Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 17, 2010

Palo Alto has chance to test the best

by Keith Peters

In the grand scheme of things, the showdown between the Palo Alto and Mitty football teams on Friday likely means less than the matchup appears to be.

While both are ranked among the top five teams in the Central Coast Section and both favored to contend for league titles — and play in the postseason — the outcome probably won't affect any of the aforementioned when they meet at Palo Alto High at 7:30 p.m.

"You play good teams so when you get into league play we're not shocked by the level of competence we're facing," said Palo Alto head coach Earl Hansen. "We have some good teams in our league."

Thus, Paly-Mitty is all about preparation for league play.

The teams met last season with Mitty rolling to a 35-13 nonleague victory. Palo Alto committed six turnovers and rushed for just 35 yards. Two games later, the Vikings lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending injury.

So, what happened? Palo Alto won the SCVAL De Anza Division title with a 4-0-2 mark and advanced to the CCS Open Division playoffs, where the Vikings lost to eventual champion Bellarmine.

Thus, the loss to Mitty did nothing to affect Palo Alto season, which ended 7-2-2.

So, what's it all mean? It's just another test in a season full of them.

"We like to play these kinds of games," Hansen said. "The kids definitely are excited to play this week. They (Mitty) are a good team, no question."

For Palo Alto, Friday's game is public school versus private school. Beating a West Catholic Athletic League team is always a good thing. Beating a WCAL squad that ranks as one of the most improved in the section is even better.

The Monarchs (1-1) feature senior quarterback Kyle Boehm, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound prospect who is headed to Cal. He has completed 20 of 28 passes (.714) for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He also has rushed 23 times for 248 yards, leading the team in both categories.

Thus, Palo Alto must find a way to slow Boehm down, like San Ramon Valley did last week in a 16-13 upset. Boehm was shut down as a passer, completing only five of 10 for 39 yards and two interceptions, but rushed 15 times for 135 yards.

That gives Palo Alto's defensive backs hope that they can limit Boehm, as well. Should that happen, the burden will be on the Vikings' defensive line and linebackers to contain Boehm as a runner.

"We'll try to tackle him on every play," Hansen said, alluding to how much Boehm will be involved offensively. "They're pretty limited."

Hansen believes that Boehm will have a hard time running right, against Paly senior Kevin Anderson. That will force Boehm, a righty, to go left.

"We want him to throw, no question," Hansen said.

The Palo Alto defense did its job last weekend in a 21-9 season-opening victory at Burlingame. But, Burlingame is not in Mitty's league and that's the test for the Vikings.

Paly managed just 65 rushing yards in 34 carries against a team likely to finish in the middle of the PAL Bay Division this season. If the Vikings can't run against Mitty, it will be up to senior quarterback Christoph Bono to move the ball.

Bono completed 17 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns against a very good Mitty defense last season, one that Hansen says has lost a lot to graduation.

"So, they're not the same team," Hansen said.

Bono, meanwhile, got off to a good start against Burlingame despite feeling a little rusty after missing half of last season with a shoulder injury, Bono completed 14 of 23 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers.

Senior wideouts Davante Adams and Maurice Williams combined for seven receptions for 123 yards.

The Vikings' offense was a little stagnant through much of the first half, but caught a break when T.J. Braff made the first of his two interceptions. It led to the first sustained drive of the game for Paly, with Bono peppering the Burlingame defense with short passes.

Then Bono clicked with Williams, who was open over the middle and Bono hit him in the numbers for a 40-yard touchdown with 19 seconds to spare before halftime.

"It felt good to be out there," Bono said. "I was a little rusty but I got into a little better rhythm. There's still a lot of room for improvement."

Tight end Michael Cullen caught a 23-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Cullen finished with three catches for 50 yards.

Scoring late in the first half seemed to loosen the offense, especially the running game. The Vikings compiled a grand total of one yard on the ground in the first half, but improved that by 67 yards in the final two quarters. Frosh-soph grad Dre Hill rushed for 45 of them.

Palo Alto recovered a fumble on the second-half kickoff and Hill went 15 of the 17 yards necessary for a touchdown that gave the Vikings a 14-2 advantage.

"It was our first game so we needed to get into a rhythm," Williams said. "We need to be tough and work hard. We have Mitty this week, so we really have to be practicing hard."

"It didn't feel like the first game jitters but we were a little slow at the start," Bono said. "We were making some mistakes because they did some things we didn't expect."

Palo Alto knows what to expect from Mitty on Friday night and will be ready for the challenge.

In other prep football games this weekend:

Gunn (1-0) returns from a week off to host Burlingame (0-1) in a rare afternoon (3:30 p.m.) game on Friday. The Titans will face a tough defense, much tougher than in their 39-0 romp over Westmont.

Sacred Heart Prep (2-0) is coming off a big victory over Riordan and will hit the road to face Valley Christian-Dublin on Friday night (7 p.m.) at Chabot College in Hayward.

Menlo-Atherton (0-2) will look for its first victory, hitting the road to face Jefferson on Friday at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, Menlo (1-1) will look to capitalize on its big win over Carmel last week when it visits Justin Siena in Napa at 7 p.m.

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