Daily Journal Sports File
Menlo quarterback Jack Heneghan and the Menlo offense will be tested by the Terra Nova defense Friday.
Allow the Daily Journal to give you one key piece of advice if you plan on attending Friday afternoon’s game between Menlo School and Terra Nova.
Don’t blink — because chances are you could miss something exciting.
That’s the allure behind the Peninsula Athletic League’s marquee matchup this week. With Menlo and Terra Nova taking the field you have two of the most explosive offenses in the Peninsula Athletic League. While both defenses will do their best to stop one another, statistics and recent history suggests fans will be in for a barnburner.
In the Tigers, you have a football team that has scored at least 38 points in five of its six games this season and is averaging 44 points a contest.
But the Knights will see those 44 per and raise you another five. Menlo has yet to score less than 42 points in a game this year. And even in their lone loss during a trip to Texas, the Knights put up 49.
Yes, that’s right, expect touchdowns and points by the bunch.
“We’re playing the team that is the fourth best in the Central Coast Section according to a lot of people,” said Menlo head coach Mark Newton. “We’re super excited to take on the challenge. We’ve played some great teams this year already. In terms of the Bay, every team is really good. Terra Nova is the cream of the crop. Coach (Bill) Gray has done an amazing job to prepare his kids. We’re focused on playing a great football team but we’re not really worried about what that means for our position in the Bay. We just play three more great teams the following weeks.”
Terra Nova will be Menlo’s toughest test to date. A week after picking apart Sequoia to the tune of 378 yards of total offense and six touchdowns, the Knights face a defense that is often overlooked because of just how potent Terra Nova’s offense really is. But the Tigers are big, physical and have only given up 85 points this season.
“They’re a great team in all three facets,” Newton said. “Even with the great offenses that we both have, it comes down to blocking and tackling. Both teams do a great job of getting guys in space and using their athleticism to turn short plays into big plays. They also have a great inside run game, a good power game. The key is, if you can’t make a tackle right at the line of scrimmage or behind the line, that we make it shortly thereafter.”
Newton was referring to stopping Terra Nova’s dynamite players, most notably Jaylend Jones, who continues to put up Player of the Year type numbers from the wide receiver position. Jones has 32 catches for 748 yards and eight touchdowns this season as part of an offense that is averaging over 337 yards in the air and 143 on the ground. Pulling the trigger is Newcomer of the Year candidate Anthony Gordon, who has been nothing short of sensational with his 313 yards passing per game. And like Newton said, John Wallace and the Terra Nova offensive live know a thing or two about running the ball when they want. Wallace alone is averaging 123 yards on the ground per game.
“Their offense is quite prolific and has some big-time playmakers,” Newton said. “I think it’s do-your-job football, everyone focused on their assignment and make sure we’re sound on the back end with our coverage and that we take advantage of the moments when we can get pressure. They’re a sound running team as well. They can go balanced attack when they want to. They certainly can throw the ball really well. It’s going to be tough.”
Tough as they are, and with all due respect to all six teams Terra Nova has defeated already, Menlo’s advantage comes in the thinking that perhaps the best defense is a good offense.
And when that offense is led by Jack Heneghan — a quarterback unlike any the Tigers have faced this season and arguably the best the PAL has seen in some time — you have to like Menlo’s chances Friday afternoon.
“I think if we were to come out on top we would win the ratio of big plays in our favor as opposed to the negative,” Newton said. “And the team that plays the best defensive ball has the best chance to win since both offenses are exceptional. So, it’s going to come down to getting the big play or preventing the big play as long as the offenses are relatively consistent.”
Heneghan comes into the game averaging 313 yards passing per game after completing nearly 62 percent of his passes (for a 14.5-yard per completion average) with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also dangerous on the ground where he’s second on the Menlo team with 205 yards on the year.
And just like Terra Nova, Menlo has a bevy of weapons in Travis Chambers, Peter Bouret and Jack Marren just to name a few.
The key to look for Friday, starting at 3 p.m., will be Menlo’s durability. Because they do have a smaller roster, the Knights rotation is smaller than the Tigers’ — hence, running around a football field a full 48 minutes for some of their players gives Terra Nova an advantage.