division I talent.’’

Menlo returned much of its team from last year and went into the season with lofty goals.

“Going into this season I knew this team could be great and had a chance to be the best team in Menlo history,’’ running back-defensive back Dillon Grady said after the win over Jefferson.

Menlo has advanced to a CCS championship game three times and lost each time -- to Carmel in 2009, to Sacred Heart Prep in 2012 and to Half Moon Bay last year.

If the Knights can get by Scotts Valley they will have a chance to realize their goal and win the first CCS football title in school history against the winner of the Gilroy-Hillsdale semifinal.

“It’s definitely been on their minds,’’ Newton said. “This senior group has the goal of getting back there. We have a lot of playoff experience. But this time of year it’s a real game of attrition. Everybody is banged up.”

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