By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
It all began for Kevin Anderson in 2006. He was an eighth-grader at Jordan Middle School and had no idea that his football career was only a year away.
"I wasn't playing then," Anderson recalled. So he attended every Palo Alto High football game that season.
Anderson's older brother, Michael, was a member of Paly's special teams that season so the Anderson family, and friends, made weekly trips to watch the Vikings. As it turned out, they had plenty to see that year.
Palo Alto went 12-1 while winning the Central Coast Section Open Division title, advancing to the Division II state championship game before losing to Orange Lutheran to finish 12-2.
Kevin Anderson attended that final game, with the trip and experience proving special.
"I realized that going down wasn't an every year thing," he recalled. "I didn't appreciate that until I started playing . . . I saw that it was pretty special, and how hard you had to work to get there. That jumped-started my yearning to play football."
Anderson has done a good job tackling the challenges since putting on the pads for the first time in 2007 and being called up to the varsity for the 2008 postseason. He has blossomed into a 6-foot-4, 245-pounder, playing offensive tackle on a unit averaging 30.9 points a game and playing defensive end on a squad allowing just 9.0 points an outing.
Moreover, he has never forgotten his experience from the '06 state finals and pictured himself some day having that opportunity.
"It was definitely a goal, a place I want to be sometime," said Anderson, who has made a verbal commitment to Stanford. "Our goal every year is to play as many games as we can."
Palo Alto has played 12 games thus far and won them all. Only one more victory is separating Anderson from a return trip to the state finals.
The top-seeded Vikings need to beat No. 3 seed Valley Christian (11-1) on Friday night in the CCS Open Division finals at San Jose City College. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Should Paly win and finish 13-0, the Vikings stand a very good chance of being invited to represent Northern California in the Division I state b owl championship game at the Home Depot Center in Carson on Dec. 18.
"Everyone coming in (this season) thought we could be good, but not this good," Anderson said.
It has been a season where everything seemingly has gone right for the Vikings, who have tied a school record for most single-season wins and set one for perfection, having surpassed the 10-0 mark from 1950 and a 9-0 record by the 1963 squad.
Palo Alto has improved from last season's 7-2-2 mark through hard work, dedication and preparation under head coach Earl Hansen.
"We come in and watch film every day at lunch," Anderson said. "And, before and after practice. We probably watch 1 1/2 hours of film a day. That's definitely how we do so well -- there's nothing that surprises us."
Palo Alto certainly was ready for No. 5-seeded Bellarmine last Friday night in the CCS Open Division semifinals. The Bells came in averaging 217 rushing yards per game, but the Vikings' defense allowed just 74 rushing yards total.
"We played more physical," Anderson said. "Everyone played their best game."
Paly continued its impressive playoff run, taking down its second West Catholic Athletic League powerhouse in two weeks after stunning Mitty, 13-10, with a last-second touchdown last week in the quarterfinals.
On Friday, the top-seeded Vikings didn't wait until the last minute. Using two first- quarter special teams' mistakes by the fifth-seeded Bells (9-3), the Vikings took an early lead and never looked back.
Anderson provided a spark on Belllarmine's first series, which ended in a punt -- one that richocheted off his helmet. The Vikings recovered the ball at Bellarmine's 30 and, on the first play from scrimmage, Paly junior running back B.J. Boyd danced around the right tackle and burst into the open field for a touchdown.
Bellarmine lost its starting quarterback, Travis McHugh, to a game-ending injury. That forced the Bells to go with a little-used backup, sophomore Grant Vermeer. Coincidently, Paly played with its backup quarterback in last year's 34-6 first-round loss to the Bells.
Friday's resounding victory more than made up for that seback in 2009.
"The offense got into a rhythm after the first possession," said Paly senior QB Christoph Bono. "After we threw the ball in the first series, the defense went into Cover 2 and we were able to run the ball."
Led by senior linebacker Michael Cullen and Anderson, both of whom had a sack, along with senior safety T.J. Braff, Paly's defense limited Bellarmine's top offensive threat and leading rusher, Kris Olugbode to 80 yards on 16 carries. The rest of the Bells contributed a minus-six yards.
Unable to run effectively, the Bells were forced to throw and were equally ineffective as Vermeer completed just five of 11 passes for 21 yards.
"We watched a lot of film," Braff said. "We looked at their tendencies and swarmed the ball."
Bono was 10 of 16 for 186 yards and two interceptions and two touchdowns. Paly's power running game also was productive with Boyd rushing for 104 yards on 10 carries, while junior fullback Dre Hill pounded out 53 yards on 15 tough carries.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Anderson said. "We wanted a little vengeance for last year. We played unselfish defense and came out on top"
Anderson said the Vikings will need a similar kind of game to beat Valley Christian on Friday night. The Warriors are averaging 38.6 points a game while rushing for 251.7 yards per contest.
Byron Marshall averages 136 rushing yards per game and will draw the attention of Anderson and his defensive teammates.
"We schemed well for Olugbode," Anderson said. "This week we're trying to do the same, trying to stop Marshall."
Anderson is looking for a defensive battle, with he, Cullen and fellow linebackers Will Glazier and Morris Gates-Mouton joining tackles Nathan Hubbard and Chris Martinez along with defensive end Tory Prati in stopping VC.
Should the Warriors go to the air, Braff will be waiting along with Maurice Williams, Davante Adams and Gabe Landa, with Bill Gray filling in at corner.
"If we play our best, I don't think we can lose," Anderson said. "It's pride and effort. Everyone puts in the extra time and has the desire to be better."
Anderson said he read somewhere that it has been a dream season for Palo Alto.
"It's not a dream season," he said, "if you end it with a loss."
(Ken Wattana contributed to this story)