Palo Alto can
after 6-0 start
After six games and six victories, by an average of 22 points per outing, Palo Alto football coach Earl Hansen can finally say: "The harder part of our schedule is over."
The two biggest roadblocks of any season — Wilcox and Los Gatos — have been swept aside. The Vikings beat the Chargers, 28-15, and the Wildcats, 42-0 last Friday.
The victory over Los Gatos was Paly's best of the season and, most likely, the best ever against the Wildcats. The triumph marked the first time the Vikings have ever beaten the Wildcats by such a lopsided margin and is the first time ever Paly has blanked Los Gatos in the 21 times the teams have met. Los Gatos holds a 17-4 edge in the series.
Palo Alto improved to 3-0 in league and 6-0 overall, setting the stage for potentially finishing the regular season with a 10-0 record for the first time since 1950. The last time the Vikings finished unbeaten was in 1963, a 9-0 campaign.
Such a perfect finish would set the stage for an appearance in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, where Paly has won before. Yet, the Vikings could establish another first by reaching the postseason and finishing the season with only one loss.
The ultimate first, of course, would be sweeping through the postseason and then winning the state playoffs. But, it's too soon to be discussing things like that.
Palo Alto has to travel on Friday night to face host Milpitas (1-2, 3-2-1) in a fairly important SCVAL De Anza Division contest at 7:30 p.m.
Head-to-head matchups show that Palo Alto should have no problem with the Trojans, who have lost to Los Gatos (23-6) and Wilcox (35-17) while the Vikings beat those teams by a combined 70-15. Milpitas is averaging just 91 yards rushing per game and 149.3 passing. Sammy Fanua, with 334, is the only Milpitas running back with more than 62 yards rushing this season.
Palo Alto proved last weekend that it could stop an offense with a one-back attack. Los Gatos had Garret Zeiter, who had gained 453 yards in the two games prior to facing Paly. The Vikings limited him to just 70 yards on 19 carries.
Los Gatos (2-1, 3-2-1) was held to just 164 total yards, 69 coming on rushing. Hansen said his defensive tackles, Nathan Hubbard and Sam Moses, held their ground and didn't allow Los Gatos any running room inside.
Palo Alto knew Zeiter was the key Los Gatos player to stop since quarterback Hayden Hibberd was not a threat to throw. He finished 4-of-14 with three interceptions for 95 yards. T.J. Braff had two of the interceptions while Williams had the other.
"It was easier than it has been," Hansen said of the game's preparation.
Palo Alto's defense, which is allowing just 8.5 points a game, was led by defensive ends Kevin Anderson and Tori Prati, the aforementioned tackles, plus linebackers Will Glazier, Morris Gates-Mouton and Michael Cullen. Anderson, Prati and Cullen all had sacks while Bill Gray recovered a fumble. The Paly defensive backs were pretty good, too.
Palo Alto was just as impressive on offense.
"They (Los Gatos) had no answer whatsoever," Hansen said. "They didn't know whether we were going to run or throw. We have balance."
Palo Alto is averaging 174.2 passing yards and 172.7 rushing yards per game. Against Los Gatos, the Vikings finished with 449 total yards against the second-best team in the De Anza Division, gaining 256 on the ground and 193 through the air as senior QB Christoph Bono completed 14 of 24. It was the Vikings' best overall showing this season and its most balanced.
"I thought it was an overall win," Hansen said.
Paly's backfield tandem of juniors B.J. Boyd (12 for 127 yards) and Dre Hill (10 for 89) continues to impress and improve. Hill scored on runs of nine and two yards while Boyd tallied on a 49-yard rumble.
Paly's receiving corps also did a number on the Wildcats as Maurice Williams caught a 25-yard TD pass to open the scoring while Davante Adams latched on to touchdown passes of eight and 46 yards to close it. Adams had eight receptions for 116 yards to boost his season totals to 31 catches for 446 yards.
Should Palo Alto get past Milpitas, the Vikings can clinch no worse than a tie for the division crown by beating visiting Homestead on Oct. 29. Paly may have to wait until the final game of the regular season, Nov. 12 at Saratoga, to win the league crown outright.