By Ken Wattana
Special to Palo Alto Online Sports
The top-seeded Palo Alto football team extended its undefeated season (11-0) for at least another week with a thrilling 13-10 win over visiting Archbishop Mitty in a Central Coast Section Open Division opener on Friday night.
Battling a steady downpour, senior quarterback Christoph Bono led the game-winning drive with the Vikings down by 10-6, needing a touchdown to keep their section title hopes alive.
Getting the ball back with under two minutes left in the game, Paly steadily moved down the field with a balanced combination of runs and passes. With under a minute left to play, Paly made its way inside the 20, but couldn't break through the defense -- eventually bringing up a pass situation on third-and-goal.
However, Bono held on to the ball too long and was sacked for a big loss, making it fourth-and-21. The Vikings needed a touchdown or face elimination. With the season on the line, Bono took the snap, dropped back and looked to his left, spotting his favorite target of the night, senior wideout Davante Adams. Lofting a deep ball to the corner of the end zone, Bono could only watch as Adams elevated to make the clinching catch with 35 seconds left in the game.
"I was a little upset about possession before," Bono said. "I should have just thrown it away. But, it gave us space to make that play. I just put everything out of my mind and let it rip."
Despite throwing three interceptions on the night and struggling to establish the passing game, Bono made the big throw when it counted.
"It was the best throw ever and the greatest catch I've ever made," said Adams, who had five catches for 78 yards. "With the people we have, we can make anything happen. I know he had the confidence to make the throw and I was waiting for it."
Eighth-seeded Mitty (6-4-1) had one last possession, but Paly defensive back Gabe Landa made an interception and allowed the Vikings to run out the clock.
The first-round playoff match was an ugly defensive battle as both teams looked to their running game with the rain making passing difficult. Mitty got on the board first after quarterback Kyle Boehm weathered two consecutive sacks and took off on fourth-and-19 for a 24-yard touchdown run that caught Paly by surprise with 5:25 left in the first half.
The two teams then traded turnovers, Bono throwing a pick and Boehm fumbling the ball away before Bono showed that he too has some athleticism. Seeing no open receivers, Bono kept the ball for a shifty 45-yard touchdown dash with 46 seconds left in the half. However, the Vikings fumbled the snap on the PAT and went to the locker rooms trailing, 7-6.
After a scoreless third, Mitty drove down the field, pounding the ball on the ground and tacking on a field goal with 8:46 remaining. On the next possession, senior wideout Maurice Williams started things off well with a 44-yard kickoff return, but Bono promptly threw an interception. Paly's defense, however, kept the Vikings in the game as they kept Mitty out of the endzone and gave the offense one last chance to win the game.
Both teams struggled to move the ball and were plagued with turnovers. Bono had two fumbles to go with his three picks while Boehm had three fumbles. Junior fullback Dre Hill led the Vikings with 85 yards on 10 carries. Bono was 8-of-13 for 92 yards through the air in addition to rushing for 44 yards.
Palo Alto (and the weather) limited Mitty to a minus-3 yards passing and 106 yards rushing. Paly finished with 247 total yards, 155 coming on the ground.
Michael Cullen had 11 tackles and T.J. Braff added 10 while Kevin Anderson and Tori Prati each had a sack, with Prati recovering a fumble to spark Paly's fine defensive effort.
Paly will play No. 5 seed Bellarmine (9-2) at San Jose City College this Friday at 7 p.m. The Bells crushed No. 4 Oak Grove on Friday night, 38-6.