By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Beau Nichols wore a cast, painted blue, over his broken right hand. His teammates weren't sure he would be able to play in Friday's crucial PAL Ocean Division football contest.
He did play, and nearly put Menlo School on his back in a disappointing 14-13 loss to visiting Jefferson High.
Nichols gained 137 yards on 16 carries, scored on runs of one and 67 yards, returned a kickoff 26 yards, caught two passes for 24 yards and broke up a pass on one of his rare defensive plays.
"We knew he would play as of two days ago but would be severely limited," Knights' senior lineman Brad Eckert said. "We moved the ball on offense the whole day. In the end, it turned into a case of too many turnovers."
Menlo (2-1, 5-2) scored the game's first 13 points, all in the first 15 minutes of the contest, and it looked like it might turn into a rout. Instead, a series of fumbles and interceptions kept the Knights from taking advantage of its explosive offense. Five turnovers, in all, spoiled what could have been an important victory.
Instead it was Jefferson (3-0, 6-1) who celebrated its move into sole possession of first place in the Ocean Division.
The Knights had their five-game winning streak end, but it didn't end their postseason hopes.
"We have to use this as motivation," Eckert said. "After we lost our first game we won five in a row. Now we have to refocus again and do the same thing."
Nichols moved closer to matching J.B. Barnett for Menlo School's career points leader. He needs a touchdown to tie Barnett's 242 points.
"They have a good line and we have a good line," Eckert said. "They battled and we battled. Turnovers ruined it."
Robert Wickers passed for 139 yards, completing 10 of his 28 passes. Tim Benton caught eight passes for 115 yards.
Menlo had a final chance after taking over on its own three-yard line with 1:18 remaining to play. Wickers and Benton connected for a 25-yard gain on the first play, but a Jefferson defensive back stepped in front of Benton and picked off a pass to end the Knights' chances for a comeback.
"He was a good quarterback," Jefferson's Cheyenne Meafua said. "I think our defensive backs just stayed disciplined."
Menlo, which lost to Jefferson for the first time in eight years, hopes to rebound against host Woodside next Friday night at 7 p.m. The Knights also have a home game against South San Francisco and the annual Valpo Bowl game against Sacred Heart Prep.
Palo Alto 35, at Milpitas 0
Senior quarterback Christoph Bono completed 14 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns to lead the unbeaten Vikings to another impressive victory on Friday night.
The Vikings improved to 4-0 in the SCVAL De Anza Division (7-0 overall) and are just three victories away from their first perfect regular season since 1963 and their first 10-0 campaign since 1950.
Palo Alto moved to within a victory of clinching no worse than a tie for the division title after Saratoga upset Los Gatos, 21-17. The Wildcats fell to 2-2 (3-3-1), giving Paly a two-game lead with two to play. Any combination of a Paly victory and Saratoga loss will give the Vikings no worse than a title tie.
Bono threw touchdown passes of 10 yards to Michael Cullen, 68 yards to Davante Adams, 59 yards to Maurice Williams, and 27 to Adams to close the scoring. B.J. Boyd opened it with a 22-yard TD jaunt to finish off an 11-play, 81-yard drive in the first quarter. He finished with 83 yards on nine carries.
Adams took advantage of double coverage on Williams to break free for seven catches for a season-high 184 yards.
Palo Alto rushed for 194 yards and passed for 299 for 493 total yards. Milpitas was held to just 22 yards on the ground and 59 passing for 81 total yards, Paly's best defensive statistical effort of the season.
Palo Alto will host Homestead next Friday (7:30 p.m.) in its Homecoming game, giving the Vikings a chance to win the division title outright.
At Homestead 43, Gunn 28
It looked like a long night for the Titans (0-3, 3-4) after falling behind by two touchdowns to the host Mustangs in a SCVAL De Anza Division game on Friday night. Gunn, however, battled back and made it an entertaining game before finally succumbing.
"We could have thrown in the towel early," said Gunn coach Bob Sykes. "But our guys battled back. I'm really proud of the way they hung in there and made a game of it."
Gunn got in a hole quickly as the opening kickoff was returned 90 yards for a touchdown by Robbie Graham. After Gunn went three and out, Homestead went right down the field to make the score 14-0 when Shaquille Green scored from five yards out just five minutes into the game.
Rather than fold, the Titans battled back. Josh Jackson scored on a 23-yard run to make it 14-7. After Paul Blanchette recovered his own onside kick to give Gunn the ball at the Homestead 48, Jackson scored five plays later from the 25 to tie the game.
Unfortunately for the Titans, Graham returned the kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to give Homestead a 20-14 lead. A field goal made it 23-14 at the half.
An interception led to another Homestead score to start the third period, but Gunn battled back as Anthony Cannon hooked up with Jackson on a 32-yard scoring play to make it 30-20 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
Homestead (2-1, 6-1), however, added a pair of TD runs before Cannon scored from five yards out for the final points. Gunn will host Milpitas next Friday at 7:30 p.m.