When Bellarmine College Prep opens the season at Menlo-Atherton on Friday night, the returning players on the visiting side will have an opportunity to ease some of the disappointment that arose nine months ago and continued through the off-season.
On this same field, against this same opponent, Bellarmine’s 2016 season ended with a decisive 21-0 loss in the semifinals of the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Menlo-Atherton went on to win CCS and regional championships.
“It was hard to swallow,” Bellarmine lineman Cade Hall said. “One of the biggest problems we had last season was attitude. It was tough to just watch our season kind of dwindle away and have our guys not do a lot about it.”
The challenge for Bellarmine on Friday doesn’t figure to be any less daunting than the playoff game nine months ago, when Menlo-Atherton scored two first-quarter touchdowns and never looked back.
The Bears are expected to be strong again, even though running back Jordan Mims and quarterback Aajon Johnson have moved on.
Menlo-Atherton is the favorite to win its league.
Bellarmine, led by three-year varsity players Hall and running back/linebacker Austin Ajiake, has question marks, particularly at quarterback.
“We have a couple of nice returning players, Austin and Cade; they’re doing great,” said coach Mike Janda, the all-time winningest coach in CCS history. “But we have to replace a quarterback. That’s a big hole. We’re a little thin on both lines. But the guys are playing hard and working hard.”
Bellarmine should get some answers Friday.
“I’ll tell you what about that team,” Janda said about M-A, “they got better and better and better last year. Heck, went on to win the CCS championship and a NorCal game. They’re doing a great job over there. They’ve got great coaching and great speed. They’ve got a great offensive and defensive plan. We respect the heck out of them.
“Our guys are anxious to go back and do better some of the things we did poorly in that last game.”
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Pittsburg at Centennial-Corona, 7 p.m.: Give Pittsburg credit for scheduling this Southern California juggernaut. But the already steep test got a little steeper — maybe a lot steeper — with the news that QB Trey Turner is out for the season with a knee injury. The Pirates already were bringing a rebuilt offensive line to the Southland. Centennial has reached six state championship games since the CIF implemented them in 2006, winning one.
Valley Christian-San Jose at Manteca, 7 p.m.: Both teams made great runs last year, with Valley Christian reaching a state final and Manteca advancing to a NorCal final. Valley Christian has several players back, including DB/WR D’Angelo McKenzie and DE RJ Stone. Gino Campiotti returns at quarterback for Manteca.
St. Francis at Oak Grove, 7 p.m.: Traditional South Bay opener lost some sizzle when Oak Grove’s top running backs, Maurice Washington III and Jarmar Julien, transferred. Still, this one’s a good measuring stick for both sides. St. Francis has not lost a regular-season game to Oak Grove since 2012 but did fall to the Eagles in a CCS final in 2015.
De La Salle at Amador Valley, 7 p.m.: It’s always good to see where De La Salle stands, even when the matchup looks one-sided. Last season, a young De La Salle team cruised past Amador Valley 42-7 in an opener. Far more experienced now, the Spartans should roll again.
St. Patrick-St. Vincent at Moreau Catholic, 7 p.m.: First meeting between these teams since 2013. Moreau won eight games last season but graduated top running back Jullen Ison. SPSV won 13 games and a state championship last season. Moreau has won the past three matchups.
San Leandro at Foothill, 7 p.m.: Fourth consecutive early-season matchup between these teams. San Leandro won 38-24 last season; Foothill won the previous two years. QB Ben Wooldridge, a Fresno State commit, is a three-year starter for a Foothill team expected to contend in the East Bay Athletic League. San Leandro has to replace RB Omari Land, who scored two touchdowns against Foothill last season.
McClymonds at The King’s Academy, 7 p.m.: Pete Lavorato, who led Sacred Heart Prep to two state finals and five CCS championships in 14 seasons, makes his TKA coaching debut against a familiar opponent. SHP beat McClymonds in a NorCal title game two seasons ago. McClymonds went on to win a state title last season and has another talented squad, including QB Emoreea Fountain and Oak Grove transfer Jarmar Julien. Kamau Carlisle is a big offensive threat for TKA.
Campolindo at Marin Catholic, 2 p.m.: This matchup of North Coast Section powers is one of the highlight games of the weekend. The teams have played twice since 2011, with Campolindo winning close games each time. Campolindo won its second state title in three seasons last year. Marin Catholic lost in a North Coast Section final last season.
Serra at St. Mary’s-Stockton, 7 p.m.: This is a heavyweight clash that could have CIF ramifications come December. St. Mary’s rolled past Serra 63-35 in San Mateo to open last season and then went on to win a NorCal championship. RB/MLB Dusty Frampton is back for the Rams. Serra also won a NorCal title last season, overcoming an 0-4 start.
Central Coast Section
Live Oak at Alisal, 7:30 p.m.
Leigh at Branham, 7 p.m.
Mt. Pleasant at Burlingame, 7:30 p.m.
