Menlo School routs Hollister in CCS D-III final, claims first section championship

Coach Todd Smith couldn’t help but look to the past after Menlo School won its first Central Coast Section title in school history, beating Hollister 42-6 on Saturday night in Salinas for the Division III crown.

Smith called the victory — Menlo’s first in six appearances in a final — the culmination of a process that started in 2020.

“This championship is about the last three years and the guys who sacrificed so much, like Carter Jung and Sergio Beltran,” said Smith, mentioning two graduated stars from the 2021 team that lost to Wilcox in the Division II title game. “The guys who made a big step last year, and also the guys who went through the COVID year, when we went 4-1 and started rebuilding the culture..”

Senior quarterback Jake Bianchi, who took over the starting job this season from the departed Beltran, threw three touchdown passes on Saturday. His first went for 43 yards to tight end Cort Halsey and put the Knights in front 7-0.

Ty Richardson’s TD run with 10:50 left in the second quarter made it 14-0.

After halftime, Bianchi connected with Robby Enright for a 17-yard touchdown and then Enright picked off a Hollister pass on the next possession.

“This win means everything to them,” Smith said. “It’s so rewarding to see that as the end result because everyone put so much into it.”

Menlo turned the game into a rout in the second half as Simpson and Halsey both ran for touchdowns in the third quarter to make it 36-0.

Bianchi added a touchdown pass to Brady Jung in the fourth quarter. Hollister’s only score came on a 97-yard Isaiah Molina kick return.

The fourth quarter was played with a running clock.

“It wasn’t until the final whistle that it began to sink in (that we had won),” Smith said.

Menlo was 5-5 in the regular season, which Smith attributes to the team’s health.

“We weren’t expecting to be a 5-5 team, but we have been so banged up and had so many injuries that we haven’t gotten into a rhythm,” Smith said. “Tonight we got into a great rhythm, and a lot of our kids are starting to get healthy too.”

Next up: A NorCal regional game. The matchups will be unveiled Sunday.

“We’ll enjoy it for about 16 hours since it’s a late night getting back from Salinas and I want our kids to enjoy this,” Smith said. “But we’ll be back up and running tomorrow.”

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Author: Joseph Dycus