ATHERTON — The lasting image of the 2017 Jefferson Grizzlies won’t be the 35-8 defeat that Menlo handed them in the CCS Division V Quarterfinals.
Despite the loss at the hands of a heavily favored opponent, Jefferson left the field Saturday saluted by the cheers of fans celebrating the tremendous accomplishments of a program that was the absolute lowest of the low just four years ago.
The same Jefferson program that went 0-10 in 2013 closed the book on its best season in nearly a decade on Saturday, posting an 8-3 record and taking home the PAL Lake Division title.
“Our kids are staying eligible, their grades are up,” said coach Will Maddox. “You talk to any of the administration, they’ll tell you they’re good citizens. It goes beyond football. We’re becoming better people, and it’s making us better on the football field.”
Not only is Maddox’s team full of upstanding citizens, they were a joy to watch. Where else could you find fans banging on drums and players getting prepared for a game by strumming a ukulele?
The Jefferson community has embraced it, too. A team that once failed to draw more than two or three dozen fans per game brought as many fans to Saturday’s playoff game as the host Knights.
While the Grizzlies’ fate was all but sealed with a 21-0 halftime deficit, the second-seeded Menlo team they faced was a reminder of the next steps for the program to take, rather than some far-off fantasy. Dillon Grady had two first-half touchdowns for Menlo, including a pick-six, and Jake Shiff ran for two touchdowns in the second half to put the game away.
Keanu Tafeamalii’s fourth-quarter score broke the shutout for Jefferson and laid the stage for a postgame scene that was much more of a celebration than a funeral.