By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Palo Alto football team probably figured it would have to wait until the final game of the regular season to successfully defend its SCVAL De Anza Division championship. Actually, the Vikings probably won't have to wait that long.
Thanks to Saratoga's 21-17 upset of Los Gatos last Friday, Palo Alto can clinch no worse than a tie for division crown with a victory over visiting Homestead this Friday night.
"Sounds good to me," said Paly coach Earl Hansen.
It will be perhaps appropriate that the Vikings can clinch in their Homecoming game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Saratoga's upset was totally unexpected because the Falcons had lost to Los Gatos for 22 straight years, a streak of 28 consecutive regular-season losses. The Falcons had last beaten the Wildcats, 10-0, in the 1987 CCS Division 1-3A playoffs.
The loss dropped the Wildcats to 2-2 in league (3-3-1 overall) while the Falcons improved to 2-1 (5-2) and remained mathematically alive for a possible co-title.
Saratoga can even do better than that. If the Falcons win their final three games against Wilcox, Milpitas and Palo Alto, they would finish 5-1 in league (8-2 overall) and win the title outright.
A win by Palo Alto on Friday, coupled with a Saratoga loss against visiting Wilcox that same night, will give the Vikings the outright championship. Saratoga and Palo also could wind up in a tie for the crown.
Palo Alto will take a 4-0 division mark (7-0 overall) into the Homestead game. The Vikings are three wins away from a 10-0 record. The last time Paly finished that way was 1950. The team's last unbeaten season (9-0) came in 1963.
"I've never been 10-0,"Hansen said. "That would be great -- 13-0 would be even better."
A 13-0 record would mean winning the Central Coast Section Open Division title, which likely would include a game against unbeaten Valley Christian. Paly already has beaten Mitty, which routed St. Francis last weekend, 42-14. Bellarmine, which eliminated Paly from the Open Division playoffs last season, also is another possible opponent this postseason.
Speaking of the Open Division, Palo Alto would have to win it to be considered for the CIF State Bowl championship. De La Salle is the prohibitive favorite for the Open Division state finals, so Paly could go in Division I while Grant (Sacramento), ranked ahead of Paly in Northern California, would go to Division II based on its enrollment.
While Palo Alto is the only local football team that can wrap up a championship this week, a handful of other teams can do the same.
In boys' water polo, Menlo School (4-0, 12-7) can wrap up its 15th straight PAL Bay Division title -- 17th in the past 18 years -- on Wednesday by beating visiting Burlingame at 2 p.m.
In girls' water polo, Menlo-Atherton (4-0, 12-7) can defend its PAL Bay Division crown by beating host Aragon on Wednesday, also at 2 p.m. Sacred Heart Prep (18-1) can put the finishing touches on a 6-0 regular-season championship in the West Catholic Athletic League by beating host Mitty on Thursday (3:30 p.m.).
In girls' tennis, Menlo School (7-0, 14-5) can win its 17th straight league title by beating host Sacred Heart Prep on Tuesday and host Notre Dame-San Jose on Wednesday, both at 3:30 p.m. The Knights then can improve their league dual-match record to 178-0 since 1994 by defeating visiting Harker on Thursday (3:30 p.m.).
Victories over Sacred Heart Prep and NDSJ will give Menlo coach Bill Shine a 350-59 record in his 15th season with the Knights.
In girls' volleyball, Gunn can clinch no worse than a tie for the SCVAL El Camino Division title on Thursday. The Titans (9-0, 21-4) will visit Lynbrook in the SCVAL El Camino Division.