M-A Head Football Coach Adhir Ravipati – GSF All-Star Football Coach of the Month
GSF All-Star Football Coach of the Month | Adhir Ravipati – Menlo-Atherton Bears
by: Pranav Iyer
In the spring of 2015, Adhir Ravipati took over a depleted Menlo-Atherton program that was coming off a forgetful 3-8 season. Immediately when Ravipati took over, he instilled clear guidelines of what he expected of his team both on and off the field. His wholistic approach focused on the student-athletes’ success as not only football players, but as students and productive members of the community. Now in 2018, he has already defied all the expectations of what anyone thought was possible for M-A football. When the current senior class decided to be Bears and put on their pads for the first time, two CCS and Norcal championships were not in their mind. But, as they head into their final game in their storied high school careers, they have already been more successful than any class before them and have the opportunity to hoist a state championship trophy for the first time in their school’s history.
“They were never supposed to do this,” Ravipati said. “When they came to MA, people never said you were going to get recruited by all these colleges and get offers or you were going to be playing in state games [or] you guys are going to be able to get 3.0 GPA’s. All that stuff was [so] unfathomable when they were freshmen but they did all of that. So they’re special to me for that reason in that they came to M-A when no one wanted to come to M-A and no one even knew who M-A was. They bought into what I was asking them to do and they’re going end up going out as the most accomplished senior class we’ve had.”
Ravipati and the Bears did not just get to the state championship game through talent alone. They are a battle-tested team that had to fight through numerous adversities late in the season. On a ten game win streak, M-A has been playing their best football throughout November and early December, which is is why Ravipati is the November GSF All-Star Football Coach of the Month.
Coming off two straight straight losses against Palma and Colorado 5A state champion Valor Christian to end non-conference play, the Bears breezed through one of the top leagues in the CCS, the PAL-Bay Division. This is a league that featured five playoff teams. M-A never scored under 30 points against any of these teams while holding their opponents to a touchdown or less week in and week out.
The Bears waltzed into the CCS Open Division I playoffs as the two seed, but were faced with a new challenge. With the Northern California fires, the opening round of games were pushed back a week, the Bears no longer had home-field advantage and they had to find new ways to prepare for the game given the poor air conditions.
“For us, it was trying to keep as much of a normal routine as possible,” Ravipati said. “So, we practiced in the gym. We still had study hall after school. We replaced our conditioning with other things that we could do indoors. Our main thing was, physically, by the time you make it to playoffs, you should kind of already know what you are doing. So, could we keep our kids as mentally sharp, as mentally dialed in as possible was really the key and we were able to do that.”
In the CCS playoff bracket, the Bears faced each of the top three teams in the SCVAL De Anza Division: Milpitas, Palo Alto, and Wilcox. All three had different play styles and offered their own challenges to Ravipati and M-A.
Despite struggling defensively against Milpitas, the Bears got out to an early lead and never trailed the entire game. Offensively is where they excelled, scoring 45 points. Quarterback Jack Alexander completed 12 passes, with four of those going for touchdowns, while the running back collective was able to rush for nearly nine yards per carry.
In the semifinals, they matched up against the surprise in the CCS this year, Palo Alto. The Vikings were a complete team and boasted a three-headed monster on offense, consisting of Jackson Chyrst (2000+ yards passing), Jamir Shepard (1000+ yards receiving) and Aiden Chang (1000+ yards rushing). Ravipati knew the offensive talent that Palo Alto possessed and schemed specifically for these three players. He believed that if they were able to stop the run with five in the box that they would be able to succeed against the passing attack. He wanted to put his best against their best. He matched up his two interior linebackers with Chyrst and Chang and their Division I cornerback, Justin Anderson, on Shepard. This strategy worked out perfectly for M-A, as they completely stifled the Viking’s offensive attack. They scored just once off of a drive that started at the Bear’s own 38 yard-line and M-A able to survive and advance despite scoring just 17 points.
