The Sequoia football team had been missing a big part of its offense for most of the season as running back Matt Jenkins was banged up for most of the season.
But the junior showed how good the Cherokees offense can be when he’s healthy. Jenkins rushed for 159 yards on 20 carries, Dylan Anderson scored on runs of 19 and 35 yards and quarterback Mike Taylor accounted for 122 yards of offense as Sequoia dominated Menlo-Atherton 27-7 in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs.
"[The game] played out like I thought,” said Sequoia coach Rob Poulos. "I felt if we could get through the first quarter without any hiccups, we’d be OK.”
With the win, fifth-seeded Sequoia moves into the semifinals where its will face top-seeded Milpitas (8-3) next week. Milpitas crushed No. 8 Silver Creek 56-7.
Not even three first-half turnovers was enough to derail Sequoia (9-2 overall). Mainly because the Cherokees defense played lights out. The Cherokees held M-A (6-5) to 281 yards of total offense, with only 12 yards coming on the ground. Sequoia also forced three M-A turnovers and turned those into 13 points. In the second half, the Cherokees stopped the Bears on downs three times and sacked M-A quarterback Zack Moore four times.
"Our defense has been doing that all year,” Poulos said. "There’s been a number of games where we stopped guys.”
Neither team managed to find the end zone in the first quarter, although the Cherokees turned the ball over twice — once at the M-A 23-yard line and again at the Bears’ 1 on the first play of the second quarter.
M-A, however, could not take advantage. After the Bears were forced to punt on their first drive of the second quarter, Sequoia finally stuffed the ball into the end zone. A 24-yard punt gave Sequoia the ball at the Bears’ 29 and the Cherokees needed just two plays to find hit pay dirt. Jenkins gained 10 yards on the first play before Anderson bolted up the middle for a 35-yard score to put Sequoia up 7-0.
The teams then exchanged punts before a fumble recovery by Sequoia’s Eduardo Alvarado gave Sequoia another short field with which to work — this time taking over at the Bears’ 9. The M-A defense stiffened, however, and held the Cherokees to just a 36-yard Tommy Lopiparo field goal for a 10-0 Sequoia lead with 4:55 left in the first half.
Despite controlling the first half, it appeared M-A would make a game of it. On the Bears’ ensuing drive, they marched 78 yards on 12 plays, with the key being a 48-yard Moore to Ryan Roberts catch-and-run, taking the ball down to the Sequoia 8-yard line. Tasi Teu then bulled his way into the end zone on the next play and Sequoia’s lead was cut to 10-7 at halftime.
Turns out that would be last time the Bears would sniff the end zone.
Sequoia took the kickoff to start the second half and drove 75 yards on seven plays, culminating with a 35-yard touchdown run by Anderson to put the Cherokees up 17-7. Alvarado came up with an interception on M-A’s next drive, but Sequoia had to settle for a 32-yard Lopiparo field goal to go up 20-7.
Sequoia’s defense set up the Cherokees last score when Kite Lauese blasted Moore from the blind side, which knocked the ball loose. Gabe de los Reyes scooped up the fumble and rumbled to the Bears’ 2-yard line. Two plays later, Taylor clawed his way into the end zone for the final margin of victory.