By Tim Goode, Palo Alto Weekly
The Bears are big. Even bigger than last year when M-A went 7-0 (11-2 overall) in the PAL and lost to Palo Alto in the CCS Large School final. But whether size matters enough for the Bears to defend their title remains to be seen.
Woodside, Aragon and Terra Nova -- as well as M-A -- all can make claims as league favorites. South San Francisco had a powerful frosh-soph team that this year moves up. Menlo is a tough defensive adjustment for every team. There won't be any easy pickings in the Bay this season.
The Bears will open their season on Saturday, Sept. 6, against visiting Saratoga at 2 p.m.
Senior Sam Knapp is a first-team returning all-leaguer at wide receiver and defensive back Russell Perkins is one of the best in the area. Placekicker Eric Stanske also is a returning first team all-league selection.
But this will be a rebuilding year at M-A, insists head coach Bob Sykes. It has a solid foundation on the line, for sure. The players have an average height of 6-1 and a weight of 303 pounds.
Most of the attention will be on senior Joachim (Kimmi) Maka, a 6-5, 380-pound lineman who hasn't played football since his freshman year but is expected to contribute in a big way.
"He's a monster," Sykes said. "He can move and will play both sides of the ball."
Also on the line are Wallbank Mahoney (6-3, 285), Semisi Mataele (5-11, 285), sophomore Ausai Mataele (6-1, 320), Stephen Fifita (6-3, 280). The smallest lineman is Alberto Chavez, a 6-1, 270-pound transfer from Stockton.
The protection should allow junior quarterback Turner Baty to quickly gain confidence.
Baty, whose father Greg played at Stanford and in the NFL, will provide a running aspect absent last year.
"He can throw and move around," Sykes said of Baty. "It will be a nice combination."
Running backs Vaughn Smith and Rod Nash gained valuable experience last year as backups and will be expected to provide the rushing yards.
The linemen will go both ways. Jason Williams will start at defensive end and provide a breather for the big kids. Villy Talakai, one of the team captains, will play defensive end, nose guard and linebacker, depending where he is most needed. Mike Newsom played some linebacker last season and will start this season.
"I think defensively we will be pretty good," Sykes said. "We're not as explosive last year but we'll be pretty quick. It's a rebuilding year and we'll do the best we possibly can."