Palo Alto hopes its winning formula continues Friday


Just call it the upset of the year ... for now. Hard to imagine a more unlikely outcome than Palo Alto's 25-21 win over Wilcox last Friday.

Wilcox was coming off a game in which it rushed for 630 yards and beat Saratoga, 83-48. The previous week Palo Alto had lost to Saratoga, 35-21. So the Vikings went into the Wilcox game 49-point underdogs on the basis of comparative scores.

"I'm still trying to find someone who thought we could beat Wilcox, other than our immediate group,'' Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said.

Paly trailed throughout, but remained in contact. It was 14-6 at halftime and 21-12 early in the fourth quarter. Paul Jackson III's 5-yard run with 50 seconds left completed the comeback.

Jackson, Palo Alto's offensive standout all season, rushed for 98 yards on 20 carries, bringing him to 787 yards rushing on the season.

His winning touchdown would not have come about without a fourth-and-10 completion of 22 yards from sophomore Jackson Chryst to Paul Thie that kept that final drive alive.

Chryst had his best game of the season, completing 6 of 11 passes for 120 yards.

"That was big time,'' Sullivan said of the completion to Thie and of Chryst's overall performance. "We had him in charge of doing a lot of different things.''

Palo Alto's defense, the team's strength more often than not this season, kept Wilcox from running away with it.

"To hold them to 21 was pretty special,'' Sullivan said.

So now the Vikings get to rest on their laurels all the way until Friday when Los Gatos comes to town for a 7 p.m. game.

"There's a big buzz around campus right now,'' Sullivan said. "The kids are coming forward, the community too.''

Los Gatos is in first place in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division after upsetting Milpitas earlier this season.

And Los Gatos is of course the school Sullivan starred for at quarterback before playing collegiately at Arizona State, the school he served as an assistant coach once his career as the Sun Devil QB concluded.

"This is the first time I've had to deal with it,'' Sullivan said. "It would have been different if it had been earlier in the year. It's just another game at this point.''

Gunn (0-4, 2-6) is seeking its first El Camino Division win Friday when it hosts Homestead (3-0, 5-2) at 7 p.m.

DJ Barnes is quietly putting together a tremendous season. He's caught 45 passes for 555 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns. Barnes ranks second in the Division in total receiving yards.

Defensively, Barnes is tied for the lead with five interceptions and is second with 55 tackles. Titans' Marc Paletua is the tackles leader with 58.

Edmond Wu has completed over 52 percent of his passes for 780 yards and nine touchdowns. He's third in the league in passing yardage. Leader Roman Stein of Fremont has thrown for 2,123 yards.

Gunn running back Etienne Daadi ranks third in the division with 559 rushing yards.

Homestead's Rajah Ward is second in the league with 974 yards.

The Peninsula Athletic League is an anomaly. There are 18 teams in the league for football, set up in the 6-6-6 power league structure favored by the Central Coast Section -- an A league, the Bay Division; a B league, the Ocean Division; and a C league, the Lake Division.

But the teams don't fit the structure very well.

Menlo-Atherton at 3-0 and with a five-game winning streak is looking like the class of the Bay Division. But after that there is very little to separate the remaining 11 teams in the Bay and Ocean divisions.

I had a chat with Sequoia coach Rob Poulos on Wednesday. The Cherokees have played in all three divisions since he took over as coach. They made it all the way to the CCS Division III championship game in 2010 out of the Lake, were moved up to the Ocean for two years, to the Bay for three years and now back to the Ocean.

They won their first two Ocean Division games this season, 29-28 over Woodside and 28-14 over South San Francisco before playing undefeated Half Moon Bay last Friday, the defending CCS Division V champion. HMB was coming off a 57-14 win over Woodside.

Sequoia scored two touchdowns in the last four minutes to take a 35-34 lead with 29 seconds left, only to watch as Half Moon Bay scored with six seconds left to pull out a 40-35 victory.

"It's virtually impossible to accurately seed our league,'' Poulos said.

How much difference is there between the Bay and Ocean divisions?

"I don't think there's a significant difference, hence the problem,'' Poulos said. "It's craziness across the board.''

In Bay Division action on Friday, Menlo-Atherton (5-2, 3-0) plays at Aragon (5-2, 1-1) at 3 p.m. If Aragon had been able to hang on to the lead late in its game against Sacred Heart Prep, this one would have been for first place.

"They're big, physical and fast,'' Menlo-Atherton coach Adhir Ravipati said of Aragon. They're probably one of the most physically talented teams we've played, and we've played some good teams.''

Linebacker Siua Tongamoa, QB Gabe Campos and wideout Davion Cox have stood out for the Dons so far this season.

SHP (1-6, 1-2) plays at Hillsdale (3-4, 0-2) and Terra Nova (2-5, 1-2) plays at Burlingame (4-3, 2-1) in the other PAL Bay games. Both are at 7 p.m. All those teams have plenty to play for. The Bay Division gets four automatic berths in the CCS playoffs.

Menlo School (6-1, 2-1) hosts Sequoia (3-4, 2-1) at 3 p.m. in the big Ocean Division game of the week. Both teams have lost to Half Moon Bay.

Menlo turned in its most impressive performance of the season in a 45-0 win over South San Francisco. Charlie Ferguson rushed for 159 yards and four touchdowns to bring his season totals to 1,112 yards and 17 TDs.

The defense was led by JH Tevis, who had seven solo tackles, four assists and four sacks.

Sequoia's Nick DeMarco completed 22 of 36 passes for 323 yards and five touchdowns versus Half Moon Bay. He's thrown for 1,579 yards and 15 TDs on the season.

"He's very analytical, very competitive and puts a nice touch on the ball,'' Poulos said.

Woodside (4-3, 0-3) will try to get its first PAL Ocean win at South San Francisco (2-5, 1-2) in a 7 p.m. start. The Wildcats are coming off a 48-41 loss to the King's Academy.

"The league is tough,'' Woodside coach Justin Andrews said. "We knew that coming in. We just have to be more complete.''

Woodside lost even with Marcelous Chester-Riley rushing for 328 yards and six touchdowns, an outing that brought his season totals to 1,059 yards and 19 TDs.

"He did his part, that's for sure,'' Andrews said of his 160-pound senior. "He loves the sport, is very coachable and has got all the elements -- elusiveness, peripheral vision, the motor.''

TKA QB Michael Johnson Jr. rushed for 268 yards and five touchdowns and passed for 247 yards and two TDs.

"We'd have his number one and two targets covered, but he'd just take off and run,'' Andrews said.

TKA plays at Half Moon Bay at 7 p.m. in the other PAL Ocean matchup Friday.

Some observers say the parity in the PAL extends to the Lake Division, but that's something I'm not so sure of.

The Lake champion a year ago, Capuchino, was without a doubt a very solid team, something the Mustangs showed in the CCS playoffs. The rest of the division is primarily occupied by teams attempting to build to the point they are able to move up. Depth is a problem throughout the Lake Division.

San Mateo (5-2, 3-0), led by the two-pronged running attack of 250-pound Anderson Perdomo and 160-pound Boris Mazin, has wins over Jefferson, Capuchino and Carlmont the first three weeks of Lake play this year and looks like the team that will get the Lake's automatic berth into the CCS playoffs.

The Bearcats play at El Camino on Friday before finishing up league play at Mills.

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