Menlo Football Emerges Victorious at Valpo Bowl for the First Time in Four Years


The boys celebrate the Valpo Bowl victory. No player on the team had experienced winning the rivalry game before. Staff photo: Lexi Friesel.

Lexi Friesel, Social Media Director

After four straight years of the Sacred Heart Preparatory Gators bringing home the Valparaiso or “Valpo” Bowl trophy, the Menlo Knights finally had the opportunity to hoist it for themselves. On Saturday, Nov. 6, at Menlo’s Cartan Field, Menlo defeated SHP 18-15 in the 19th Valpo Bowl game, finishing the regular season undefeated with a record of 10-0. 

After receiving the ball first, the Knights began the game with a drive up the field after several quarterback scrambles and quick passes by senior Sergio Beltran. A shovel pass to Halsey brought the Knights to the end zone and put six points on the scoreboard. 

Junior Cort Halsey runs the ball into the end zone to score the first touchdown of the game after receiving a shovel pass from Beltran. Staff photo: Lexi Friesel.

SHP’s first drive began unsuccessfully after the Menlo defense proved effective against their running plays. SHP quarterback junior Mitchell Taylor eventually found wide receiver Jake York near the 15-yard line, who was quickly taken down by cornerback junior Eron Chen. The Knights were able to stop all touchdown attempts on the drive.

In the next drive by the Knights, Beltran looked to running back senior Jack Giesler and wide receiver senior Carter Jung to gain yards. However, one of his passes was intercepted by SHP’s Carter Shaw to end the first quarter with a score of Menlo 6 SHP 0.  

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Knights stopped the Gators once again. “[The post-interception defense] was key to victory because we were able to lock them in and not allow them to score,” junior defensive end Ralston Raphael said. 

Menlo began a short drive that was unsuccessful, culminating in a punt by Ross Muchnick. Before the ball could bounce into the SHP endzone, it was stopped by Ty Richardson, placing the SHP offense within their own five yard line. Outside Linebacker Sam Scola recovered a fumble in the end zone, scoring another touchdown for the Knights. The score was set for the half: Menlo 12, SHP 0.

Strong defense from junior Chris Liao, Chen and Raphael, along with a sack from Jung, led to a fourth down turnover for SHP.

SHP put their first points on the board in the third quarter, after a handoff to running back Anthony Noto near the endzone and a successful PAT to make the score 12-7.

On the final possession of the quarter, the Knights ran a series of running plays that drove the ball up to the SHP fifteen yard line. In the fourth quarter, Beltran threw a shovel pass to Richardson who dived into the end zone for a touchdown.

Menlo’s defense works to tackle a SHP running back. The Menlo linebackers and defensive ends proved to be a challenge for the SHP Gators. Staff photo: Lexi Friesel.

The Gators responded with a drive up to the 20-yard line where the Menlo defense held them back to fourth down with a quick tackle by linebacker Aidan Housenbold and a sack from outside linebacker Tyler Flynn. A field goal was attempted and blocked by safety Robby Enright. The play was crucial to the game. The fourth quarter would have ended in a tie if Enright had not blocked the field goal.

On their next drive, Menlo made their way around the 15-yard line where Beltran found Flynn in the end zone, but the pass was incomplete. A fourth-down turnover allowed SHP to put eight more points on the board from a second touchdown and successful two-point conversion with their other quarterback, senior Jack Herrell, on the field. 

With just a few seconds to go in the game, the Knights successfully recovered the kick return, securing the win and undefeated record. “I attribute the win to the chemistry we’ve built as a team these past two years,” Beltran said. “Last year, our team was made up of mostly juniors, so we’ve had time to connect.”

This Saturday, the team will head into the CCS Division II bracket with a game against Half Moon Bay High School. “Our plan is to continue being us and not go away from the things that got us to this point,” head coach Todd Smith said.

Smith’s players are looking forward to the playoffs. “We’re ready to work hard and make it happen,” Chen added.

Scola leaps into the air, celebrating his touchdown. Staff photo: Lexi Friesel.