The Knights bounced back from an early defensive miscue to stifle Piedmont in a convincing victory. Staff photo by Casey Kline.
By Casey Kline
In a highly anticipated Friday night matchup, the Menlo Knights football team defeated the Piedmont Highlanders by a score of 28-7. Menlo came into the tilt at 1-1, coming off a big 50-point win over Stevenson. Piedmont was 2-0 coming into the game, winning their previous games by a combined score of 91-17.
The game started off rough for the Knights when Piedmont scored the first touchdown six minutes into the game, finishing the first quarter ahead seven to nothing. The Highlanders opened up the scoring on a 69-yard pass to junior wide receiver KK Smith. Smith outran Menlo junior strong safety Dillon Grady to score.
Early in the second quarter, Menlo senior running back Aidan Israelski ran over a Piedmont defender on his way to a five-yard touchdown. Dillon Grady made the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.
On their next drive, Piedmont punted and Menlo’s senior running back Jake Shiff had an electric 15-yard punt return. Shiff was tackled at Piedmont’s 32-yard line. Three plays later, senior quarterback Emilio Simbeck passed to junior receiver Kevin Chen on a slant route. Chen weaved through defenders for a 36-yard reception, finally being taken down at the 12-yard line. Penalties cost the Knights their opportunity in the red zone, including on a would-be touchdown run from Israelski.
A pair of drives later, with 17 seconds left in the first half, Simbeck hit Israelski on a two-yard touchdown pass. Grady made the extra point to put the Knights up 14-7 heading to the locker room for halftime.
The teams came out of halftime and exchanged scoreless possessions. With only a few minutes left in the third quarter, Simbeck handed the ball off to Grady, who ran it in to the end zone for a three yard touchdown. Grady also made the extra point. With less than three minutes left in the game, Shiff had a four yard rushing touchdown, the first of his varsity football career. Grady converted on his fourth extra point of the day. That would be the last of the scoring.
Grady finished the game with 14 rushes for 67 yards and a touchdown, two catches for seven yards, two tackles, a game-sealing interception, and a perfect 4-4 on extra points. Senior captain and offensive guard/defensive end JH Tevis tied for the team lead with six tackles, an astounding four of which were for a loss, including a sack. Fellow senior captain and starting center/middle linebacker Baily Deeter tied Tevis with six tackles, two of which were for a loss. Senior defensive end Cooper Stewart tripled his season total for sacks with two against Piedmont to go along with two other tackles.
Junior offensive guard and defensive tackle Mafi Latu had three tackles, including one for a loss, and four pancake blocks. “This game it felt great pancaking the opponents,” Latu said. “I like to relish the joy in facing adversity. I like to be my own CEO, on and off the field.”
Menlo’s next game comes against the Palma Chieftains, of Salinas, CA. “I follow [varsity defensive coordinator] Todd Smith’s words of ‘NOC’; no one cares,” junior left tackle Brian Mhatre said. “We have to move on to next game.”