By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The last time Nick Goodspeed walked into the Home Depot Center in Carson, he was wearing a white Palo Alto High football uniform. The occasion was the first-ever state championship game for the Vikings in 2006.
Goodspeed had quarterbacked Paly to a 12-1 record heading into that historic game. The Vikings averaged 35 points a game that season while allowing 16.
Palo Alto, however, faced nationally ranked Orange Lutheran -- most likely Paly's most difficult matchup in school history.
Goodspeed had an outstanding game with 18 completions in 29 attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Palo Alto, however, came away with a 42-28 loss to finish off a 12-2 season.
That mark stood as a school record for most single-season victories until this year. And that's one reason why Goodspeed will be returning to the Home Depot Center on Friday night, this time as a spectator.
"My parents are still big fans," said Goodspeed, who will be traveling with his father, Wick, to the game. "Steve Bono was our quarterbacks coach then and I used to work out during the summer with Christoph. I've known a lot of the guys (on the current team) for awhile."
Plus, Goodspeed said, "It's pretty exciting. If I'm going to be home, I might as well go."
Goodspeed attends Miami University of Ohio and will be getting up very early on Friday morning to fly into San Francisco. He and his dad then will fly to Southern California around 2 p.m., with plenty of time before Palo Alto and Centennial (Corona) kick off the Division I state finals at 7:30 p.m.
Goodspeed has been following Palo Alto's remarkable 13-0 season on a weekly basis this season.
"Usually, my dad keeps me posted," Goodspeed said, "but I'll go online late Friday night (despite a three-hour time difference) to find out what happened."
As the first quarterback in school history to lead the Vikings into the state playoffs, it has been easy for Goodspeed to get caught up in the excitement of this recordbreaking season.
"It's pretty crazy," he said of Paly's 13-0 record. "It's unprecedented at Palo Alto."
Goodspeed recalls how exciting his senior year was, taking a 12-1 record into the state finals. And now, only four years later, another Palo Alto team is making the trip -- and with a better record.
"It's pretty cool what they have accomplished," Goodspeed said.
Goodspeed doesn't know much about Centennial, other than "they're a top-five team in the country. I know they have a good quarterback. This is probably the best team Paly has ever played."
Goodspeed remembers getting on a bus for the Oakland Airport in 2006, and flying south for the game.
"For us, going down there, it was something that was so different than taking a bus to games," he said. "It was kind of a surreal experience."
Goodspeed said he can't imagine what it will be like walking back into the Home Depot Center to experience it all over again. Sort of.
"I think it will be cool," he said. "I tried to soak it all in when I was there the first time. Now I'm going as a fan. I won't be focused like I was for an actual game. I think I'll be able to enjoy all the other things that I couldn't before."
And that could include, perhaps, watching Palo Alto make history with its first-ever state title in football.
Goodspeed won't be the only player from the 2006 team that will be in attendance on Friday. Most, in fact, went on to play college football and some are still playing.
Goodspeed played quarterback for Colorado College before the school gave up the sport and Goodspeed transferred to Miami (Ohio). Defensive end Michael Anderson and tight end Jordan Jefferson moved on to Yale and both are still playing.
Two-way lineman Fred Koloto is still playing at San Jose State, depite an injury-filled career, while Buddy Benaderet finished up his career at Dartmouth this season. Lineman Will Elmore played for Colgate, Chris Stirrat played for Chico State and Mike Scott finished up at Foothill College this season while helping the Owls win the Silicon Valley Bowl.
Lineman John Hall moved on to Boston University on a wrestling scholarship.
While others from the 2006 team did not play in college, it's likely they've been paying attention to the exploits of the current team.
Earlier this season, Palo Alto surpassed 500 wins all-time in school history and a win Friday will give the school 600 wins combined for rugby and football.
And, of course, playing for a state championship is something that can stay with you the rest of your life.
The Paly football team -- along with coaches, trainers and administrators -- boarded two big tour buses at the school on Thursday morning. Parents, cheerleaders and fans surrounded the buses cheering, holding pom poms and sounding air horns as the buses pulled out -- led by three motorcycle police escorts, which led them to the freeway.
The team arrived in Southern California later in the afternoon. The Vikings had their first practice on the field at the Home Depot Center and later ate dinner. On Friday morning, the team was able to sleep in until 10 before eating breakfast. The team then was scheduled to go to a movie.
Back in Palo Alto, groups large and small are set to gather on Friday night all over town. A large group will be at the Old Pro and parents and friends are already e-mailing each other various YouTube highlights of both Paly and Centennial to check out the competition. Family groups are scheduling parties.
The championship game will be televised live by Comcast Sports Net California (cable 721), by Direct TV (699) and can be seen at the Old Pro in downtown Palo Alto.