By Keith Peters
Robert Wickers spent much of the 2009 football season watching and waiting and learning. He was the backup quarterback to the record-breaking Danny Diekroeger, which turned out to be a pretty good thing.
"If I'm going to play behind someone, there's no one better than Danny Diekroeger," said Wickers. "He was great to learn from. We still talk a lot and he helps me with things."
The mentorship worked wonders for Wickers, who inherited Diekroeger's job as the Menlo School starting quarterback and has been doing his best to fill Diekroeger's considerable shoes.
A week ago, Wickers threw for 325 yards. On Friday (Oct. 15), he had 215 yards and five touchdowns – all in the first half of the Knights' 34-0 blowout of visiting San Mateo in a PAL Ocean Division matchup that also served as Menlo's Homecoming game.
"This year has been exactly what I expected," said Wickers, who finished the game with 11 completions in 19 attempts for 241 yards. He had a single completion in the second half, 26 yards to Philip Anderson. Everything else came in the opening half, when he threw touchdown passes of four and 50 yards to Jordan Williams, 44 and one yard to Tim Benton and an eight-yarder to Anderson.
Wickers could have easily thrown for over 300 yards and perhaps even approached 400 had Menlo coach Mark Newton let him. But, Wickers' first-half performance was plenty for Menlo, which improved to 2-0 in PAL Ocean Division play and 5-1 overall heading into next Friday's home game against a tough Jefferson team.
Menlo finished with 394 yards of total offense, enough to get the job done. Williams caught five passes for 156 yards and Benton had five catches for 113 yards in highlight efforts.
Newton and Wickers had a pretty good idea how the passing game might work after the Knights' first play from scrimmage, when Wickers hit Benton for a 40-yard reception. Benton leaped high for the catch and wrestled it away from defender Larry Campbell. Three plays later, Williams caught a four-yard TD pass for what proved to be the winning points.
"The game plan was determined upon what the other team was going to give us," Newton said. "We knew pretty quick, from the first play from scrimmage."
Menlo scored on all five of its possessions in the first half. The second half went quickly with a running clock as San Mateo had only 18 offensive plays (with no passing) while Menlo ran just 16. The highlight for the Knights was a 62-yard completion from backup QB Tommy Ford to Williams, who juked a few defenders and nearly broke the play for a 97-yard score.
San Mateo finished with just 125 yards of total offense, 82 coming in the first half.
"We played well on defense," Newton said. "We wrapped up well."
Menlo defenders Chris Zeisler, Nathan Rosenblum, Peter Tight, Mafileo Tupou, Ryan Stastny, Carson Badger, Sean Hoag and Kyle Lavigne were all around the ball while the offensive line of Spencer Buja, Craig Robbins, Tight, Hoag, Wyatt Rouser, Tupou and Rosenblum gave Wickers plenty of protection and opened holes for Nichols.
All in all, it was a great way to celebrate Homecoming for the Knights, who know they need even better days ahead as the competition gets tougher.