Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - December 2, 2011

It will be a battle of the buddies

by Keith Peters

B.J. Boyd and Travis McHugh helped put Palo Alto on the sporting map in 2008. The two were teammates on the Palo Alto Babe Ruth 14-year-old all-star baseball team that qualified for the World Series — a first for the program and the city.

Boyd and McHugh will attempt to provide another sporting first on Friday night. This time, however, they won't be doing it as teammates.

Boyd, along with John Dickerson (another Babe Ruth teammate), will be wearing the colors of Palo Alto High while McHugh will be playing for Bellarmine Prep when the teams meet for the Central Coast Section Open Division football championship at San Jose City College at 8 p.m.

Both teams have won two Open Division crowns in the seven-year history of the event. Valley Christian also has won twice while Oak Grove has the other crown. At stake Friday will be the first three-time Open Division champion.

It may be an obscure honor, but the title would be significant nonetheless. While Palo Alto (10-2) won't have a chance to defend its CIF Division I state title, it can prevent Bellarmine from reaching the state playoffs.

The Bells (11-1) are ranked No. 3 in the state in the Cal-Hi Sports Powerade rankings while Concord's De La Salle (10-1) is No 1. Those are the top two NorCal teams in the race for the Open Division of the CIF state bowl games.

A Paly victory on Friday also could knock the Bells out of consideration for the Division I state bowl game, thus opening the door for Pleasant Grove (12-1) of Elk Grove (near Sacramento).

Boyd, meanwhile, wouldn't mind showing up his friend McHugh, either.

"We have to find a way to stop them," Boyd said.

He could be referring to Bellarmine in general, or the Bells' one-two offensive punch of running back Tim Crawly and McHugh, the Bells' quarterback. Crawley has rushed for a team-leading 1,319 yards on 168 carries while McHugh has carried 155 times for 1,164 yards. The Bells are averaging 337 rushing yards per game.

McHugh is also a threat to throw, with 50 completions in 80 attempts for 782 yards. But, the Bells have a history of running under coach Mike Janda and that's what they'll likely be doing Friday night.

Interestingly enough, both Bellarmine and Palo Alto are averaging an identical 38.4 points a game. Defensively, the Bells are allowing 11.3 points a game while the Vikings are giving up 16.9 per outing.

While McHugh leads his run-oriented attack, Boyd is part of a more-balanced offense that has been successful running and passing during another standout season under veteran coach Earl Hansen, the winningest football coach in Paly history.

Senior running back Dre Hill has rushed for 1,073 yards on 171 carries while Boyd has caught 34 passes for 1,053 yards. Paly sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst has completed 106 of 201 passes for 2,049 yards and 26 touchdowns.

As a point of comparison, last year's starting Paly QB Christoph Bono had thrown for 2,281 yards and 26 TDs after 12 games.

Chryst could be the wild card in Friday's game, if the Bells' defense is as successful in stopping the run as it was in last weekend's 29-0 semifinal victory over Mitty. The Monarchs, who handed Palo Alto a 27-21 loss in Week 2 of the season, were held to 120 rushing yards by Bellarmine.

Chryst threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-23 semifinal victory over St. Francis. He also ran for a score in his best performance in a big game. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 230 yards in the loss to Mitty when the Monarchs focused on stopping Paly's run game.

Bellarmine, by the way, also handed Mitty a 28-19 loss during the West Catholic Athletic League season. The only other team the Vikings and Bells played was St. Francis —Bellarmine beat the Lancers 40-23.

Thus, it will be Bellarmine's run game against Paly's balanced attack plus two stout defenses that are good in stopping the run. While the Vikings blew out the Bells, 35-0, in last season's CCS Open Division semifinals, Friday's showdown shouldn't be as lopsided.

After Palo Alto and Bellarmine meet for a third time in the CCS playoffs, Menlo-Atherton and Serra will square off the first time ever in the postseason in the Division I championship game on Saturday at Terra Nova High in Pacifica at 3 p.m.

The top-seeded Padres are 10-2 while the No. 2-seeded Bears are 9-3. Both will rely on their running games in seeking the section title.

Menlo-Atherton last won a CCS crown in 2008 after winning its first in 2002. Serra, meanwhile, will be looking to end a 21-year drought after last winning a CCS title in 1990.

The Bears bring a 12-10 postseason mark into the finale while the Padres are just 10-10, even though they will be favored on Saturday.

Both teams bring run-first offenses into the game. Serra is led by the one-two punchy of Erich Wilson (202 carries for 1,990 yards) and Eric Redwood (190 for 1,192 yards), while Menlo-Atherton is paced by seniors Taylor Mashack (91 for 1,014) and Cameron Moody (113 for 1,001).

Moody (230 yards) and Mashack (151 yards) combined for 381 in last week's 49-14 throttling of Salinas in the semifinals.

The Bears have two other weapons in quarterback Willy Fonua (79 of 183 for 1,489 yards and 12 TDs) and placekicker Sam Falkenhagen, who ranks third on the team in scoring with 61 points. In a close game, Falkenhagen will give the Bears an edge with his field-goal range.

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