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By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The negatives outweighed the positives for the Menlo-Atherton football team and the result was a 34-20 nonleague loss to visiting Wilcox as the Bears opened their 2010 season on Saturday.
The Bears, under the guidance of first-year coach Sione Taufoou, were unable to give their new coach his first victory after losing four fumbles and having three passes intercepted.
If nothing else, Taufoou knows what his team needs to work on before the Bears play host to always-tough Los Gatos next Saturday and 2 p.m.
Saturday's game, on paper, was all Wilcox. The Bears, however, had a chance to win it and could have had it not been for all the turnovers.
Menlo-Atherton trailed by only 14-7 at halftime and could have generated some momentum by taking the second-half kickoff and mounting a comeback. The Bears, however, fumbled and the Chargers took over at the M-A 32. Two plays later, Michael Roman broke through the line and raced 29 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead with only 45 seconds gone.
Wilcox kicked off again and the Bears ran two plays before fumbling again. On their first play from scrimmage, the Chargers got a 48-yard touchdown run from Jordan Gibson for a 27-7 lead. In just 57 seconds, the Bears had gone from trailing by seven to falling behind by 20.
To Menlo-Atherton's credit, it battled back. Perhaps still smarting from last season's 1-9 record, the Bears took a third kickoff in the third quarter and put together a 10-play drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by junior Cameron Moody, who led the Bears with 83 yards on 16 carries.
After failing to take advantage of one Wilcox fumbled and suffering an interception, the Bears recovered yet another fumble and took over at the Wilcox 31. Four plays later, junior quarterback Willy Fonua hit senior Stas Della Morte on a 19-yard scoring play and M-A was back in business, trailing by only 27-20.
The Bears' defense got fired up and forced Wilcox to punt for the first time in the game with 6:44 left to play. Unfortunately for M-A, the punt was fumbled away and Wilcox took over on the Bears' 21. Five plays later, Wilcox quarterback Nick Morehead scored from 10 yards out for a 34-20 advantage.
With the pressure on, Fonua suffered back-to-back interceptions and M-A's hopes of an upset were dashed.
Menlo-Atherton finished with 148 rushing yards and 98 passing, moving the ball well at times behind a big offensive line.
The defense, however, gave up too many big plays -– something Taufoou and his assistants need to work on this coming week before taking on Los Gatos. Wilcox had four scoring plays of 29 yards or longer and scored points on four of Menlo-Atherton's seven turnovers. The Chargers also rushed 48 times for 282 yards.