Carmel vs. Willow Glen at Monterey Peninsula College, 7:30 p.m.
Sobrato at Christopher, 7:30 p.m.
Cupertino at Del Mar , 7 p.m.
Soquel at Gunn, 7 p.m.
Saratoga at Half Moon Bay, 7 p.m.
Homestead at Fremont-Sunnyvale, 7 p.m.
Evergreen Valley at Independence, 7 p.m.
Silver Creek at Lincoln-San Jose, 7 p.m.
Bellarmine at Menlo-Atherton, 7 p.m.
Monterey at Mountain View, 7:30 p.m.
St. Francis at Oak Grove, 7 p.m.
Gilroy at Overfelt, 7 p.m.
Piedmont Hills vs. North Salinas at Salinas Sports Complex, 7:30 p.m.
Los Gatos at Pioneer, 7 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep at San Benito, 7:30 p.m.
Mills at San Jose, 7 p.m.
Prospect at Santa Clara, 7 p.m.
Sequoia at Santa Cruz, 7:30 p.m.
Leland at Santa Teresa, 7 p.m.
San Mateo at South San Francisco, 7 p.m.
Gunderson at Terra Nova, 7 p.m.
Monta Vista at Westmont, 7 p.m.
Capuchino at Woodside, 7:30 p.m.
North Coast Section
Alhambra at Acalanes, 7 p.m.
De La Salle at Amador Valley, 7 p.m.
Santa Rosa at Berkeley, 7:30 p.m.
James Logan at California, 7 p.m.
Dublin at Castro Valley, 7 p.m.
Berean Christian at Cloverdale, 7:30 p.m.
Lower Lake at De Anza, 7:30 p.m.
Monte Vista at Deer Valley, 7 p.m.
Ygnacio Valley at El Cerrito, 7 p.m.
Hayward vs. Tennyson at Sunset Field in Hayward, 7 p.m.
Mt. Diablo at Hercules, 7 p.m.
Piedmont at Justin-Siena, 7 p.m.
Stellar Prep at Kelseyville, 7:30 p.m.
Kennedy-Fremont vs. San Marin at Washington-Fremont, 7 p.m.
Dougherty Valley at Las Lomas, 7 p.m.
St. Patrick-St. Vincent at Moreau Catholic, 7 p.m.
College Park at Pinole Valley, 7 p.m.
Redwood vs. Mt. Eden at Chabot College, 7:30 p.m.
San Leandro at Foothill, 7 p.m.
St. Mary’s-Berkeley at Rancho Cotate, 7:30 p.m.
Terra Linda at Richmond, 7 p.m.
American at Milpitas, 7 p.m.
Arroyo at Carlmont, 7 p.m.
Fremont-Oakland at Gonzales, 7:30 p.m.
Riordan at Central Catholic-Modesto, 7:30 p.m.
Menlo at East Nicolaus, 7:30 p.m.
Laguna Hills at Hillsdale, 7 p.m.
Mission-San Francisco at Jefferson, 7 p.m.
McClymonds at The King’s Academy, 7 p.m.
Harker at James Lick, 7 p.m.
Valley Christian-San Jose at Manteca, 7 p.m.
Mitty vs. Sacramento at Foothill College, 7 p.m.
Palo Alto at Patterson, 7 p.m.
Sacred Heart Cathedral vs. Fernley, Nevada at Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
St. Ignatius vs. Clovis East, 8 p.m.
Monterey Trail at Wilcox, 7:30 p.m.
Granada at Benicia, 7:30 p.m.
Pittsburg at Centennial-Corona, 7 p.m.
Northgate at Damonte Ranch-Reno, 7 p.m.
Tokay at Heritage, 7 p.m.
Bethel at Kennedy-Richmond, 7 p.m.
Antioch at Lincoln-Stockton, 7:15 p.m.
Irvington at Lindhurst-Olivehurst, 7:30 p.m.
Kimball-Tracy at Livermore, 7 p.m.
Vanden-Fairfield at Miramonte, 7 p.m.
Clayton Valley at Reed-Sparks, Nevada, 7 p.m.
San Ramon Valley at Tracy, 7:15 p.m.
Freedom at Turlock, 7 p.m.
Turlock Christian vs. California School for the Deaf at Hilmar, 7 p.m.
Liberty at Vacaville, 7:30 p.m.
Wood-Vacaville at Concord, 7 p.m.
Central Coast Section
Yerba Buena at Harbor, 3 p.m.
Scotts Valley at Los Altos, 1:30 p.m.
Lynbrook vs. Marina at Monterey Peninsula College, 6:30 p.m.
North Coast Section
Albany at San Lorenzo, 1:30 p.m.
Campolindo at Marin Catholic, 2 p.m.
Encinal at Washington-Fremont, 7 p.m.
Newark Memorial at Novato, 2 p.m.
Serra at St. Mary’s-Stockton, 7 p.m.
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