The Menlo-Atherton football team is at the doorstep of perhaps its second Central Coast Section championship since 2002. All the Bears need to do now is walk right in.
Despite a growing injury list of key players and turning the ball over five times, top-seeded Menlo-Atherton (11-1) overcame that adversity and posted a surprising 41-28 triumph over No. 4 Aragon (9-3) in the CCS Large School Division semifinals on Friday night at Foothill College.
The Bears will play in their first CCS championship game since 2002 next week against the No. 3 Palo Alto (10-2) this Friday at Foothill at 7 p.m. The Vikings defeated No. 2 North Salinas, 7-0, on Saturday night.
M-A has won nine games in a row and its offense saved the night on Friday. In a sharp contrast to M-A's 21-14 over Aragon in a PAL Bay Division matchup in September, the Bears exploded offensively for a 34-20 halftime lead, thanks to three touchdown hookups from senior quarterback Troy McCabe to senior receiver Steve DiSibio.
Senior back Jamal Wilkins also scored on a two-yard run in the first half and senior receiver Matt Mosher threw a 43-yard score to junior receiver Sam Knapp.
Despite the fact the had four defensive starters out due to injuries, the Bears limited Aragon to just eight points in the second half. Two-way linemen Raymond Vainikolo is done for the year with an ACL injury and Malakai Mataele, who walked the sideline with a cast on his left ankle, is hopeful to play in the title game.
McCabe completed nine of 16 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. DiSibio had all four of his receptions for 92 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
Senior back Will Latu led the M-A ground game with 124 yards rushing on 21 carries and Wilkins added 94 yards.
Menlo-Atherton saw Aragon claw back from its first-half deficit and get to within 34-28 in the fourth quarter after the Bears had turned the ball over on downs three straight times -- the third coming when McCabe threw an interception into the end zone with six minutes to play.
On Aragon's first play following the interception, M-A cornerback Russell Perkins recovered his second of two fumbles and returned it 15 yards to the Aragon 4. Two plays later, Bobby Bustos plowed through the Dons' line from the one-yard line for a touchdown and 13-point lead with 5:07 remaining.
When Aragon threatened again, M-A's defense stopped the Dons and took over with 2:52 left to wrap things up.