One WCAL team that Paly has never played in the postseason is St. Francis. That, however, will change this weekend when the Vikings and Lancers meet up in the CCS Open Division semifinals on Saturday at San Jose City College at 7 p.m.
The game is so big that the state champion Palo Alto girls' volleyball team switched its NorCal semifinal on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. so not to conflict.
Fourth-seeded PaloAlto (9-2) brings a 21-12 all-time postseason record into the showdown while the No. 8 Lancers (6-5) are 72-18-1 CCS games. St. Francis, in fact, is the winningest team in section playoff history.
The Lancers continued that mastery with a 20-17 upset of top-seeded Oak Grove last weekend to open the playoffs. That certainly opened Paly's door a little wider to the division championship game on Dec. 2 at San Jose CC at 8 p.m.
The Vikings, of course, must beat the Lancers to earn a date with the Mitty-Bellarmine winner. They play in the semifinals on Friday, also at SJCC.
St. Francis is led by quarterback Colin Johnson (77 for 122 for 1,213 yards) and running back Durell Crooks (189 carries for 1,269 yards). If the Vikings can stop either of these two and not turn the ball over like they did last week in a 20-6 first-round win over Leland, Paly could find itself playing for a second straight Open Division title.
Palo Alto overcame some sloppiness on a rainy night last week as senior wideout B.J. Boyd caught two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst to lead the Vikings. Dre Hill added a one-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and finished with 127 yards on 25 carries.
Chryst overcame four interceptions in the first half while dealing with a slippery ball. He was more solid in the second half with his two TD passes, winding up with 169 passing yards while the Paly defense did a standout job by blanking a Leland offense that had been averaging nearly 38 points a game.
Menlo-Atherton will get the CCS semifinals off to an early start when the No. 2-seeded Bears (8-3) play host to No. 6 Salinas (7-4) in Division I action Friday at 1 p.m.
Menlo-Atherton romped past No. 7 Santa Clara (8-3) by a 40-22 count last week while Salinas edged Homestead, 27-26.
Senior running backs Cameron Moody and Taylor Mashack ran for a combined 156 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bears. Moody carried the offense as he ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns. In the third quarter he ran for a 34-yard touchdown to seal the win.
M-A senior quarterback Willy Fonua was effective in the air as he threw for 152 yards on 7 of 11 passes.
Menlo-Atherton took advantage of six Santa Clara turnovers — two being interceptions by M-A safety Austin Clarence, who also had four tackles to lead a quality defense.
In a Division IV opener last Saturday, injury-riddled Sacred Heart Prep survived to play another day as the No. 4-seeded Gators held off No. 5 Scotts Valley, 27-20, in Atherton.
The Gators (8-3) will face No. 1 Palma (9-1-1) on Friday night at the Salinas Sports Complex at 7 p.m. Scotts Valley, which was beaten by the Gators earlier this season but was averaging 53.1 points a game over its past three outings, finished 8-3.
SHP senior quarterback Jack Larson, who had missed the two previous games due to injury, connected with senior Pat Bruni on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 10.5 seconds left to break a 20-20 tie and give the Gators the dramatic victory.
Sacred Heart Prep rallied from a 17-0 second-quarter deficit and got to within 20-14 entering the fourth quarter. Larson and Duke Moran hooked up on a 13-yard TD pass to deadlock the game at 20 as SHP's point-after attempt was blocked. Daver Rafioglu had 114 yards on 15 carries for the Gators while Larson threw for three touchdowns, including a 10-yarder to Ryan Gaertner.
Also in Division IV, Menlo School saw its season end in a big loss to unbeaten Carmel (11-0) in the opening round last Friday at Pacific Grove High. The No. 7-seeded Knights (7-4) gave up 225 rushing yards to Carmel's Devin Pearson, who also threw for 114 more. Menlo sophomore Jack Heneghan threw for 210 yards on 16-of-36 completions and one touchdown, 22 yards to Chris Reed. Connor Statsny had seven catches for 90 yards for Menlo, which fell behind by 34-0.
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