SANTA CLARA-This is a night that Nate Sanchez will share stories about with his grandchildren.
In front of a raucous Friday Night Lights crowd at Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior at Serra only touched the ball nine times, yet somehow found the end zone five times to account for all of his team’s touchdowns in a 38-13 rout of Menlo-Atherton.
“He’s definitely not burning this tape,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh said.
The Padres (2-0), fresh off a 57-21 romp of East Bay powerhouse Pittsburg, got off to a relatively slow start against the Bears (1-1), which is understandable considering the setting.
“I didn’t think it would be this big,” said Serra defensive end Nusi Malani, who recovered a key fumble midway through the second quarter forced by linebacker Fynn Williams. “Walking out of the tunnel was just huge. It just got me more hyped, more juiced.”
Sanchez crossed the goal line a trio of times in three games as a junior, a feat he matched before halftime by hauling in a 42-yard pass from quarterback Daylin McLemore with 1:40 left to put Serra ahead 24-6 heading into the locker room.
Could he foresee a total of five touchdowns, though?
“No, no, not at all, but I did come out with something to prove,” said Sanchez, who scored on half his six handoffs and had three catches for 90 yards, including another 42-yard bomb that set up his first TD — a 6-yard quick slant. (He also completed a 29-yard pass to wide receiver Terence Loville in the first quarter). “Some people thought last week was just a fluke. And I love coming in as the underdog. We were fired up.”
M-A, which was down to its third-string center, committed eight false starts and numerous snaps under shotgun sailed high as the offense found itself unable to find any rhythm for most of the game.
“I didn’t know that some of the linemen were hurting,” Malani said. “We were just coming in with one mindset and that’s to punch them in the face and just win our battles in the line of scrimmage.”
The Bears were able to get on the board with 3:45 left in the second quarter on a 39-yard TD pass to sophomore Jalen Moss, who two plays earlier caught a 44-yard fling and earlier in the half returned an interception 44 yards into Serra territory.
Trailing 17-6, M-A cornerback Justin Anderson tracked down a deep toss and tipped it to himself for an acrobatic interception.
But Serra answered right away, as linebacker William Mauer stepped in front of a pass just shy of midfield at the M-A sideline to reclaim momentum.
“No excuses, they beat us handily,” Papin said. “Round 1 went to them, but we don’t run from anybody. We’re going to regroup and get ready.”
He added: “I don’t think they’re really going to dwell on the moment. This team was 1-2 last year and won state. We’ve got opportunities to get better.”
Serra put the game out of reach with a goal-line stand early in the second half, then embarking on a 13-play, 98-yard drive that ate over six minutes off the clock and culminated by Sanchez plowing in from 5 yards out with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
“This is a game where we show our love for another with our effort and our enthusiasm for one another,” Walsh said. “How we run to the ball, how we finish our blocks and I thought we saw a lot of that tonight.”
Any regrets about forfeiting a home game in order to play at an NFL stadium?
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Walsh said. “We love Serra High School, but it’s fun to play in a billion-dollar facility. Home of the 49ers, our hometown team, so it was a real special treat.”
Of note, in a battle of heavily recruited wide receivers sporting a No. 1 jersey, Loville finished with six catches for 83 yards, while M-A junior Troy Franklin was limited to eight catches for 60 yards.
But it was the unheralded Sanchez who stole the show at Levi’s.
“Well, we did what we were supposed to do,” Papin said. “We wanted to stop No. 1.”
Now it’s just a matter of whether Sanchez can convince his future grandchildren about what just transpired.
“I don’t think they’re going to believe me,” Sanchez said. “But once I show the film I think they’ll believe me.”