Menlo-Atherton and Half Moon Bay have identical records at 1-2 and their matchup at Half Moon Bay on Friday could provide some momentum heading into league play, which begins in two weeks.
M-A has lost two in a row, but coach Sione Ta’ufo’ou has seen consistent improvements from his team.
“We’re playing much better than last season,” Ta’ufo’ou said. “They’re learning.”
Ta’ufo’ou has seen his team’s offensive line, defensive line and linebackers improve, which will be crucial before entering Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division play on Oct. 7 against Burlingame.
Seniors Luke Pinkston, Phillip Proctor, two-way star Taylor Mashack and junior Blake Olsen highlight an athletic defense that is considered one of the more talented units in the league.
M-A will be playing its first road game Friday, and according to Ta’ufo’ou, his team still needs to clean up its fundamentals.
M-A snuck into the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs after claiming the Bay’s final automatic bid in the final league game.
Four teams from the Bay have losing records.
Half Moon Bay is coming off the completion of a makeup game Monday with Leigh, which the Cougars won 18-13.
“It was definitely something we needed,” Half Moon Bay coach Matt Ballard said. “It was a good kind of character building.”
Half Moon Bay had its game against Leigh on Friday cut short at halftime due to darkness.
The Cougars picked up the game Monday afternoon and clinched their first win of the season.
“We’re going to have a tough challenge,” Ballard said of the short turnaround for his team. “We want to see our team put together a full game.”
Ballard said M-A presents a lot of problems for Half Moon Bay, even if his team had a full week to prepare for them.
“We’ve got to really plan,” Ballard said. “Regardless of the short week, it’s going to get in.”
Half Moon Bay has struggled with injuries and will have to play with whoever is ready.
The team has seen rapid improvement from Peter Bacich and consistent play from Luis Gonzalez and Daniel Welch.
Ballard said the offensive line was a concern entering the season, but that it has showed some “good things” over the past few days.
The Cougars lost big to Homestead in their season opener, but rebounded to keep it close against Scotts Valley.
Half Moon Bay opens PAL Ocean Division play against Woodside on Oct. 7.
Half Moon Bay is the only team in the Ocean to lose a game in the preseason.
“We’re the underdog in the league,” Ballard said. “We’re going to attack each team as they come.”
The two teams have not played each other since 2006, when Half Moon Bay was part of the Bay Division.
M-A won that game 20-6.
Menlo-Atherton at Half Moon Bay
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Half Moon Bay High School
LAST GAME: Menlo-Atherton lost to St. Ignatius 24-7; Half Moon Bay beat Leigh 18-13
LAST MEETING: Menlo-Atherton beat Half Moon Bay 20-6 in 2006