SAN JOSE — During Paul Rosa’s tenure, the Wilcox Chargers have racked up league championships and even a state title in 2018.
The only thing missing, until Saturday night, was a CCS championship.
The Chargers finally added one of those to their already crowded trophy case, racing past Menlo 54-20 in classic Wilcox fashion to win the CCS Division II title, with Luther Glenn running for 218 yards and five touchdowns.
“It feels great to get one of those,” Rosa said. “That’s definitely one that we’ve missed a couple times.”
Glenn’s five scores came on just 15 carries, and he didn’t even see the field on offense in the fourth quarter. Fourth-seeded Menlo (12-1) struck first on Sergio Beltran’s 52nd touchdown pass of the year, a 19-yard strike to Robby Enright on third down, but the Chargers scored on their very first play as Glenn found a hole up the middle and raced past Menlo’s entire defense for a 61-yard score.
“That play really set the done for the game,” Menlo head coach Todd Smith said. “We had two missed tackles.”
The Knights turned it over on downs after back-to-back sacks by Maulidi Saleh and Aliejah Diaz, and Wilcox (9-4) scored again after four more plays, with Glenn running for 30 before Andrew Palacios finished the drive with a 2-yard run. The Chargers added a third touchdown before the end of the first quarter, getting the ball at Menlo’s 18 after a bad snap on a punt before a toss to Glenn provided for the second of the senior’s five scores.
“Our coaches tell us to take no plays off,” Glenn said. “They have a good quarterback, and we knew they could come back.”
The last unbeaten team in the section, Menlo did make a push before the end of the first quarter and scored early in the second. Beltran’s short pass to Sam Scola gained 26 yards, and the record-setting passer hit Enright for a 13-yard gain before Jack Giesler’s 3-yard touchdown run on an option play on the second play of the second quarter cut it to 20-12.
Undeterred, the third-seeded Chargers fired right back. Elijah Walker’s 36-yard kick return gave Wilcox good field position and Palacios, who’s listed at 5-foot-7 but admits to being closer to 5-4, scored on a 26-yard run after Armand Johnson’s 11-yard keeper.
“Luther does what he does and I do what I do,” said Palacios, who ran for 99 yards and 17 carries.
A normally sound Menlo special teams unit suffered a second bad snap after going three-and-out, but punter Ross Muchnick salvaged the play and punted from the back of his end zone to the 25, a punt that went for just six net yards but could have been a complete disaster. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep Wilcox out of the end zone again. Glenn gained 16 after a holding penalty and Palacios recorded his second touchdown, a 7-yard score to open up a 34-12 advantage.
The Chargers got yet another stop on downs when Mitchell Gonzalez and Glenn teamed up to tackle Beltran shy of the sticks, and Johnson connected with Charlie Carlson on one of just two passes Wilcox attempted all night for an 11-yard score.
Gonzalez and Saleh, who each had to sit out five games after transferring from crosstown rival Santa Clara, have provided a lift in the secondary for a Wilcox defense that allowed 33 points per game in the five games without the duo but has limited foes to just 15 points per game since.
“I’m pretty much the fastest person on our team, and they put me on the fastest person on their team,” Saleh said. “Speed versus speed.”
Saleh limited Carter Jung, who entered the game averaging 126.5 receiving yards, to just 67 across five receptions. Beltran did throw for another 275 yards to conclude his senior season with with 3,572 in 13 games, but those came across 42 attempts, of which he completed 22. He also ran 21 times for 55 yards and a score.
That touchdown and the ensuing 2-point conversion to Jung cut the lead to 41-20 with 7:32 left in the third quarter after the Knights forced a three-and-out to start the second half and churned up yardage with completions of 19 and 20 yards to Enright, who led the team with eight receptions for 131 yards. Just a junior, Enright will almost certainly be Menlo’s top receiver in 2022, with Jake Bianchi set to take over at quarterback. He made an excellent catch while being plastered by Glenn for his third reception of the drive, a gain of 21, and Beltran ran for a 3-yard score on the next play.
DJ Aguirre’s onside kick recovery after Beltran’s rushing touchdown set up Glenn’s fourth score, a 33-yarder. Forced to constantly go for fourth downs and kick onsides with such a large deficit, Menlo only ended up giving Wilcox great field position, as was the case after Diaz’s third and final sack of the night. Glenn scored for the last time with 1:03 left in the third on an 18-yard run, and much of the fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
“I’m disappointed in how we played tonight, but I’m proud of our team,” Smith said. “It’s not easy to have success at a small school like Menlo, but there’s great support from our community, our administration, our coaching staff and our kids.”
Saturday was the final game for Menlo’s 13 seniors, including Beltran and Scola, who had a career-high six catches for 55 yards in his final game.
Wilcox will play in the Northern California 2-A Championship on Saturday at 6 p.m., hosting Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion Manteca (10-3). Do-it-all junior Blake Nichelson and the Buffaloes, who have made a habit of winning thrilling games, will provide a stiff test, but Rosa’s tough early-season schedule has prepared the Chargers well.
“We could have done better, but that helped us get to where we are now,” Palacios said of the early games against the likes of Valley Christian and Pittsburg.