By Andrew Preimesberger
Palo Alto Online Sports
Palo Alto showed its home crowd more than just its newly renovated stadium in its football season opener Friday night. The Vikings unleashed a promising offense that racked up 296 total yards during a 28-7 nonleague win over visiting San Benito.
The defending SCVAL De Anza Division champion Vikings (1-0) opened impressively while dropping the 2012 Central Coast Section Division I champion Haybalers to 1-1. It's just the beginning of a tough preseason for Paly.
"Look at our September, we play Mitty next week," said Paly head coach Earl Hansen. "We needed that."
"Overall, it was a good team win tonight," said senior quarterback Keller Chryst, who committed to Stanford earlier this year. "We played it pretty conservative and played our game and just did what we had to do."
Chryst led off the Vikings' third drive of the game with a four-yard dump pass to senior running back Andrew Frick to give Paly the early 7-0 first-quarter lead.
In the second quarter, Chryst connected with senior wide receiver Malcolm Davis for a spectacular 31-yard diving touchdown catch to give his team the 14-0 edge.
Frick scored his second touchdown of the game on a three-yard run up the middle to give the Vikings a 21-0 advantage going into halftime.
The Haybalers' offense had no answer against the stingy Paly defense. The Vikings' defense shutout San Benito in the first half and allowed just 61 yards, including two fumbles.
Senior running back Marcus Brown sprinted down field for a 36-yard touchdown in the third quarter and built the lead for the Vikings, 28-0.
The Haybalers finally reached the end zone in the fourth quarter when senior Zach Hicks jumped over the pile for the one-yard touchdown. The score was all that San Benito could get out of a tough Vikings' defense as Paly sealed the 28-7 win.
Jim Harbaugh, a Palo Alto alum and current head coach for the San Francisco 49ers, was in attendance and made the coin toss to begin the game to help highlight pre-game ceremonies.
"When your high school, especially football coach asks you . . . tells you to do something, you just do it," Harbaugh said. "I'm here and enjoying it."
"Having Jim here and having him be a part of everything is always great," said Hansen, who coached Harbaugh at Paly in 1981 and '82.
"It was really cool," said Paly sophomore wide receiver Eli Givens. "I was really excited and it got everyone really pumped up before the game."
Harbaugh's appearance brought out at least one Bay Area TV crew.
Palo Alto will take on Mitty next Saturday at Foothill College.
"We can't have those lapses," Hansen said of things that his team needs to improve upon, like having a TD negated by a penalty. "We've got to get better on our pass protection and move forward."
Chryst made his season debut with 188 passing yards, completing an efficient 15 of 20 passes with no interceptions. Keesean Johnson caught nine balls for 89 yards with Davis added 75 yards on three catches.
The Vikings managed 108 rushing yards on 29 rushes, but gave up 203 on the ground to the Haybalers. Paly's pass defense was good, nonetheless, as Davis knocked down a number of passes, including one at the goal line, and Connor Scheel's interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter stopped a San Benito threat. The Haybalers managed just two passing yards.
Menlo-Atherton 19, Los Gatos 10
Isiah Nash scored on runs of 50 and 41 yards in the fourth quarter to carry the Bears (1-1) to its stirring nonleague win over the host Wildcats. Nash finished with a career-high 204 rushing yards on 26 carries.
The M-A defense, which gave up 38 points in an opening loss to Campolindo last week, was much improved as it dominated the interior. The Bears forced two key turnovers inside the 20 and stopped Los Gatos on two late-game drives.
Carlmont 13, Gunn 7
While the defensive effort was better, the result was not for the Titans as they dropped a nonleague decision to host Carlmont on Friday night. Gunn lost its opener last week, 43-6.
The Titans (0-2) tied the game at 7 in the third quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Noah Riley to Guy Kasznik. Gunn, which had only 49 offensive yards in the first half, was solid defensively throughout. The Scots, however, turned a late interception into the game-winning touchdown with under four minutes left to play.
Max Chiew was credited with 17 tackles for Gunn while teammate Dietrich Sweat had 12, including three for loss. Sean Lydster contributed 10 tackles for the Titans.
Priory 64, EPA Academy 0
James McDaniel had 17 carries for 180 yards and scored four touchdowns in a romp against first-year program East Palo Alto Academy in a nonleague eight-man contest at Ronald McNair Middle School in East Palo Alto. Priory improved to 2-0.