The finals took place on the final day of November and featured, arguably, the two best public school teams in the CCS in Wilcox and M-A. Wilcox was riding into the game on a perfect 12-0 season that consisted of convincing wins in their two prior playoff games. And early on, the Chargers showed everyone that they truly were worthy of everything they had accomplished so far in the season. They bolted out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter behind a devastating triple option attack. Ravipati said this margin was largely due to his players being too amped for the moment and not focusing on their individual responsibilities. By the time the halftime horn sounded, the Bears were able to claw back a bit but still trailed 28-14.
After halftime adjustments were made and the Bears found their composure, they were able to shut down the Charger’s offense in the third. But they, themselves, were not able to score any points and the margin remained at 14 heading into the fourth. And that is when the Bear’s offense came out of their hibernation and went on a furious comeback run. Freshmen quarterback Matt MacLeod got the call to replace Alexander and lit up the Wilcox defense late in the game. After a pitch and catch from MacLeod to Anderson for a touchdown that made it 28-27 with 6:07 remaining, the extra point attempt was missed. With their defense continuing to play a superb second half, M-A got the ball back and drove down the field once again. Sophomore Troy Franklin scored his second touchdown of the night on just his second touch by reversing fields on the toss to find paydirt and give the Bears their first lead of the game. Anderson sealed off the victory with his second interception of the half and the Bears were able to complete the historic comeback.
“Second half, our guys just stuck with the game plan,” Ravipati said “We really locked in, they focused. We forced some turnovers and we had to make some big plays on offense. For us, it definitely helped that a group of our guys played in a CCS championship game before, two years ago, and kind of were settled in and were able to help out the younger guys. That was the great thing about that game was that we played three freshmen, seven sophomores. For them, I think it took some time for them to settle in.”
Interestingly, this was not the first time the Bears played and defeated the top three teams from the De Anza division all in one season.
“It’s kind of funny,” Ravipati said. “It’s the second time we’ve done that. The last time we went to a state game in 2016, we played Los Gatos in the regular season, Wilcox in the first round and Milpitas in the final and they were actually the tri-champions of the De Anza that year. So it seems like good luck when we do that.”
Following the section championship, the Bears made the trek up to Eureka for the Division 3-AA Norcal championship. Ravipati said it was nothing new for them, as they had already bussed to Colorado for their preseason game against Valor Christian. But not only were they playing in unfamiliar territory, they were also playing in wet and muddy conditions on the Logger’s grass field. Still, they were able to find their rhythm early and scored 20 unanswered first half points. Eureka answered back with two touchdowns of their own to even up the game at 20 in the fourth, but failed to convert the extra point to get themselves the lead (eerily familiar to what M-A did against Wilcox). The Bears drove 70 yards down the field on the ensuing drive to recapture the lead and a last minute rally was stalled inside the M-A twenty yard-line, resulting in turnover on downs and an end to the Logger’s hopes at victory.
Now in the state championship for the second time in three years, the Bears will be able to compete this time in front of their community. While most of the other CIF state championship games are being played in Southern California at Cerritos College, the Bears will essentially have home-field advantage playing at Sequoia High School in Redwood City. The seniors will have an opportunity to redeem their loss in 2016 and do it in front of those who supported the Bears through their rise from mediocrity to perennial powerhouses.
“Two years ago, we had to go to Southern California and play at Paraclete’s home field,” Ravipati said. “I think a nice thing for us is our whole community will be able to be there and our community has been so supportive and a huge part of our success and supporting our kids and our program. It’s definitely going to mean a lot to be able to do that here at home and hopefully, be able to have everyone there.”
Ravipati has focused his program on so much more than the devoplment of his players and athletes. Despite working a full-time job as the Chief Product Officer of Protxx, he has devoted a tremendous amount of time in presenting himself as a positive influence on these student-athletes’ lives during their formative years and help lead them down the correct path. What this shows is the genuine care and compassion he has for his Bears and the entire M-A community. So, once again, kudos to our November GSF All-Star Football Coach of the Month, Adhir Ravipati.
Menlo-Atherton will play Lincoln in the CIF Division III-AA state championship at Sequoia High School on Dec. 15 at 6 p.m..