The field will be filled with familiar faces when the Palo Alto High football team begins its postseason journey on Friday by hosting Mitty in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs at 7 p.m.
Speaking of familiar, this will be a rematch of a Sept. 17 meeting in the second week of the season when Palo Alto posted a 20-7 nonleague victory. A lot has happened since then.
Palo Alto is now 10-0 and the No. 1 seed in the Open Division while Mitty is 6-3-1 after winning five straight. The Vikings haven't started this well since going 10-0 in 1950 and last week were ranked No. 18 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
Palo Alto remains the No. 1-ranked team in the CCS this week, the first time the Vikings have gone two consecutive weeks in that position.
A victory in the first round could mean a matchup with either No. 5 Bellarmine or No. 4 Oak Grove in the semifinals. The Vikings lost to the Bells in last season's CCS opener and beat Oak Grove for the Open Division title in 2006. Should Paly get all the way to the finals, it could face Palma, the team the Vikings defeated in the 2006 semifinals.
Joining Palo Alto in its postseason excursion will be Menlo-Atherton, Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo School.
Menlo-Atherton (4-6) snagged the No. 8 seed in Division I thanks to a 34-27 victory over visiting Woodside on Saturday. The Bears will visit No. 1 seed Piedmont Hills (8-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. Woodside finished its season 1-9.
Woodside did its best to keep M-A from the postseason, but the Bears recovered an onside kick by the Wildcats and ran out the final 54 seconds to secure the victory.
Woodside got two touchdowns from Andrew Tamilau to grab a 14-0 lead, but the Bears responded to the challenge with a potent rushing attack that ground out 283 yards. Junior Sakalia led M-A with 12 carries for 108 yards with Taylor Mashack adding 104 yards. Both scored touchdowns.
Cameron Moody caught a touchdown pass, ran for a touchdown and finished with 75 yards rushing and 25 receiving. He also had an 83-yard run called back by a penalty. Sam Falkenhagen booted field goals of 33 and 44 yards.
Woodside scored on a 99-yard kickoff return to get to within 27-21 with barely eight minutes left to play. The Bears responded with a final drive that resulted in a four-yard TD run by Moody for the eventual winning points.
The CCS Division IV playoffs will open Saturday for Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo School, but only the Gators will be riding momentum into the postseason following a 35-7 romp over the Knights in the annual Valpo Bowl last Saturday at Sequoia High.
The victory locked up a No. 2 seed for Sacred Heart Prep (8-2), which will host No. 7 Seaside (6-4) on Saturday in a CCS opener at 1 p.m. The loss relegated Menlo (7-3) to a No. 6 seed, which means a trip to No. 3 San Lorenzo Valley (9-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Should SHP and Menlo win their openers, they'll meet in the semifinals like they did last season when Menlo reached the division title game with a 20-14 win.
The Gators, however, appear to have the upper hand this season with their vaunted rushing attack. Tyler McCool (119), Colin Terndrup (112) and Pedro Robinson (105) all surpassed 100 yards on Saturday to take back the Valparaiso Cup, annually awarded to the regular-season winner of this game.
Sacred Heart Prep averaged 6.4 yards for its 54 carries, with Robinson scoring twice. Terndrup, meanwhile, raised his season rushing total to 1,119 yards. Tomas O'Donnell caught a 57-yard TD pass from John Geary that gave SHP a 21-0 lead.
Menlo got a season-high 171 yards on six catches from Tim Benton and 246 passing yards from Robert Wickers, who completed only 12 of 32 attempts and tossed three interceptions while being sacked six times.
Menlo also was limited to just 37 yards rushing, as an injury to two-way lineman Brad Eckert seemed to hurt the Knights.
CENTRAL COAST SECTION FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
No. 8 Mitty (6-3-1) at No. 1 Palo Alto (10-0), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Bellarmine (8-2) at No. 4 Oak Grove (8-2), 7 p.m.
No. 7 St. Francis (6-3-1) vs. No. 2 Palma (9-0-1) at Salinas Sports Complex, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Serra (6-3-1) at No. 3 Valley Christian (9-1), 7 p.m.
No. 8 Menlo-Atherton (4-6) at No. 1 Piedmont Hills (8-2), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Salinas (6-3-1) at No. 4 Milpitas (6-3-1), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Independence (8-2) at No. 3 San Benito (6-4), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Homestead (6-4) at No. 2 Santa Teresa (7-3), 1 p.m.
No. 5 Greenfield (9-1) at No. 4 Half Moon Bay (7-3), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Menlo (7-3) at No. 3 San Lorenzo Valley (9-1), 1 p.m.
No. 7 Seaside (6-4) at No. 2 Sacred Heart Prep (8-2), 1 p.m.
No. 8 King's Academy (6-4) at No. 1 Carmel (9-1), 1 p.m.