By Rick Eymer
Beau Nichols wore a cast, painted blue, over his broken right hand. His teammates weren't sure he would be able to play in Friday's crucial PAL Ocean Division football contest.
He did play, and nearly put Menlo School on his back in a disappointing 14-13 loss to visiting Jefferson High.
Nichols gained 137 yards on 16 carries, scored on runs of one and 67 yards, returned a kickoff 26 yards, caught two passes for 24 yards and broke up a pass on one of his rare defensive plays.
"We knew he would play as of two days ago but would be severely limited," Knights' senior lineman Brad Eckert said. "We moved the ball on offense the whole day. In the end, it turned into a case of too many turnovers."
Menlo (2-1, 5-2) scored the game's first 13 points, all in the first 15 minutes of the contest, and it looked like it might turn into a rout. Instead, a series of fumbles and interceptions kept the Knights from taking advantage of its explosive offense. Five turnovers, in all, spoiled what could have been an important victory.
Instead it was Jefferson (3-0, 6-1) who celebrated its move into sole possession of first place in the Ocean Division.
The Knights had their five-game winning streak end, but it didn't end their postseason hopes.
"We have to use this as motivation," Eckert said. "After we lost our first game we won five in a row. Now we have to refocus again and do the same thing."
Nichols moved closer to matching J.B. Barnett for Menlo School's career points leader. He needs a touchdown to tie Barnett's 242 points.
"They have a good line and we have a good line," Eckert said. "They battled and we battled. Turnovers ruined it."
Robert Wickers passed for 139 yards, completing 10 of his 28 passes. Tim Benton caught eight passes for 115 yards.
Menlo had a final chance after taking over on its own three-yard line with 1:18 remaining to play. Wickers and Benton connected for a 25-yard gain on the first play, but a Jefferson defensive back stepped in front of Benton and picked off a pass to end the Knights' chances for a comeback.
"He was a good quarterback," Jefferson's Cheyenne Meafua said. "I think our defensive backs just stayed disciplined."
Menlo, which lost to Jefferson for the first time in eight years, hopes to rebound against host Woodside next Friday night at 7 p.m. The Knights also have a home game against South San Francisco and the annual Valpo Bowl game against Sacred Heart Prep.