The little things kept adding up until it was time to take a knee and begin celebrating a trip to the Central Coast Section football playoffs.
Paul Jackson III, who rushed for 217 yards on 26 carries in Palo Alto's 36-29 victory over host Mountain View on Friday night, seemed to be headed out of bounds before taking a quick detour and turning upfield to gain a few extra yards and keep the clock running.
Defensive back Josh Brigel made a few last-second adjustments and seemed to line up exactly where the Spartans ran their plays. Brigel avoided blockers and made several plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Defensive lineman Alec Cohen-Schister took advantage of a confusing situation to first bat a loose ball out of the hands of the Mountain View quarterback and then land on it, giving the Vikings a chance to regain the lead, which they did.
Peter Snodgrass, Troy Henderson III and the rest of the offensive and defensive linemen found a way to open running lanes for Jackson, Sione Latu (59 yards) and Paul Thie (77 yards) and closing running lanes for Spartans running back.
Mountain View was limited to 150 rushing yards for the game, 31 in the second half. Jackson gained 137 of his yards by halftime.
“I think, a lot of times, when we had the momentum, we came at them hard,” Brigel said. “We dominated the second half. All week we talked about wanting the seniors to go out in the CCS playoffs. We also wanted it for our first-year coach.”
Vikings coach Danny Sullivan challenged his team to go out and achieve a goal.
“The message for us is if we want something bad enough, we have to go take it,” Sullivan said. “We had to take advantage of our opportunity and we did. Now we're excited about our next opportunity.”
Palo Alto (3-3 in the SCVAL De Anza Division, 4-6 overall) will find out who and where it plays at the CCS seeding meeting that gets underway early Sunday morning.
Sullivan thinks the reward will be a game against perennial CCS powerhouses St. Francis or Los Gatos.
The Vikings turned two big plays in the second quarter into momentum that never stopped pumping through their veins. Even as the Spartans recovered a Palo Alto fumble and intercepted a Jackson Chryst pass, the Vikings never allowed the turnovers to distract from their mission.
Jackson accelerated through the line and raced 64 yards moments after Mountain View had taken a 13-6 lead. Thie raced around end for the two-point conversion and the lead.
With under a minute to play in the first half, Thie took a handful and started running racing around left end. He cut back to the middle, exploiting the Spartans' over-pursuit, and ran 68 yards for a touchdown.
Jackson, who needed 101 yards to reach 1,000 for a second straight season, takes his responsibilities seriously. He knew to cut upfield instead of going out of bounds because Sullivan had just called a timeout to remind him.
Jackson didn't need a reminder to go for all the extra real estate he could pick up. There was one play where he seemed to stop in the middle of the action to think about his next move.
“I saw all the linemen kind of fall at once,” he said. “I was thinking 'what do I do now?' I decided I might as well get some yardage.”
Jackson stepped over the pile and gained an additional seven yards.
In nonleague action, Ocean Division co-champ Menlo School (9-1) ended a four-year losing streak to Sacred Heart Prep (2-8), beating the Bay Division Gators, 31-14, in the Valparaiso Bowl.
Knights quarterback Hayden Pegley nearly had another 300-yard passing game, completing 18 of 27 for 21 yards and three touchdowns.
He's thrown for 685 yards over his last two games after averaging 115.2 through his first eight. Pegley has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes this year and has 19 touchdown passes to six interceptions.
“It’s just so much more than this team winning this game. There are so many guys who played like heroes today. Everyone on this team had to step up and they did. It’s just unbelievable,” Pegley said.
Evan King caught seven passes for 122 yards. He's nearly doubled his production over the past two games, with 20 catches for 350 yards.
King had 26 receptions for 330 yards through the first eight games.
Charlie Ferguson ran for 81 yards and a touchdown and has 1,432 yards and 22 scores. He has 1,811 all-purpose yards.
Menlo's Aidan Israelski had a big game on both sides of the ball, catching five passes for 102 yards and leading the team with 11 tackles, 10 solo.
JH Tevis added another nine tackles, including four for a loss.
“It’s a great way to take momentum going into the playoffs, knowing we beat a team that is a good football team,” Pegley said. "We just have to have that mentality that no team is going to beat us, and if something is going to happen, it’s going to be us winning in CCS. We had that ultimate goal at the beginning of season, and it’s great that we’re at this point that we have come closer to realizing it.”
Isoa Moimoi rushed for 154 yards and scored twice for Sacred Heart Prep, which also advances into the CCS playoffs.
Thomas Wine and David Peterson each recorded 11 tackles, including 10 solo tackles.
Bay Division champion Menlo-Atherton dispatched rival Woodside of the Ocean Division, 63-21, to end the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
The Bears (8-2) scored 42 points in the first quarter alone.
Jordan Mims rushed for 212 yards, caught a 45-yard touchdown pass and scored five times overall.
Mims recorded his third 200-yard plus game and has 1,471 yards on the season. He's rushed for at least 94 yards in all but one contest.
Aajon Johnson threw for 222 yards on 5-of-9 passing, including a 46-yard scoring toss to Mekhi Blackmon and a 35-yard TD pass to Aaron Johnson.
Miles Conrad added a 64-yard touchdown run and Aajon Johnson rushed for another. Marquise Reid recorded 129 all-purpose yards.
Stavro Papadakis led M-A with six tackles as 21 different players recorded at least one tackle for a total of 53.
In eight-man football, Priory (2-3, 4-3) beat Anzar, 52-26.
Keyshawn Ashford averages 155 rushing yards a game for the Panthers and Adrian LaValle averages 117.5 passing yards.