Football in fantastic finish in CCS opener
With just over two minutes left to extend the season, the Menlo School football team took control with some late-game magic in a 30-28 edge-of-the-seats victory over host Live Oak in a CCS Div. II quarterfinal Friday night.
The No, 5 Knights (10-1) will host No. 8 Christopher - a 32-28 winner over top-seeded Mitty - in the semifinals at 1:00 pm Saturday at Cartan Field.
“Everybody just believed, and we knew we were a better team than we were playing, and we showed that in the second half,” McGrath said. “I just thought that this was what we’ve been training for - this could be my last football game ever. I didn’t get to play last year (because of injuries). I’m really glad we have another home game. We earned it and I’m really proud of the guys.”
With the Knights trailing 28-21 with 5 minutes to go, Menlo crafted a 13-play 64-yard scoring drive capped by senior quarterback Mikey McGrath’s score on a keeper from a yard out with 2:02 left. Senior running back Willis Johnson and McGrath took turns rushing to move the ball. Live Oak again called offsides on the PAT attempt before it was blocked on the rekick and Menlo inched closer 28-27.
Menlo senior Andre Gonzalez Lombera went for the onside kick and junior Jamie Forese recovered, giving the Knights a last chance at the Live Oak 44.
“We knew the only way we could turn this around at that point was with an onside kick, so we just went for it. It was the best feeling when we got the ball back,” Forese said.
Six plays later, Menlo got to the 2 on a Johnson 7-yard run. Live Oak held tough at the goal-line and Menlo called on Gonzalez Lombera for the 21-yard field goal, who easily centered and cleared the uprights.
“The noise from the crowd I had to get used to,” said Gonzalez Lombera, a longtime soccer and first-year football player. “With a penalty kick, I’m much more confident because I’ve been playing for so long. I just had to keep calm. Seeing it go through the goal posts was a great feeling.”
McGrath ran for a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore Jack Freehill ran for one of his own, getting the Knights on the scoreboard right before halftime.
Senior Willis Johnson had another big day, rushing for over 100 yards - this time, picking up 171 yards in 28 carries and a touchdown, while McGrath had 123 yards in 23 carries for two TDs and was 10 0f 16 passing for 93 yards.
The teams were tied yet again at the start of fourth before Live Oak scored on a 4-yard run to pull ahead 28-21 with 5:59 left.
Live Oak broke a 0-0 first-quarter with two quick scores before the half. After Josh Gagni scored on a 25-yard run for an Acorns’ 14-0 lead. Just under three minutes was enough time for Menlo to get to work. After Johnson got the ball down to the 3, sophomore Jack Freehill ran it in from the 3 and the Knights trailed 14-7 at half.
Menlo tied the score 14-14 on Johnson’s 5-yard score set up by his own 13-yard rush and a McGrath 17-yard pass to Harry Housser. Menlo went ahead on McGrath’s run set up by two long gains from McGrath to Housser and Johnson’s 15-yard rush.
“We knew we could pick it up and I think late in the second half, we just built on that momentum,” Forese said.
In similar fashion, Menlo climbed back to defeat Live Oak in last year’s Div. III semifinals en route to the Knights’ Div. III championship.
Menlo School 0 7 7 16 - 30
Live Oak 0 14 0 14 - 28
LO - Anden Jones 1 run (Tanner Holeman kick), 5:50
LO - Josh Gagni 25 run (Holeman kick) 2:57
M - Jack Freehill 3 run (Andre Gonzalez Lombera kick) 1:09
M – Willis Johnson 5 run (Gonzalez Lombera kick) 4:12
M – McGrath 2 run (Gonzales Lombera kick) 10:56
LO – Christian Hauge from Luke Newell (Holeman kick) 10:01
LO – Hauge 4 run (Holeman kick) 5:59
M – McGrath 2 run (kick blocked) 2:02
M – Gonzales Lombera 21 FG :03.1
Pam Tso McKenney