The Palo Alto Knights will have two opportunities to have teams compete for a national championship after the Jr. Pee Wees and Pee Wees both won football playoff games during the weekend.
The Junior Pee Wees (age 9-11) remained unbeaten (10-0) with a 28-0 triumph over the Oak Grove Central Rage on a rainy afternoon at Palo Alto High. The Pee Wees (11-12), meanwhile, rallied from an opening-play touchdown and halftime deficit to post a 28-14 victory over the Antelope Longhorns at Grant High in Sacramento on Saturday.
One more victory by each Palo Alto team this weekend in the NorCal Championships will send them to the American Youth Football League National Championships, hosted by Under Armour the week of December 4-10 in Orlando, Fla. If either team is successful this Saturday, it will be the eighth time in 12 years that a Palo Alto Knights' team has advanced to the national championships.
The Junior Pee Wees will play Oak Grove South (9-1) on Saturday at noon at McClymonds High in Oakland. The Knights beat Oak Grove, 18-17, earlier in the season. The Pee Wees also will play a team from Oak Grove South at 2 p.m., also at McClymonds High. Oak Grove handed the Knights a 28-0 loss earlier this season.
The Knights' Jr. Pee Wee's continued their journey toward a possible appearance in the national finals with their third straight playoff victory. Palo Alto was led by running back A.J. Julian, who had 147 yards rushing and touchdown runs of 54 and 23 yards. The Knights took an 8-0 halftime lead after quarterback Jack Devine threw a 24-yard pass to Josh Brigel on a fourth-and-11 play just before the half.
The third quarter belonged to the Knights, as well, as Julian scored twice and Lee Howard scored on a 38-yard run. The Knights' defense led by linebacker Ethan Stern, defensive end Jordan Schilling, defensive back Brigel and linemen Jamie Cullen, Sione Latu, Ryan Mitra and Louie Marzano as Palo Alto recorded its eighth shutout of the season.
The Pee Wees rallied from their early deficit as Victor Sanchez scored on a 50-yard run and Flynn Thompson ran another in from 26 yards out to get to within a point at halftime. The Knights opened the second half with a 60-yard scoring drive. Outstanding blocks by Christian Rider and Doran Finlay freed Sanchez for his second touchdown, a 22-yard run that gave the Knights a 20-14 lead.
Palo Alto's defense stiffened in the third quarter behind the aggressive play of Quinton Valenti, Stefan Lonsky, and Tench Coxe. The fourth quarter featured a time-consuming 68-yard drive that was highlighted by the blocking of Pete Snodgrass, Alec Cohen-Schisler, Greg Eum and David Tayeri. Sanchez capped the drive with a TD option pass to Nils Klovdahl.