Talk about saving your best football for last, about saving your best for the most important games of the season. That’s what the Menlo-Atherton defense did once it arrived deep in the playoffs.
The Bears completely shut down Milpitas in a 17-0 victory Friday night in the Central Coast Section Open Division I championship game at Independence High. And that performance came on the heels of a 21-0 win over Bellarmine in the semifinals.
M-A has not allowed any team to score in 10 quarters. Wilcox was the last to score: in the second quarter of the first round of the CCS playoffs.
“To do it against traditional power programs like Bellarmine and Milpitas is really something,” M-A defensive coordinator Drew Ryan said. “Our guys paid attention to detail and locked into our game plan. We were able to take away certain players. Going in I thought personnel-wise we could match up well with these teams.”
Milpitas shut down the M-A offense for much of the game, as well -- the 17 points the Bears scored was a season low -- but not on every play. Jordan Mims broke a 76-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give the Bears the lead, and a 72-yarder in the fourth quarter that served as the coup d’grace.
“I truly believe we have the best running back in the CCS in Jordan Mims,” M-A quarterback Aajon Johnson said. “He’s special, can do anything. He can run routes, although you don’t see him do that much for us.”
Mims went into Friday’s game with 1,724 yards rushing on the season. And primarily because of the prolific pace he set, M-A, which has scored 40 points or more six times this season, has been known more for its offense.
Until the last two weeks, that is, the most important two weeks of the season.
“Our defense has gotten stronger and stronger each week,” said M-A middle linebacker Christian Wiseman. “It’s like trying to perfect something. The last two games it was amazing to get two shutouts. Like all the preparation and hard work is really paying off. It’s real tangible when you see zeroes on the scoreboard.”
The season is not yet over for M-A, which won its 11th in a row after starting the season with two losses. In winning a CCS Open Division championship the Bears advance to the state playoffs.
“A lot of teams get down on each other when they start the season 0-2,’’ Menlo-Atherton coach Adhir Ravipati said.
This is Ravipati’s second year as head coach. The team started 0-3 in 2015 and had its season end in the first round of the CCS playoffs.
“Last year we played almost all sophomores and juniors,’’ Ravipati said. “I’m so proud of the growth we’ve gone through together. We hit rock bottom and then built ourselves back up.
“Today, all the credit goes to the defensive coaches who did a great job of scheming, and to the players who cut out the mental mistakes and did a great job of executing.
“And Jordan Mims, once he hits a crease he’s gone.’’
The regional championship games will be played Dec. 9 or 10 at 7:30 p.m. at site to be determined. The brackets are scheduled to be released on Sunday, Dec. 4 in the afternoon.