By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Palo Alto High football team will close out its regular season on Friday night at Saratoga. On the surface, it's just a meaningless game, given the fact the Vikings already have clinched the SCVAL De Anza Division title. The regular-season finale, however, is much more than that.
Palo Alto brings a 5-0 division mark and a 9-0 overall record into the 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The last time the Vikings went 9-0 was 1963. Should they emerge with yet another win, as expected, Paly will be 10-0 for the first time since Hod Ray's great team of 1950.
But, there's more. Thanks to Bellarmine (30-27 to Mitty) and Valley Christian (14-7 to St. Francis) suffering upsets last week, Palo Alto has moved into the No. 1 spot in the PrepFeed-Kiefer CCS Top 20 as the only team with a perfect record. Palma has no losses in nine games, but has one tie.
Should Palo Alto beat Saratoga, the Vikings are expected to earn the No. 1 seed for the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, based on projected point totals. If those projections hold true, the Vikings would open against No. 8 (based on points) Bellarmine and have an opportunity to avenge last season's 34-6 blowout loss to the Bells in the opening round, when Bellarmine was No. 5 and Paly No. 4.
Thanks to last week's 42-20 nonleague victory over visiting Mountain View -- highlighted by Dre Hill's 173 yards rushing with two touchdowns and Maurice Williams' four receptions for 100 yards -- Palo Alto was elevated to the No. 2 position in the San Francisco Chronicle Top 25, trailing only perennial NorCal power De La Salle.
Palo Alto also moved up in the Cal-Hi Sports Top 25, as, well, to No. 18 in the state. The Vikings have never been ranked as high as No. 1 in the CCS or No. 18 in the state at this point of any season.
So, what appears to be a meaningless regular-season finale for Palo Alto actually carries all kinds of implications for the postseason. If everything falls into place, the Vikings could face Serra in a CCS semifinal and Valley Christian in the finals.
Palo Alto would have to win the Open Division to have a chance to play in the CIF State Bowl Championship. De La Salle is the likely NorCal invitee in the Open Division while Grant (Sacramento) is projected to go in Division II. That would leave Division I open for the Vikings.
Grant (10-0) is currently ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-High Sports, with De La Salle (9-0) ranked No. 2. California High of San Ramon also is unbeaten (9-0) but has to play De La Salle this week.
Folsom of Northern California is 9-1 but plays Division II. St. Mary's of Stockton (9-1) also is Division II. Both teams could play Grant in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, first must take care of business against Saratoga ((2-3, 5-4), which dropped a 7-0 division game to Milpitas last week. The Vikings suffered six turnovers in the win over Mountain View and need to clean things up this week before heading into the postseason.
The CCS Open Division playoffs begin on either Nov. 19 or 20, with semifinals scheduled for San Jose City College on Nov. 26 or 27th. The championship game will be Friday, Dec. 3 at SJCC at 7 p.m.
Palo Alto has never won more than 12 games in a campaign. This season provides an opportunity to surpass that milestone, as well.