The three-division Peninsula Athletic League is one of the more intriguing prep football leagues in the Bay Area. Depending on their performance from the previous season, schools move up and down through the Bay, Ocean and Lake divisions.
The PAL Bay, the toughest amongst the three divisions, will surely be a grinder this season. The six teams in the division combined for a 53-18-1 record a season ago, and Sacred Heart Prep coach Pete Lavorato expects the division to be as tough in 2014.
"I think Terra Nova is the favorite going in, and I think we'll be OK, but I also think there is a lot of teams that will be tough," SHP coach Pete Lavorato said. "Menlo-Atherton will be tough again, Menlo is also good, and Burlingame is coming up from the Ocean Division. It's going to be a tough league."
TERRA NOVA (10-1 overall, 5-0 PAL): Longtime coach Bill Gray retired this past offseason and handed over the coaching duties to Tim Adams, who was the offensive coordinator a season ago. The Tigers lit the scoreboard up all last season, opening 2013 10-0 before losing in the opening round of the CCS Open Division playoffs to Valley Christian. Senior quarterback Anthony Gordon (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) returns as he threw for 3,406 yards, 32 touchdowns, and six interceptions a year ago.
SACRED HEART PREP (13-2, 4-1): The darlings of last season's playoffs, the Gators should be in the thick of the Bay Division race again in 2014. They didn't win the division last season as they lost to Terra Nova, but that didn't stop SHP from making it all the way to the CIF Division III state championship, where they dropped a tough one to Corona Del Mar 27-15. They return 13 starters from last season, including all-state linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, who also rushed for 481 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
BURLINGAME (11-1, 5-0): The Panthers had a great run in 2013, winning the Ocean Division and clinching the top seed in the CCS Division III playoffs. However, their run ended when they lost to St. Ignatius in the semifinals. They return senior quarterback Avery Gindraux, who threw for 742 yards passing and 14 touchdowns, with only two picks.
MENLO-ATHERTON (8-4, 3-2): The Bears' 2013 season ended in the CCS Division II semifinals to eventual section champion Los Gatos, but they otherwise had a very solid season, which included victories over Los Gatos, St. Ignatius and a 15-12 loss to SHP.
MENLO SCHOOL (6-5, 2-3): Senior Austin De'Ambra will replace three-year starter Jack Heneghan, who is now at Dartmouth. The always-competitive Knights haven't won a league title since 2006.
SEQUOIA (5-5, 1-4): The Cherokees moved up to the Bay last season and finished in fifth place. They'll lean on senior Ed Tatola (6-foot-1, 270 pounds) and their husky junior quarterback, Faave Brown (6-foot-2, 240 pounds).