ATHERTON — After back-to-back losses that dropped it from the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division title race, the Woodside High football team took on Menlo-Atherton Saturday looking to reverse its fortunes.

And the Wildcats did just that, riding a ferocious defense to a 42-20 victory over M-A that ensured them an automatic bid in the Central Coast Section playoffs that will be announced today.

After capitalizing on six M-A turnovers for 20 points to turn this anticipated showdown into a rout, Woodside (7-3, 5-2) denied the Bears a share of the Bay championship.

Aragon (8-2, 6-1) secured the outright title with M-A's loss, while Woodside climbed into a second-place tie with M-A (8-2, 5-2).

"We had a whole lot of fire coming into this game," said Wildcats sophomore Jason Simpson. "The feeling right now is great. It's wonderful."

Simpson had a whole lot to do with that feeling, running for a touchdown on two straight third-quarter plays, while also recovering a fumble as an outside linebacker that led to another touchdown.

Holding on to a 12-7 lead midway through the third quarter, Woodside erupted for three touchdowns in a 4-minute span to put M-A in a 32-14 hole entering the final period.

Wildcats defensive back Zack Test intercepted Bears quarterback Troy McCabe's pass, and returned it 35yards to the M-A 1, leading to Woodside quarterback Matt Pelesasa's touchdown plunge with 4:15 left in the third quarter.


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One play later, M-A running back Pep Hanks fumbled, one of four fumbles the Bears lost. The Wildcats again struck immediately, with Simpson taking the handoff around the left side for an 11-yard touchdown.

M-A briefly halted the Woodside run by turning a fake punt into a Matt Mosher-to-Sam Knapp 37-yard touchdown to pull within 24-14.

But the Wildcats put the game away when Simpson burst 59 yards down the left sideline for another touchdown — again on the first play of Woodside's possession — on the final play of the quarter.

Woodside's swarming defense notched seven sacks and saw linebacker Spencer Sarver return a fourth-quarter fumble for a 35-yard touchdown.

"We sort of got in their heads," said defensive end Jordan Carr, who had two sacks. "It was our best defensive effort of the year."

Wildcats head coach Steve Nicolopulos was pleased his team atoned for losses to Aragon and Terra Nova the past two weeks.

"We're definitely capable of playing a game like this every week," Nicolopulos said. "We controlled the ball pretty much on both sides, offense and defense."

Meanwhile, M-A, which entered its game at Aragon last week undefeated and intent on winning the Bay title, now stumbles into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak.

"Without a doubt, we played the worst game of the year," Bears head coach Bob Sykes said. "For some unknown reason, our guys weren't up for it."

Simpson led Woodside with 122 yards on 11 carries, while fellow back Lopeti Taufoou rushed 16 times for 91 yards and one touchdown. Paul Tuiono had three sacks for the Wildcats.