Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - November 29, 2013

There's little postseason history

Palo Alto, M-A and SHP head into semifinals against 'new' foes

by Keith Peters

For three local football teams, the semifinals of the Central Coast Section playoffs offer up opponents with familiar names but little history in postseason play.

When No. 3-seeded Menlo-Atherton (8-3) visits No. 2 Los Gatos (8-3) on Friday night in Division II action at 7 p.m., it will be only the first time the teams have met in section play.

The same goes for top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (10-1) in Division IV. The Gators will be playing No. 5 Monterey 8-3) for the first time in the postseason when they meet Saturday in Atherton at 1 p.m.

Palo Alto (6-5), meanwhile, will take its No. 5 seed to Mountain View on Friday night (7 p.m.) to face top-seeded St. Francis (8-3). The teams have played a combined total of 131 postseason games, but have met just once before — in 2011 when the Vikings posted a 39-23 victory to reach the finals.

Palo Alto is in the midst of its worst season since 2002, when the Vikings finished 5-5 and lost to Gunn by a 40-19 count. Paly didn't put together back-to-back wins until last weekend in its 54-24 romp over host Leland to open the playoffs.

Senior quarterback Keller Chryst threw for 271 yards and five touchdowns in only three quarters as the Vikings advanced. He completed 15 of 19 passes with no interceptions. Eight of his completions went to Keesean Johnson for 191 yards and three TDs. Johnson also scored on a 55-yard punt return. Malcolm Davis scored three times while rushing 14 times for 107 yards. Justin Hull came up with two interceptions to spark the defensive effort by Paly.

Should Palo Alto keep its postseason record against St. Francis unblemished, the Vikings will face the winner of Menlo-Atherton and Los Gatos in the championship game on Dec. 7.

The Bears advanced as senior running back Isiah Nash piled up 145 yards on a pair of touchdown pass receptions in a 21-7 first-round victory over visiting Oak Grove.

"This meant the world to us tonight," said Nash, who has 1,756 all-purpose yards on the season. "Our coach told us, 'We can win this and we control our own destiny,' and we came out, had a good week at practice and kept it going in the game."

It wasn't until the third drive of the game that the Bears' offense found a way to crack the Oak Grove defense. That's when senior quarterback Brian Keare found Nash on a swing pass, and the running back took it all the way for a 70-yard touchdown, putting M-A up 7-0 in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Keare connected with Nash again on the same type of play, and he took it for a 75-yard score as the Bears grabbed a 14-0 halftime edge.

The M-A defense gave up a mere 26 rushing yards to Oak Grove and 76 total yards in the first half. The Eagles surrendered six penalties for 32 yards.

"Defense was solid," said senior defensive-end Oliver Bucka. "Overall we held on to the win, and that's what we needed to do."

Oddly enough, Oak Grove had more offensive yards than the Bears and out-rushed M-A 153 to 11 in the game. Nash totaled only 28 yards on the ground — his lowest total in a game all season.

Defensive end Bucka stepped it up for the Bears in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a pass and ran in 17 yards for the score with 1:08 left in the game, putting M-A up for good.

"I saw the ball in the air, reached for it, and finished the play," said Bucka. "I have not had an interception before; this was a cool one."

In a Division IV opener, Sacred Heart Prep grabbed a nine-point halftime lead and rolled to a 35-12 victory over visiting Seaside last Saturday.

The Gators got touchdown runs of 3, 71 and 1 yard from senior Andrew Segre to lead the way. Segre carried 29 times for 190 yards. Senior Ricky Grau added a five-yard run in the third quarter and finished with 101 yards on 11 carries while quarterback Cole March finished off No. 8 Seaside (5-6) with a 10-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter as the Gators rushed for 353 yards.

In another Division IV opener, Menlo QB Jack Heneghan was sidelined by injury and the No. 4-seeded Knights (6-5) fell to Monterey, 30-12. Heneghan finished his season with 198 completions in 337 attempts for 2,974 yards and 37 touchdowns, with just nine interceptions.

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