Fourth-seeded Palo Alto and No. 5 seed Serra, however, will meet for the first time in the postseason on Friday night in the first round of the CCS Open Division playoffs on the Vikings' field. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
The winner will advance to the semifinals next weekend at Independence High in San Jose at 7 p.m. The likely opponent will be No. 1 seed Bellarmine (9-1), which hosts No. 8 Terra Nova in the first round.
Palo Alto and Serra, meanwhile, will match 8-2 records and high-powered offenses that will put the defenses to the test. The Vikings are averaging 41.5 points a game, which ranks No. 4 in the CCS this season, while the Padres are averaging 36.1 points a contest. Both defenses, coincidently, are holding opponents to 19.1 points a game.
Serra comes in averaging 332 rushing yards a game and only 50.7 through the air, which pretty much sums up what the Padres plan to do Friday. Palo Alto head coach Earl Hansen has faced run-oriented teams before — like Bellarmine — and has had mixed results in stopping them.
"They (Serra) run that same double wing that Bellarmine does," said Hansen. "They just get their running back in behind the big linemen and go."
The Padres will bank on senior running back Eric Redwood to carry their hopes. He's carried 172 times for 1,309 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"He's not overly fast," Hansen said of Redwood. "But, their linemen are big and strong."
Serra comes into the game following an upsetting 24-0 loss to St. Francis last Saturday.
"They didn't play well," Hansen said of the Padres. "They just go flat out beat. St. Francis played great defense. Redwood had around 100 yards (107), but tons of carries (27). St. Francis came out throwing and didn't stop."
Interestingly enough, neither team generated much yardage. The Lancers rushed for only 37 yards and finished with 244 total yards. The Padres passed for only 57 yards and finished with 273 total. Defense and turnovers proved to be the difference as St. Francis picked off three passes and recovered a fumble.
"In close games like this one," said Hansen, "we can't make mistakes, like we did against Milpitas."
Paly lost its SCVAL De Anza Division opener to Milpitas, 24-19, in a game that saw junior quarterback Keller Chryst throw five interceptions and senior wideout Malcolm Davis drop an wide-open touchdown pass. In Paly's only other loss, to Mitty, the Vikings missed an extra point and gave up a 99-yard kickoff return in a 28-27 nonleague decision. Take away one mistake in each game and Palo Alto could be sitting at 10-0.
The Vikings, to their credit, recovered from those setbacks. Since the loss to Milpitas, Paly has won six straight. One more win will give the Vikings a record of 100-25-2 in the past 10 seasons for an average of 10 wins per year.
Palo Alto is averaging 46.8 points during its win streak and has scored more points in 10 games (415) than its state championship team did in 2010 when it produced 323 before running the table in the postseason to finish 14-0. Even last season's team, with B.J. Boyd, scored only 402 points after the first 10 games.
Clearly, the Vikings have reloaded instead of rebuilding. It starts with Chryst, who has completed 123 of 240 passes for 2,278 yards and 26 touchdowns with 11 interceptions while averaging 227.8 yards per game. Senior Jayshawn Gates-Mouton has caught 33 passes for 678 yards and junior Malcolm Davis has 32 receptions for 666 yards. Senior Matt Tolbert leads the run game with 1,061 yards on 139 hauls and 12 touchdowns while Justin Gates-Mouton has added 454 yards on 49 carries with five TDs.
"As long as we give Keller time, he's so accurate that we'll score."
The twins — Jayshawn and Justin — have been sick, however, but were expected back to practice on Wednesday. Jayshawn is arguably the fastest player on the team, and in most games. He ran on the Vikings' record-setting 400-meter relay team that reached the finals of the CIF State Track and Field Championships last spring.
Jayshawn and Justin also double as cornerbacks, with Jayshawn picking off two passes during a 56-21 win over Santa Clara last Friday that gave the Vikings the De Anza Division title and berth into the Open Division.
"They've done very well," Hansen said of the twins. "They're also great dancers in the locker room."
Whether there's any dancing after Friday's game will be determined by how the Vikings meet Serra's challenge.
The key, Hansen said, is "not to let them control the clock." That means no lengthy 10-15 play drives.
"If they do that consistently," Hansen added, "we're in trouble."
A defensive line that includes senior Spencer Drazovich, junior Jack Anderson, junior Justin Rittman, junior Pedro Gomez, senior De'Antay Williams and senior Larry Allen will play a key role in controlling the line of scrimmage. If the Vikings can do that, it's on to the semifinals and a rematch with defending champion Bellarmine.
In other CCS openers Friday, No. 4-seeded Menlo-Atherton (6-4) will host No. 5 Sequoia (8-2) in Division I play and No. 4 Menlo School (8-2) will take on No. 5 Monte Vista Christian (8-2) of Watsonville in Division IV action at Sequoia High. Both games are at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, No. 2 Sacred Heart Prep (9-1) will host No. 7 Pacific Grove (7-3) at 1 p.m.
For Menlo-Atherton and Menlo, first-round wins will earn them semifinal games with top-seeded teams — Milpitas (7-3) for the Bears and Seaside (10-0) for the Knights. The Gators have a potentially easier route with No. 3 Carmel (9-1) providing a test in the semifinals.
Menlo opens the postseason as the No. 1 scoring team in the CCS with 49.7 points a game while Sacred Heart Prep is the top defensive squad, allowing just nine points a contest — despite giving up 28 points to Menlo last week in the Gators' 31-28 victory in the Valparaiso Bowl.
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