Menlo-Atherton coach Sione Taufoou likes to keep things close to the vest. In fact, he doesn’t really like to talk about the X’s and O’s of football. His plan is much more grand than that. He is preparing his players for the game of life.
“I don’t talk about it very often, but off the field, these kids are amazing,” Taufoou said. “They want to leave a lasting legacy. Since I’ve been here, everyone has left something in position for the next year.”
Rest assured, however, the Bears will once again let teams know they’ve been in a battle when they face off against M-A. The Bears always have some talent, but have been greater than the sum of their parts during Taufoou’s tenure. As usual, you can expect the Bears to be physical and to be in the mix for the Peninsula Athletic League’s Bay Division title.
It’s kind of a rebuilding year for M-A, but the Bears do have a couple of key pieces coming back. Isiah Nash is the leading returning rusher who averaged more than seven yards per carry last season. He was just as effective on defense from his cornerback position.
“Isiah will play both ways for us,” Taufoou said. “I expect Isiah to be a great leader and a great competitor. He got a solid amount (of work) last year.”
Oliver Bucka will help out on the offensive line from the tight end position as well as on the defensive line. Like Nash, Bucka is a leading receiver coming back from last season.
Brian Jaggers will anchor the defensive side of the ball from his linebacker position. A three-year varsity starter, Jaggers has arguably the most varsity experience on the team. He’ll also see some time running the ball this season as well for the first time.
“The kids rally around him,” Taufoou said of Jaggers. “He knows the system. He’ll play a little bit of running back as well. It will be new to him, but he’ll be all right.”
Taufoou said there is currently a three-way battle for the starting quarterback spot. He said he’ll let it play out to see who steps up and seizes the job.
“We have a little competition right now,” Taufoou said. “Chad Allen, Robby Beardsley, Brian Keare — they’re all pretty similar. [Keare] is probably the most athletic. [Beardsley] is a sophomore and [Allen] is probably one of the hardest working kids on the team.
“We’ll let these guys compete. See how things shake out.”
Regardless of who plays where, Taufoou is mostly concerned about seeing his players mature into respectable adults, which hasn’t always been the case at Menlo-Atherton. Taufoou has also put an emphasis on work in the classroom, with the objective of keeping continuity from year to year as the players can stay eligible to play.
Over the years, the Bears have seen some significant swings — from winning it all in 2008 to winning just one game the following year. Since Taufoou took over, the Bears have stabilized into a solid, respected program.
“If you look at the team that won CCS before I got here, and the team that went 1-9 before I got here, those teams probably had more talent,” Taufoou said.” What has been established (since I’ve been here) is a bond, something more than football. It’s more than just about this game. It’s about relationships, it’s about transferring things to outside the game.
“The truth is, we haven’t been the most talented team, but we play well together. … I think we have a good group. We want these kids to be relentless in their effort.”
Coach: Sione Taufoou
2012 record: 3-2 PAL Bay, 6-5 overall
Key returners: Enzo Santos (sr., OL/DL); Brian Jaggers (sr., LB); Oliver Bucka (sr., TE/DL); Isiah Nash (sr., RB/DB); Api Mane (jr., OL)
Key newcomers: Matthew Detentpe (sr., RB/LB).
2013 schedule (home games in CAPS): 9/6 vs. CAMPOLINDO-MORAGA, 7 p.m.; 9/13 @ Los Gatos, 7:30 p.m.; 9/20 vs. ST. IGNATIUS, 7 p.m.; 9/28 @ Silver Creek, 2 p.m.; 10/11 @ South City, 7 p.m.; 10/18 vs. SACRED HEART PREP, 7 p.m.; 10/25 @ Sequoia, 7 p.m.; 11/1 @ Terra Nova, 7 p.m.; 11/8 vs. MENLO SCHOOL, 7 p.m.; 11/15 @ Woodside, 7 p.m.