When Menlo School and Half Moon Bay met in a league football opener, it seemed like a pretty big game. Both teams were undefeated in nonleague play, so it figured that the winner would be in the driver's seat to claim the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division championship.
Little did anyone suspect it back then, but Menlo and Half Moon Bay are playing again, and for much bigger stakes, with a Central Coast Section championship at stake.
No. 3 seed Menlo (11-1) will play No. 4 Half Moon Bay (10-2) on Saturday at Sequoia High at 7 p.m. for the CCS Division V championship.
Half Moon Bay is the defending Division V champion, beating Pacific Grove, 54-7, for the 2015 title. Don't expect a similar score this time.
"I know it's not going to be that kind of blowout,'' HMB coach Keith Holden said. "I think it should be a battle.''
Half Moon Bay built a big lead in that first game against Menlo and held on for a 36-27 victory. Menlo hasn't lost since.
"We're a lot better team than we were two months ago,'' Menlo coach Mark Newton said. "We've settled in as a team the second half of the season. Guys have hunkered down into their roles and responsibilities. At the start of the year we had a ton of guys without much football experience. They've gotten steadily better and better. I'm really proud of them. They are a really coachable group.''
Menlo and Half Moon Bay ended up co-champions of the PAL Ocean at 4-1 after the King's Academy defeated HMB. Menlo defeated TKA in the first round of the CCS playoffs, then went on the road to beat No. 2 seed Seaside, 34-28.
Half Moon Bay beat Soquel, 49-30, then beat Sacred Heart Prep, 16-13, in the semifinals a week after SHP had upset No. 1 Carmel.
Getting off to a good start will be a key for Menlo.
"There's a big difference in getting a little bit of a lead instead of being a team that's behind,'' Newton said.
Half Moon Bay, with its ground-based attack, is a tough team to come back against.
Menlo has been led by the running of Charlie Ferguson (1,595 yards, 25 touchdowns) and the steadily improving play of QB Hayden Pegley (2,248 yards passing, 25 TDs.)
Junior fullback Chase Hofmann has had a monster season for Half Moon Bay with 1,854 yards rushing (in 11 games) and 27 touchdowns. Hofmann also has had a stellar season on defense at safety.
Half Moon Bay is going for the third CCS title in school history. Menlo has the additional motivation of trying to win its first.
"This is a great opportunity to do that,'' Newton said.
Menlo played in CCS championship games in 2009 (losing to Carmel) and 2012 (losing to Sacred Heart Prep).
"Half Moon Bay is tough to beat because they do everything well,'' Newton said. "We hope to play a great game because it stands to reason you've got to beat a great team in the final.''
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