A classic matchup. The section's No. 1 scoring offense against the No. 1 scoring defense. And if that's not enough, a matchup between expensive private schools located right next to each other on Valparaiso Avenue in Atherton, schools that are rivals in all sports.
No. 2 seed Sacred Heart Prep (11-1) will play No. 4 Menlo School (10-2) for the Central Coast Section Division IV football championship Saturday at Terra Nova High.
Menlo has scored 580 points this season, an average of 48.3 points per game. Junior quarterback Jack Heneghan has thrown 33 touchdown passes with only three interceptions, operating out of Menlo's wide-open run and shoot offense.
Sacred Heart Prep has allowed 114 points for an average of 9.5 per game.
The first time the rivals played, in the Valparaiso Bowl on Nov. 9 at Woodside High, Sacred Heart Prep came from behind to win 31-28.
"It's tough to play a team a second time," SHP. coach Pete Lavorato said. "We're the antithesis of Menlo. We will run two tight ends. Menlo may never run a tight end, ever. We ran for 3,000 yards and passed for 1,000. Menlo ran for 1,000 and passed for 3,000."
Menlo has bounced back nicely from that loss to SHP, winning two playoff games on the road -- 42-14 over No. 4 seed Monte Vista Christian and 41-27 over No. 1 and previously undefeated Seaside.
"We've been playing sound, smart football," Menlo coach Mark Newton said. "We want to keep playing as
Menlo finished second in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division because of a 43-39 loss to South San Francisco, a game in which South City rushed for more than 400 yards. Sacred Heart Prep had 281 yards on the ground in Menlo's other loss.
"Our run defense has been solid this year; the key is really simply about turnovers," Newton said. "The games we lost, we lost the turnover battle. Playing mistake-free football is our key."
Two of the three interceptions Heneghan has thrown this season came in the first game against Sacred Heart Prep.
"You earn your turnovers," Lavorato said. "Defensive coordinator Mark Modeste has done such a great job. It's a testament to him. But (Menlo) still scored a lot of points. (Heneghan) is a good athlete, faster than he looks, very dangerous on third down. We're not going to shut him down."
The 28 points scored by Menlo in the first game was a season-low for the Knights and a season-high allowed for the Sacred Heart Prep defense.
Both programs have come a long way since their beginnings in the North Coast Section Bay Counties League. Sacred Heart Prep, at one time an all-girls school, didn't join the CCS in football until 2008. The Gators advanced to the CCS Small School championship game that year, losing to Sacred Heart Cathedral. They won a Division IV title in 2010, rallying from a 32-11 deficit to beat Carmel 39-32. Menlo reached its only previous CCS title game in 2009, losing to Carmel 56-35 in the Division IV final.
The Valparaiso Bowl series between Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep didn't begin until 2003. Menlo leads the series 6-4. The schools have also split a pair of CCS playoff games, but this is the first time they've played with a CCS football title at stake.