By Andrew Preimesberger
Palo Alto Online Sports
Sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns and ran for yet another to lead Palo Alto to a convincing 39-23 Central Coast Section Open Division semifinal win over St. Francis of Mountain View Saturday night at San Jose City College.
Fourth-seeded Paly (10-2) moved into the CCS championship game on Dec. 2 -- also to se played at San Jose CC -- against second-seeded Bellarmine (11-1). No. 8 seed St. Francis ended its season at 6-6.
The Vikings started out slowly when Dre Hill fumbled the ball away on the second play of the game. St. Francis took advantage of the miscue to take a 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Durell Crooks. But it would turn out to be the only Lancers' touchdown of the first half.
Palo Alto then corrected itself by scoring four unanswered touchdowns in the first 30 minutes -- two on short passes from Chryst to Jayshawn Gates-Mouton (eight yards) and Austin Braff (five yards) and the other two on short runs by Chryst and Morris Gates-Mouton. The Vikings took a 27-7 lead and a load of confidence into the halftime locker room.
Palo Alto wasted no time getting back on the scoreboard after the break. Senior wide receiver B.J. Boyd, who caught five passes for 95 yards, broke away for a 50-yard touchdown pass from Chryst to put Paly up 33-7, and that was enough to virtually seal the win for his team.
"I told him (Chryst) in the huddle: 'If I get past him, just throw it up there and I'll catch it for you,'" Boyd said.
The Vikings' offense was too strong for the Lancers' defense, piling up 442 yards and scoring six touchdowns. Chryst connected on 16 of his 23 pass attempts. Hill paced the run game with 122 yards.
Paly's defense also was effective, shutting down the Lancers' passing attack and sacking quarterback C.J. Johnson five times -- two by junior linebacker Erik Anderson. The Lancers totaled 222 yards but had only 44 of them through the air; Johnson hit on only four of his 12 pass attempts.
St. Francis senior running back Crooks was his team's most effective offensive weapon, churning out 177 yards and three touchdowns to lead all running backs.
The Vikings now must focus on the highly regarded Bells in the final round of the CCS playoffs next Friday.
"It's a whole different style team," said Paly coach Earl Hansen. "We need to lock down this week and figure that out."