If your Coastside neighbors are sunburned and their voices shot, there is a good chance they were at Menlo School on Saturday afternoon for what turned out to be the last football game of the year for the Half Moon Bay High School varsity Cougars. They might also need a hug after an emotional end to a season to remember.
The undefeated Knights won the Central Coast Section Division II playoff game in convincing fashion, 47-28, but not without a fight from the visitors. The Cougars, who had won four in a row to claw their way back into playoff contention, played hard till the bitter end.
Cougar Head Coach Keith Holden’s fingers were bejeweled for the affair as he wore championship rings from previous years, perhaps as a subtle reminder of what is at stake in a CCS playoff game. He will not be getting another this season.
“It’s disappointing, not because I want to win, but disappointing because I want our kids to have that experience,” he said after the game as players hugged and removed their battle armor, some for the last time.
The Cougars finished the season 5-4, but 4-1 in league play. After losing three in a row to tough non-league opponents including Serra, the Cougars got a win over Lowell and came within a whisker of beating Menlo-Atherton on Oct. 8, losing 47-46. Then they went on a tear, beating four league opponents in a row. What changed?
“I think our kids grew up a lot during the M-A game,” Holden said. “(M-A has) a couple guys who are going to be playing on Saturdays and for our guys to come within a point, after that we started believing.”
The Cougars fell behind on Saturday and that isn’t a comfortable place to be against the Knights, who are led by one of the area’s best quarterbacks in Sergio Beltran. Beltran threw for three touchdowns and ran for three more. The other Knight to watch was Ty Richardson, who ran back two long kick returns, including one for a touchdown to open the second half.
The Cougars battled throughout a game that was marked by big penalties.
Quarterback William Moffitt scored the first TD for the Cougars, as he scampered from 10 yards out to get to the right pylon. He ran in another in the second quarter to close it to 28-14 at the half. He bulled his way in for a third rushing touchdown in the third quarter and suffered a cramp that temporarily sidelined him. Several players fell with cramps the blinding sun as the temperature reached 77 degrees on the peninsula.
The Cougars scored one more time late in the fourth quarter largely on the will and sweat of their quarterback. Down 47-20 late in the game, Moffitt, playing defensive back, swatted away what would have been another Knight touchdown on a fourth down that turned the ball over to the Cougars. After throwing a bomb to Jack Furr, he ran it up the middle twice, setting up an Emilio Villalobos run up the gut for the game’s final score.
Holden said he felt like the game marked the end of one chapter of Cougar football as key players like Quinn McCauley, Sam Lowings and Moffitt graduate.
The leadership of Moffitt will be particularly hard to replace.
“That’s who he is. That is his personality. He competes,” Holden said. “That’s what we love about him.”