Junior Jose Patino made up for missing an earlier PAT by kicking a 32-yard field goal with 26 seconds to play to lift visiting Palo Alto to a 30-28 nonleague football win over host Sequoia on Friday night.
"I knew it was going in, right after I kicked it," said Patino. "They always tell me to aim at the opposite post (from the placement on the field). My teammates really helped me -- the snap, hold, the blocks were all good. All I had to do was kick the ball."
It was the first time Patino had kicked a game-winner.
"Yeah, it was on my mind that we might lose because I had missed that extra point. I messed up on that first one," Patino said. "It was nerves, but it's all good now."
The victory provided new head coach Jake Halas with his first coaching victory while giving the Vikings their seventh straight triumph over the Cherokees. Palo Alto is now 11-2 against Sequoia in the past 13 games and has won nine of the past 10. The season opener for both teams, who last met in 2003 and where playing for the 75th time overall.
Halas, who was the defensive coordinator for the Vikings when they won a state championship in 2010, said after the game: "My heart's still pumping. It feels great. I'm glad for our community. This was a big game back in the day -- it's a big tradition -- so this is a great way to start that again."
Palo Alto overcame an early 7-0 deficit when senior Jayshawn Puckett hauled in a 44-yard scoring pass from junior QB Oliver Svirsky. Puckett then added a 12-yard run for a 13-7 lead as Patino missed the extra point.
When junior Eli Givens swept right end from six yards out late in the second quarter, the Vikings looked in good shape at 20-7.
Sequoia rallied for a TD and appeared ready to take the lead, but Paly senior Alec Sullivan intercepted a pass. That led to a 10-play, 91-yard drive for Paly, capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Svirsky to Justin Hull and a 27-24 lead.
The Cherokees bounced back again with a pair of touchdowns to take the lead at 28-27 as Patino's missed PAT loomed large with time running out.
Starting on their own 39, the Vikings marched quickly down field. Puckett's 13-yard run put Paly on Sequoia's five-yard line with 52 seconds to play. The Vikings moved backwards from there, winding up on the 22 before Patino converted the winning points.
Puckett, in his first season as a starter, rushed 29 times for a career-high 146 yards. The rest of the Vikings, however, combined for 13 yards.
Svirsky, also making his varsity debut as a starter following the graduation of Keller Chryst, threw for 156 yards on 10-of-17 passing.
Halas, who replaced veteran Earl Hansen, had his mentor keeping an eye on him as Hansen quietly stood on the Vikings' sideline throughout the game.
Menlo School 21, South SF 0
The Knights opened their season with a convincing shutout victory over visiting South San Francisco on Friday.
The Knights held the Warriors to 129 total yards, nearly all of those yards rushing.
Menlo's attack was similarly effective with three first-half touchdowns. Versatile senior Jack Marren caught a 13-yard pass from quarterback Austin DAmbra to give the Knights a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
D'Ambra also fired a 35-yard strike to Sam Ferguson for the game's first score, and Marren connected with receiver Michael Reed for a 15-yard score.
D'Ambra completed 17 of 33 passes for 268 yards, but the Menlo rushing game was non-existent with just six yards gained 17 carries.
Marren caught four passes for 87 yards and sophomore Charlie Ferguson had six catches for 79 more. Charlie Roth stood out on defense with three sacks for a minus 19 yards.
San Mateo 27, Gunn 20
Despite forging a tie in the fourth quarter, the Titans gave up a late touchdown and dropped a season-opening decision to San Mateo on Friday. The game was moved from the Bearcats' field, which wasn't ready to host due to work on their grandstands.
Gunn senior running back Nozo Imanaka burst through the line on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter and outran the San Mateo secondary for a 31-yard game-knotting touchdown.
With 2:48 left in the fourth, however, San Mateo's Watson Filikitonga iced the Titans with a 22-yard burst to give the Bearcats the win.
Gunn played San Mateo even for 43 minutes as Imanaka and fellow seniors Noah Riley (QB), Bubba Larson (RB) and Jared Bibo (RB) kept the game close with an arsenal of moves, jukes, sticks and grit. Larson scored on a 40-yard run to tie the game in the first period and Imanaka added a 21-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
"Our guys made a tremendous effort," Gunn coach Shinichi Hirano said. "We had 18 guys battling, and they kept battling. They showed a lot of heart"
Other standout Gunn players included Fred Li, Jonah Wager, Etiene Daadi, Dietrich Sweat, sophomore interior lineman Andy Maltz and clutch receiver Sharod Miller.
"This was the best game we've seen in two years" said parent, and former player Matt Maltz, who also coaches softball at Gunn.
Gunn hosts Carlmont this Friday in a nonleague game that will serve as a celebration for Gunn's 50th year of football.
In other games Friday, Menlo-Atherton was thumped by host Campolindo, 35-3, in Moraga as the Bears gave up 431 offensive yards to their host. In Los Altos Hills, the game between East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy and Pinewood was called off in the third quarter when reportedly a fight broke out with EPA Phoenix Academy holding a 20-12 lead.