By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The San Mateo Union High School District spent a million dollars to fix up the multipurpose field at Burlingame High.
The Menlo-Atherton football team looked like a million bucks in christening the newly-laid synthetic grass with a 35-13 victory over the host Panthers in a PAL Bay Division opener Thursday night.
"This is a nice field," M-A senior running back Taylor Mashack said. "There's a lot of traction and it feels like you can really fly."
Mashack certainly made good use of the field, averaging just over 18 yards a carry on his way to 146 yards. He never crossed the goal line but he made life easier for his fellow running backs.
Cameron Moody, Dijonn Williams and Jamar Gaddis each scored on a rushing play, while Evan Perkins caught a touchdown pass from Willy Fonua and Luke Pinkston, well, he happened to be in the right place, returning an interception for a touchdown.
The Bears (1-0, 3-2) have had their struggles in the first half this season, and despite emphasizing that in practice, they were slow out of the gates again.
Burlingame took a 5-0 lead, sacking Fonua in the end zone for a safety and then getting a 48-yard field goal from Chris Graham.
The Bears managed just 16 plays and held onto the ball for all of four minutes of the first half. They didn't have much to show for it until Mashack ripped off a 66-yard run that led to Moody's 7-yard scoring run late in the first half.
"I think we'll be working on coming out hard again next week," Mashack said. "It would be nice to have a lead at halftime."
If not for Dustin Nascimento, whose two interceptions in the first half each stopped long Burlingame drives, the Bears may not have taken a lead into halftime Thursday night either.
M-A held onto the ball twice as long in the second half, producing twice as much offensive production and significantly more points.
The Bears intercepted four passes on the night, and each once turned out to be critical. Pinkston turned his into a 54-yard touchdown and he was as surprised as anyone to suddenly have the ball in his hands.
"I saw him running with the ball and I was coming up to make the tackle," Pinkston said. "I think he just wanted to get rid of it but he sort of flipped it and I happened to be there."
Pinkston once returned a fumble five yards for a touchdown but this one will definitely go on his highlight reel.
Pinkston, who nimbly avoided stepping out of bounds during his run, said the field "felt quick." His teammates said it was no accident Pinkston knew exactly what to do.
"He has been training all summer," Nascimento said. "This is what he's been training for; and he works hard."
Moody, who rushed for 56 yards, intercepted a pass in the end zone that wiped out Burlingame's final chance to comeback.
The Panthers scored to make it 28-13 in the fourth quarter and recovered the ensuing on-side kick. They were moving the ball well before Moody stepped in to snuff out the drive.
Gaddis, who entered the game in place of Mashack, performed his own version of a big play, breaking loose for a 75-yard scoring jaunt on a play designed to keep the clock running.
As for the field, Fonua thought it would be a good idea if his school put in the same material.
"Only with a Bear in the middle," he said.
Pinewood 32, Cornerstone Christian 0
Pinewood got its first eight-man victory on Thursday by blanking Cornerstone Christian.
After heartbreaking losses in the final minutes of their previous three games, the Panthers (1-3) put together a solid showing with key performances. Kevin Sweat stepped in for injured quarterback John Bennet and threw TD passes of 10 and 13 yards to Greg Naumann, in addition to rushing for a score. Michael Naumann had 10 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns while Kai Kawashima added 13 carries for 79 yards.
Defensively, MJ Stevens led Pinewood with eight tackles followed by Surya Thekketh with six.