M-A’s final plunge

Sam Knapp knows he’s lucky. The junior wide receiver on the Menlo-Atherton football team has 40 catches for 841 yards this season, the leader of a group of Bears that has combined for 113 receptions, 2,286 yards and 26 touchdowns. And as top-seeded M-A (11-1) prepares for Friday’s 7 p.m. Central Coast Section Large School Division final against No. 3 Palo Alto (10-2) at Foothill College, Knapp knows the opportunities presented to the Bears’ receivers are rare. At a level where some wideouts are used as blocking props, M-A’s pass catchers are part of the show.

“We’ve gotten to watch some other games and it doesn’t always look like playing receiver is a lot of fun,” Knapp said. “But that’s definitely not the case with us. We’re a balanced offense and coach [Bob Sykes] trusts us to make plays.”

Make no mistake about it: M-A is more than capable of running the ball. The Bears racked up more than 3,000 yards on the ground behind a dominant line and the legs of backs Will Latu and Jamal Wilkins and averaged better than 284 rushing yards per game. But in last week’s semifinal showdown against Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division rival Aragon,it was the pass that propelled the Bears to a 41-28 win. Quarterback Troy McCabe threw for 163 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone and tight end Matt Mosher found the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Knapp for another score on an option pass as M-A took a 34-20 lead at the intermission. The backbreaker came with 59 seconds remaining in the half, when McCabe lofted a pass down the middle that the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Steve Disibio out-jumped two defenders to grab before spinning into the end zone for a 28-yard score.

“As I saw it coming, I was thinking ‘there’s nothing that’s going to stop me from getting that ball,’” said Disibio, who finished the half with four catches for 91 yards and three touchdowns. “And once I got it, instincts took over.”

The bond Knapp, Disibio (25 catches, 484 yards, 10 touchdowns) and the rest of the pass-catching targets have forged with McCabe is not something that just came on suddenly. The group — which also includes Mosher, Russell Perkins (12 catches, 244 yards, one touchdown) and now-injured tight end Raymond Vanikolo (13-307, four scores) — got comfortable with each other last year and spent the summer working out on the M-A field perfecting the chemistry. Now things come so naturally, all it takes is eye contact and a quick signal to change a route at the line of scrimmage.

“We worked hard to get it down,” said McCabe, who is 100-for-165 for 2,093 yards and 24 touchdowns this year. “And all those guys are so good at getting yards after the catch. One move and they could be gone.”

CCS Large School championship

at Foothill College

» FRIDAY: No. 1 Menlo-Atherton vs. No. 3 Palo Alto

» RADIO: KCEA (89.1 FM)

melliser@examiner.com

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