Saturday evening’s matchup between the football teams of Terra Nova and Jefferson high schools will be a battle of champions. The winner will advance for a shot at the Central Coast Section’s Division III championship on Dec. 4.
No. 4 Terra Nova, the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division champion, enters the game with a 7-4 record after trouncing No. 5 Aptos last week 43-14 in the opening round of the playoffs.
Jefferson, which defeated No. 8 Del Mar 32-7 last week, comes in as the No. 1-seeded team in the bracket with a 9-2 record and the PAL Ocean Division crown.
The two teams have not met in an official game in several years and while they did participate in a preseason scrimmage this year, there is very little the two teams will know about each other based on that limited experience.
“I do know that [Jefferson] has been getting better and better under coach Ako Poti since he has been there,” said long-time Terra Nova coach Bill Gray.
Poti took over an Indians team prior to the 2009 season that was winless in 2007 and only won two games in 2008. Since then, Jefferson has won 14 of its 21 games and was undefeated this year in league play.
Gray is expecting a tough contest with plenty of challenges for his Tigers on Saturday.
“They are bigger and faster than us, we can’t be stationary against them,” Gray said. “We need to make use of our own speed and quickness. And we need to keep control of the ball and the clock.”
While the Tigers look to be balanced when the chips are down, it is their passing game that usually carries the load. Junior quarterback Chris Forbes — who has passed for more than 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns this year — will have to shoulder that load.
“It always seems to fall on his shoulders,” Gray said.
It could also fall on Forbes’ legs. Forbes has racked up 600 yards rushing and it is an aspect of his game that he may need to rely on against the Indians’ defense.
“They use press coverage and we don’t have much experience with that,” Gray said.
On defense, the Tigers will have to deal with a team that is almost perfectly balanced. The Indians average 145 yards passing behind quarterback Cheyenne Meafua and 147 yards rushing per game with Michael Allen leading a pack of rushers for Jefferson.
“We have a good solid team defense,” Gray said. “But we are facing a team with tall receivers so we are going to have to put pressure on [Meafua].”
It is the second straight year that Terra Nova has reached a section semifinal, as it defeated San Mateo last year before falling to Seaside in the section championship game.
Three of the final four teams left standing in Division IV are from San Mateo County, and two are just up the street from one another.
In one semifinal matchup, Half Moon Bay takes on top-seeded Carmel (10-1) today at 3 p.m. at Monterey Peninsula College.
The Cougars (8-3) are fresh off a 48-3 trouncing of Greenfield in their playoff opener, while Carmel toppled King’s Academy 50-21.
Half Moon Bay has been on a roll of late, winning three straight contests and averaging 44.7 points per game in those three victories.
The other Division IV semifinal features rivals Menlo School (8-3) and Sacred Heart Prep (9-2). The schools, which both lie on Valapraiso Avenue in Atherton, are very familiar with each other.
Just two weeks ago, Sacred Heart took care of Menlo 35-7 in both teams’ regular-season finale.
The Gators dominated the contest by piling 346 yards on the ground and forcing Knights quarterback Robert Wickers to throw three interceptions. But Menlo has newfound confidence after upsetting No. 3 San Lorenzo Valley 36-14 to reach Saturday’s bout. Sacred Heart cruised past Seaside 49-20 in its playoff opener.
A look at San Mateo County teams playing in the Central Coast Section playoffs this week:
No. 4 Half Moon Bay (8-3) vs. No. 1 Carmel (10-1) at Monterey Peninsula College, 3 p.m.
No. 3 Leland (8-3) at No. 2 Sequoia (10-0-1), 7 p.m.
No. 4 Terra Nova (7-4) at No. 1 Jefferson (9-2), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Menlo (8-3) at No. 2 Sacred Heart Prep (9-2), noon
Staff writer Dylan Kruse contributed to this report.