Football Player of the Year Daily Diary: Menlo School’s Sergio Beltran | Local
Everyone pointed to Sergio Beltran.
When the Daily Journal made its preseason rounds assessing college football talent around San Mateo County, the Menlo Knights made it super easy to nominate a poster boy for their burgeoning LA playoff contender. section of the central coast. Regardless of the depth of talent that would lead them to the CCS title game, every finger of every player we asked pointed to their senior quarterback.
Beltran went on to prove himself worthy of the respect and admiration of his teammates. Leading Menlo to a 12-1 record, he gained 4,680 total yards — 1,101 rushing and 3,579 through the air — while breaking the CCS record with 52 touchdown passes on the year. By virtue of this, Beltran has also earned the respect of our publication as the Daily Journal‘s Football Player of the Year.
“I didn’t expect that, being able to throw so many touchdowns,” Beltran said. “But I kind of knew last year that this team, we were going to score a lot. … I knew we were going to be successful. I just didn’t know it was going to be at this level.
It was impossible to predict what would happen in 2021. Beltran has had a backwards high school football career so far, missing as many games as he has played. This, in part, was due to the 2020 pandemic season, in which Menlo managed to play five games on the shortened spring 2021 schedule. But he also missed his first season due to injury, before returning to her sea legs at the junior university level in her second year.
Beltran’s confidence heading into his senior season was well founded, however. Along with sophomore head coach Todd Smith, the Menlo University coaching staff boasted offensive coordinator Austyn Carta-Samuels, a former CCS contender himself during his quarterback days at Bellarmine, before embarking on a remarkable NCAA Division I career at Wyoming and Vanderbilt.
Carta-Samuels instilled a high-octane offense in Menlo – often a source of controversy for racking up scores on opponents – but was also renowned for his ingenuity and inventiveness. Take Beltran’s 42nd touchdown pass of the season on Oct. 29 at Carlmont. The 20-yard fade to receiver Tyler Flynn in the corner of the end zone broke the CCS regular-season touchdown record was a play Carta-Samuels crafted midway through the second-quarter scoring campaign.
“He could make up plays for us on the spot,” Beltran said. “It was a very flexible offensive system. … He kind of saw something he could take advantage of, and it worked perfectly. So we all trusted him.
Menlo’s recurring aerial attack was a strategy just waiting to be implemented this season. Not only did the Knights have a quarterback in Beltran with a strong arm, a demanding football IQ, and a knack for always placing shots in precisely the right spot, but the team was particularly deep in their receiving body, giving Beltran an unnecessary range of targets. . The spoils of riches were highlighted by Carter Jung 6-1 senior, Beltran’s favorite target.
Here are some interesting facts about Menlo football. Four years ago, when this season’s senior crop arrived on campus, Jung didn’t initially turn to the grill. Before high school, Jung had played flag football, but making the leap to tackle football was almost a bridge too far.
That’s when Beltran, then a freshman, may have made his first MVP move for the Menlo program. He set out to win over not just Jung, but Ben Banatao – who would become another consistent receiving target as a senior in 2021 – as well.
“I remember going into high school trying to convince all my friends to play high school football,” Beltran said. “Especially at a small school like Menlo, we have to get the guys to play to get enough numbers.”
Beltran, himself, already had a wealth of playing experience. He started playing Pop Warner Youth Football in his fourth year with the Redwood City 49ers and immediately turned to quarterback. He was not “the man” for those RWC 49ers teams, he said. That honor he defers to Malakai Hoeft, who was a senior force at Serra this season.
But as his teammates pointed out on that pre-season day in 2021, Beltran was definitely “the guy” this season. And it was a responsibility he was happy to take on.
“I feel like a lot of clutch plays, I can deliver for my team when we need to,” Beltran said. “I feel like we all have that factor…but if they need me to be that guy, I can be that guy.
Beltran has proven his mettle time and time again, with his legs as well as his arm. While Menlo didn’t have as many running plays in his playbook as passing plays, the Knights had only four basic running plays designed for running backs. All other ground work was left to Beltran, who kept the secondaries honest with his persistent running legs.
It was just more of an opportunity to be “the guy”.
“I kinda like the pressure,” Beltran said. “Just being able to play when everyone is watching, I feel like I’m doing a good job. And I’m honored that my team trusts me like that, because I know I can provide for them.
The pressure only increased in the playoffs. And that only sharpened Beltran’s already historic performance.
The regular season ended in a playoff atmosphere, with Menlo dueling neighbor Sacred Heart Prep in an 18-15 thriller of a rivalry game at the Valpo Bowl. It was the first time in five years that the Knights beat their arch-rival. He also cemented a perfect 10-0 record throughout the regular season, making the 2021 Knights the first team in program history to finish the regular season undefeated.
Then came the march to the CCS Division II Championship Game. In the playoff opener on November 13 at Cartan Field, Menlo dismantled Half Moon Bay for a 47-28 win. Beltran threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more in that game. Then in the CCS semifinals, the Knights won a 44-35 shootout at San Benito-Hollister, with Beltran throwing for three touchdowns, breaking the CCS’s overall record for touchdown passes in a single season with a passing 63. yards to Sam Scola.
The semi-final performance also produced Beltran’s favorite highlight of the year, a wild rollout that showcased the hybrid weapon that is his combination of running legs and throwing arms. During a wild back-and-forth affair, Menlo clung to a 37-35 lead and faced a long third. Beltran backed up and was forced to rush left but couldn’t find an open receiver. So he turned and rolled to the right, towards Menlo’s sideline, where he spotted junior Charlie King 20 yards up the field.
“I just remember watching the movie and hearing the sideline go crazy as I came out of the pocket,” Beltran said.
Beltran hit King for the first down. On the next play, Beltran delivered a 30-yard pass to Scola to all but seal the Knights’ trip to the CCS Championship Game.
Menlo’s fourth all-time CCS title final ended in a 54-20 loss to Wilcox-San Jose, leaving the Knights with an unshared 0-4 record in Divisional Championship games. But the stamp Beltran left on Menlo’s football program and the CCS record books — after a long season with a grueling workload — was unlike any other.
“Yeah, I was exhausted,” Beltran said. “But, also, I knew that I had given everything. So that was a really happy exhaust.