By Ken Wattana
Special to Palo Alto Online Sports
In the 45th annual matchup between crosstown rivals, the Palo Alto Vikings (2-0, 5-0) stretched their winning streak over the Gunn Titans (0-1, 3-2) to eight years with a dominant 49-14 win at Hod Ray Field on Friday night in SCVAL De Anza Division football action.
Rivalry games bring a whole different level of competition to the playing field and this year's game was no exception. With legacy and an important division victory on the line, both teams came to play in a game filled with offensive fireworks.
In the past seven meetings between the two teams, the Vikings had won by an average of 37-8. But, from kickoff, the Titans made it clear they had no intention of letting Paly walk off the field with another easy victory. Gunn came in hot after scoring a school record 56 points against Cupertino last week, while Paly notched a solid 28-15 win over Wilcox.
The Titans caught Palo Alto off guard on the third play of the game, silencing the home crowd with a deep 50-yard pass play from senior quarterback Anthony Cannon to senior wideout Matt Mertz. With 9:50 left in the quarter, Cannon tossed a 15-yard touchdown to Mertz to make it 7-0.
The touchdown marked the first time since a 50- yard touchdown pass from Tucker Laurence to Kevin Gordon in 2004 that gave Gunn a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter that the Titans had led Palo Alto in a game. Gunn also has the distinction of having the largest lead of any of Palo Alto's opponents this year as the 5-0 Vikings had never trailed by more than two points in their previous games.
The Vikings started well on their next drive, with senior quarterback Christoph Bono hitting junior fullback Dre Hill on a 15-yard pass. Bono was 8-of-12 for 165 yards and three touchdowns. However, consecutive penalties pushed Paly back, negating several big gains and eventually the Vikings were forced to punt.
Gunn couldn't get anything going on offense as the Vikings locked down and forced a punt. Paly junior running back B.J. Boyd took the ball 24 yards around the outside on the next Palo Alto possession to get things going. The Vikings were running at will when Hill ran 14 yards up the middle before capping the scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run to make it 7-7. Hill rushed for 118 yards on 11 carries and had three touchdowns.
On the next possession, the Titans fumbled the ball away and Boyd shook off tacklers on the first play from scrimmage – exploding to the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown run. Boyd ran for a career-high 121 yards on eight carries, following a strong two-touchdown performance against Wilcox last week.
From then on, the Vikings took control of the game and never looked back. Gunn struggled on offense, running mostly quarterback draws and scrambles with some short pass plays mixed in and was regularly forced to punt.
Paly senior wide receiver Davante Adams had a 14-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, throwing a nasty juke to cut between two Gunn defenders and accelerate to the end zone, padding the Viking lead at 21-7. Both teams traded possessions until senior wideout Maurice Williams scored with just 11.6 seconds remaining in the half. On the first play after a Titans' punt, Williams took a handoff on a reverse from Bono and used some shifty moves to leave defenders lying on the turf around him before he displayed his track speed to burn down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown.
The second half was all Paly with Hill taking a sweep 50 yards for a touchdown to put the Vikings up 35-7. Williams showcased more of his elusive manuevers to make a short pass a big gain and a touchdown as he once again torched Gunn defenders for a 47-yard touchdown. Bono lofted a deep pass to Adams at the end of the third quarter to get Paly in the red zone and the Vikings punched in another score to make it 49-7.
Gunn finally got on the board again when senior running back Josh Jackson caught a pass in the end zone with 4:18 left in the game. Cannon finished with 10 completions in 20 attempts for 177 yards.
The Paly defense did a good job of containing the athletic Jackson, who ran for 156 yards and three touchdowns last week against Cupertino and 202 yards and two TDs a week earlier. Stanford-bound senior defensive end Kevin Anderson of Paly had two sacks on the day.
The victory was a measure of revenge for Bono, who was knocked out for the season last year with a broken clavicle that he sustained against Gunn. The Vikings now lead in the all-time series 33-13.
Palo Alto has a tough away game next Friday week against perennial league rival Los Gatos at 7:30 p.m., in a game that will go a long way in deciding the division title. Gunn will play host to Saratoga at 7:30 p.m.