Menlo’s quarterback duo shines as Knights stay perfect: “They can each bring something different”

Mikey McGrath and Jack Freehill combine for three touchdowns as signal-calling duo knock off previously-unbeaten Hillsdale

ATHERTON — Neither of these teams was expected to make much of an impact this season.

Menlo School, which typically has a small roster (28 this year), lost 16 seniors from last year’s squad. Hillsdale, which finished third in the Peninsula Athletic League’s Ocean Division a year ago, was promoted to the PAL De Anza Division instead of the first- or second-place Ocean teams.

Prior to the season, Menlo was picked fourth and Hillsdale sixth in the six-team De Anza Division by, ahem, yours truly for the Bay Area News Group.

But, as the old adage goes, that’s why they play the games.

Hillsdale and Menlo were both 6-0 and tied for first place when they met at Menlo on Friday afternoon. Menlo had a 19-0 lead at halftime after a shutout win over Palo Alto. However, the Hillsdale Fighting Knights made a game of it in the second half before falling short as Menlo won 19-13.

“I think it really speaks to the amount of work we’ve put in as a team,” said Menlo running back Willis Johnson, the leading rusher (63 yards on 14 carries) in a game in which the two teams threw a combined 75 passes. “We put together a fantastic week of practice.” Today, we came out firing on all cylinders, and I believe that is what earned us the victory.”

Menlo took the lead on the first play of the second quarter, a 22-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jack Freehill to Brady Jung, after a scoreless first quarter.

At quarterback, Freehill alternated with senior Mikey McGrath, and it was McGrath’s 1-yard sneak for a touchdown that put Menlo up 13-0. McGrath then connected with Harry Housser on a 25-yard touchdown pass against double coverage with two seconds left in the second quarter, bringing the score to 19-0 at the half.

McGrath completed nine of eighteen passes for 166 yards. Freehill completed 14 of 19 passes for 105 yards.

“They can each bring something different to the game, which puts a lot of stress on opposing defenses,” Menlo coach Todd Smith explained. “Those two kids are similar. Neither is significantly better than the other. They’re both capable, so they play.”

Hillsdale forced a three-and-out to begin the second half and then drove 91 yards in eight plays, culminating with Erick Waugh’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Dante Allendorf. On that drive, Waugh connected with Drew Rollolazo for 44 and 11 yards.

Waugh completed 20-of-38 passes for 263 yards. Rollolazo had ten receptions for 121 yards. Hillsdale had won 10 straight games since Waugh took over at quarterback with four games left in the season last year.

Menlo went on a 12-play drive later in the third quarter before turning the ball over on downs at the Hillsdale 18. The visitors from San Mateo covered 82 yards in seven plays, with Waugh scoring on a 1-yard run.

Hillsdale attempted an onside kick for the third time in the game after that score, and this time recovered as the Hillsdale sideline and rooting section went bonkers, seemingly with all the momentum on their side. Waugh completed two passes to Jack Haywood for a first down at the Menlo 10 yard line. Waugh’s pass, however, fell incomplete on fourth down from the 6.

“We thought we had some good calls, but they didn’t work out,” said Hillsdale coach Mike Parodi. “It’s a funny game, football.” I was very proud of how our kids fought there. That’s exciting for the future. That’s one game, and we’re guaranteed three more. Our job is to keep playing the way we did for the majority of the game.”

Hillsdale gained possession of the ball once more, but on the first play, Nicholas Scacco wrestled the ball away from the Hillsdale receiver for an interception.

“It was a 50-50 ball,” Scacco admitted. “He caught it briefly but bobbled it, and it slipped out of his hands.” That gave us a boost of energy to finish the game.”

Menlo (7-0, 3-0) now has complete control of its destiny, with two De Anza Division games remaining against The King’s Academy and Half Moon Bay before the Valpo Bowl against Sacred Heart Prep.

Hillsdale (6-1, 2-1) still has divisional games against Palo Alto and TKA before hosting Aragon in Week 10.

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