CCS Champions! Knights football headed to NorCals
11.26.2022 –The Menlo football team started a new chapter in program history with a resounding victory and its first Central Coast Section Championship, and its first section title since 1990.
From the opening kickoff, the third-seeded Knights (8-5) employed unrelenting force to knock off fifth-seeded Hollister 42-6 in the CCS Div. III final at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas on Saturday night.
Jake Bianchi threw three TD passes to three receivers, senior slot Cort Halsey and running back Ty Richardson each had two touchdowns as the Knights pulled out a multi-faceted attack. The defense meanwhile did a remarkable job of containing the Haybalers at the line to take away options from their speedy receivers.
The Knights played Hollister - then called San Benito - in last year’s CCS Div,. II semifinal, and won 45-35 to advance to the championship against eventual winner Wilcox. The Knights have made the CCS final five times. They were determined to change the ending.
“I felt the pain of losing that Wilcox game the whole year up until today, and I’m happy for my guys. We’ve been grinding every day for six months,” Halsey said. “We’ve kind of had our ups and downs this eason, but we’re catching our stride. I’m really proud of everyone.”
Now, Menlo will extend its season and will play in the regionals on Friday or Saturday, and likely at home.
“It means everything to me,” Bianchi said. “I didn’t want that to happen again so tonight, to keep our season going is everything.”
On its opening possession, Bianchi went to four targets then capped a five-play drive with a 43-yard touchdown catch and run to fellow senior Cort Halsey.
The Knights’ defense kept the Haybalers to three-and-out through the first quarter then continued its drive into the second quarter, covering 73 yards in eight plays when senior Ty Richardson rushed for a 10-yard score to start the second quarter. Meanwhile, Hollister didn’t get a first down until midway through the second quarter.
“Our whole mindset this week - we probably put five hours in stopping their run,” said Halsey, who also plays at linebacker and defensive end. “They’re going to want to see what we’re made of and run the ball, and we knew we were going to come out ready to fight.”
After halftime, the Knights went on a tear to put the game out of reach. Menlo moved the ball 75 yards, including gains of 17 and 27 from Enright and Halsey. After two incompletions, Bianchi hit Enright on a post pattern for a 17-yard TD and a 21-0 lead. Two plays later, Enright plucks a Hollister pass and on the very next play , Richardson ran it in from 30 yards and on the next possession, converted when Cort Halsey scored on a direct snap from a yard out, and the Knights led 35-0.
“Our mentality has been to take what we can get: If they bring a light box, we’re running all over them. If they stop the run, we can throw. We’re versatile,” Bianchi said.
Hollister avoided the shutout when speedy Isaiah Molina took the kickoff return 97 yards for a score. Enright blocked the PAT attempt with 1:50 left.
Menlo opened the fourth quarter, completing its drive when Bianchi found junior Brady Jung for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
Hollister 0 0 6 0 - 6
Menlo School 7 7 21 7 - 42
M: Cort Halsey 43 pass from Jake Bianchi (Ross Muchnick kick) 8:23
M: Ty Richardson 10 run (Muchnick kick) 10:59
M: Robby Enright 17 pass from Bianchi (Muchnick kick) 9:27
M: Richardson 30 run (Muchnick kick) 8:33
M: Halsey 1 run (Muchnick kick) 2:20
H: Isaiah Molina 97 kickoff return (kick blocked) 1:50
M: Brady Jung 30 pass from BIanchi (Muchnick kick) 11:36