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Article by John Reid San Jose Mercury News
Photo courtesy of Bob Dahlberg
Menlo-Atherton performed one final Haka chant for old time’s sake. The third-seeded Bears had just lost to No. 2 Los Gatos 35-6 in a Central Coast Section Division II semifinal Friday night, so why not let loose? Menlo-Atherton finished the year 8-4, and Los Gatos (9-3) moves on to face St. Francis (9-3) in next week’s title game. “I’m proud of my team and I’m proud of the way they acted,” Menlo-Atherton coach Sione Ta’ufo’ou said. “Los Gatos dominated us in all three phases. We made mistakes at crucial times and you can’t do that against a team like Los Gatos.”
The Bears got a heavy dose of junior running back Joey Wood, who rushed for 212 yards on 23 carries, exiting after scoring on a 2-yard run with 6:07 to play. Wood — a bowling ball with speed who wears No. 4 — opened the scoring with a 19-yard run. He added TD runs of 24 and 22 yards in the third period to put the game out of reach. Wood has scored 11 touchdowns in two CCS games. “Joey Wood is pretty darn good,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said. “He’s the best back I’m coaching right now. We’re going to keep giving him the ball. He’s a heck of a physical runner.”
“No. 4 (Wood) is a hell of a player,” M-A linebacker Brian Jaggers said. “He runs hard and doesn’t mess around with the ball in his hand. We made a few mistakes and didn’t wrap up and gang-tackle.” In contrast, the Wildcats did a good job not letting Bears’ star running back Isaiah Nash get untracked. Nash had just 39 yards on 10 carries at halftime, ending his prep career with 40 yards on 13 carries. On his last rushing attempt, Nash limped immediately after he got the ball, gaining just 1 yard. “Nash was hurt,” Ta’ufo’ou said. “He was banged up.”
“We talked all week about putting hats on Nash,” Krail said. “We wanted to put bodies on him. He’s a good back. He didn’t have any big runs and that was our mission. Make him grind out every inch. Our defense played great. They played physical.” The Bears broke the shutout with 13 seconds remaining when Brian Keare connected with Ryan Roberts, who broke a tackle, then ran to the end zone for a 20-yard scoring play. The many M-A fans who hung around finally had something to cheer about.
Neither quarterback had a great night. Keare was 13-for-26 with three interceptions, while Nick Bawden of Los Gatos was 7-for-15 for 113 yards, also throwing three interceptions. At one sequence in the first half, interceptions were thrown on three straight plays. Menlo-Atherton had a difficult time laying a hand on Bawden for much of the first half. Bawden had time to find Logan Chapman on a crossing pattern for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:12 left in the first period.
Midway through the second quarter, Bawden fell down in the backfield for a 5-yard loss, the sack going to defensive end Oliver Bucka, who sacked Bawden on the next play for another 5-yard loss. Bucka is one of 24 seniors who will be missed next year. Jaggers leaves as one of the best linebackers to come out of Menlo-Atherton. “I’m proud of our season,” Jaggers said. “The seniors aren’t too happy it ended this way. It’s tough to lose at all, but we’re glad we got to play this one.”
LG — Wood 19 run (Chapman kick)
LG — Chapman 25 pass from Bawden (Chapman kick)
LG — Wood 24 run (Chapman kick)
LG — Wood 22 run (Chapman kick)
LG — Wood 2 run (Chapman kick)
M-A — Roberts 20 pass from Keare (kick failed)
Records — Menlo-Atherton 8-4, Los Gatos 9-3.
John Reid is a writer for the San Jose Mercury News.