Football closes season in NorCal Championship
Used to second-half rallies, Menlo School staged a gutsy comeback for the ages, but fell just short in a 29-21 loss to host San Marin on Saturday night in the CIF NorCal Div. 4A Championship - its first regional appearance in program history.
It was a season of firsts for football, which two games earlier had landed the school’s first Central Coast Section championship. The Knights had done the unthinkable this postseason beating Live Oak in the CCS Div. III semifinals, then Hollister in a rout before nearly toppling San Marin, the defending Div. 5AA state champions in the last minutes.
The Knights (8-6) trailed 26-0 until midway through the third quarter. The Mustangs (8-2) had just scored when Menlo countered. After sitting out a play to get his bearings after an injury, senior quarterback Jake Bianchi initiated a double pass to freshman Jack Freehill, who launched a 46-yard pass to senior Eron Chen, getting to the San Marin 17. Bianchi hit senior Robby Enright - first a nine-yard gain, then a 13-yard touchdown strike for the Knights’ first score with 4 minutes left in the third.
At the end of the third, San Marin had gotten to the Menlo 11 where senior Avery Romain delivered one of his sacks to force fourth down, then Enright broke up a pass, and they settled for a field goal.
Menlo, which had second-half comebacks throughout the season, gave the Mustangs a scare.
Enright picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown to make it 29-14 with just over 5 minutes left. Menlo wasn’t done. The Knights recovered the onside kick and after a 34-yard completion to Chen, Bianchi dove in from the 1 to narrow the lead 29-21. The Knights defense held the Mustangs to a three-and-out possession, but San Marin stopped the Knights and ran out the clock.
Missing two two-way starters for the game, another for a good portion, and a few others from the past couple weeks, the Knights optimized those they did have in building a championship run with players filling in roles and playing new positions.
“I was proud of everyone who brought energy in the second half,” Enright said. “A lot of people had to step up.”
For the 17 seniors, it was building on the monumental season the year before when the Knights went to the Div. II CCS Final - its highest bid ever.
“For me, this team is everything and for us to go as far as we did, which is just an amazing experience especially after last year, we made it far, but weren’t able to capitalize on it and win a title, so it’s nice this year to be able to win CCS and get that for the boys last year, the seniors and it was everything to make it this far; I wish we could have made it further,” Enright said.
As the Knights seniors closed out the final season of their Enright had words of wisdom for the younger players.
“Cherish the moment, every single play. When you’re a junior or sophomore, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but when you get to your last few plays you wish you had more, so just cherish every moment. Don’t take anything for granted.”
Menlo School 0 0 7 14 - 21
San Marin 7 12 7 3 - 29
SM: Blake Hart 6 pass from Dominic Ingrassia (Ryan Rodas kick), 5:05
SM: Rodas 32 field goal 10:04
SM: Jacob Pearce recovery for safety, 9:50
SM: Ben Langford 17 pass from Ingrassia (Rodas kick) 5:27
SM: Hart 30 pass from Ingrassia (Rodas kick) 6:27 26-0
M: Robby Enright 13 pass from Jake Bianchi (Ross Muchnick kick) 4:03
SM: Rodas 24 FG 10:04
M: Enright INT return (Muchnick kick) 5:22
M: Bianchi 1 run (Muchnick kick 3:58