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By Andrew Preimesberger
Senior running backs Cameron Moody and Taylor Mashack outran Salinas for a combined 377 yards and five touchdowns to lead Menlo-Atherton to a 49-14 Central Coast Section Division I semifinal win over visiting Salinas on Friday afternoon.
Second-seeded M-A (9-3) moved into the CCS championship game on Dec. 3 against the winner of top-seeded Serra (9-2) and Milpitas (8-3), who play Saturday, while No. 6 Salinas ended its season at 7-5.
"It's unbelievable how far they've come this year," said M-A coach Sione Taufoou, whose team started out 1-2. "We're extremely excited for next week."
"We scrimmaged them (Serra) in the summer, so we know we could play with them," Moody said of Serra, the Bears' expected opponent. "They have speed over there, we have to step it up in practice this week."
The M&M running duo set the table early for the Bears as they ran for 243 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone. Mashack scored on a 85-yard touchdown run, breaking away from three would-be tacklers who had hands on him, to put the Bears up 21-0 early in the second quarter. The Bears led 35-7 at halftime.
The Bears' offensive line powered the way for Mashack and Moody as the running game totaled a season-high 460 yards. Senior offensive linemen Luke Pinkston and junior tackle Tom Bucka led the blocking effort.
"I'm gonna give all our credit to the O-line today," said Moody, who rushed for 217 yards on 11 carries. "They played hard and they knew it was going to be smashmouth. They were big."
The Cowboys' offense struggled with only 230 yards against a tough Bears' defense, which kept the Salinas offense in check while forcing five turnovers -- three on interceptions.
Salinas senior quarterback Matt Leighton was ineffective as he threw for just 34 yards on 4-of-11 passing and the Menlo-Atherton defense limited Raymond Cerda, Salinas' 1,000-yard rusher, to 33 yards on 12 carries.
Salinas, meanwhile, had no answer for M-A's speedy offensive backfield. Mashack added 160 yards rushing on just six carries, including a 53-yard TD run in the first half.
== Sacred Heart Prep==
In Division IV, No. 4 seed Sacred Heart Prep (8-4) saw its season end in a 34-7 semifinal loss to top-seeded Palma (10-1-1) at the Salinas Sports Complex. Palma will play No. 2 Carmel (12-0), a 59-35 winner over Monte Vista Christian, in the finals.