The Palo Alto football team will look back at Friday night’s 29-22 loss to Los Gatos with regret. It was a game filled with mistakes (four turnovers), a very high level of frustration over plays not executed correctly and a flag-happy officiating crew.
Palo Alto (5-3, 2-2) outgained Los Gatos 314-170, but the home standing Wildcats (8-1, 4-1) did a better job of capitalizing on their opportunities. The refs nearly accounted for more yardage than either team by penalizing Palo Alto 14 times for 145 yards and Los Gatos nine times for 93 yards.
“We have to hold ourselves accountable,'' Palo Alto coach Nelson Gifford said. "We can’t make excuses, can’t point fingers at anyone but ourselves. The refs didn’t make us fumble, false start or miss tackles.’’
But without a doubt the penalties had a heavy impact on the game's tempo and the quality of play.
“It’s a challenge for a play caller,’’ Gifford said. “Now it’s first and 20 and you’re changing the script, having to ad-lib, like in jazz, and I’m not all that much into jazz even though my mother is from New Orleans.
Sophomore quarterback Danny Peters completed 19 of 37 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, both to Jamir Shepard, who finished with seven catches for 143 yards. But it wasn’t one of Peters’ better games. He threw three interceptions and for much of the game his passes seemed to lack their customary zip.
“After our first touchdown I might’ve got a little overconfident,’’ Peters said. “And then later I found I was trying to aim the ball more than airing it out.’’
That first touchdown came on Palo Alto’s third play from scrimmage, a short pass just over the line of scrimmage that Shepard took 59 yards for a touchdown. Los Gatos had already taken the opening kickoff and drove for a score. But instead of kicking the extra point to tie, Paly went for two and Kevin Cullen ran it in for an 8-7 lead.
Then continuing with the foot-on-the-throat, aggressive style, Paly tried an onside kick and recovered it. But an interception on the first play swung the momentum to the Wildcats. They went in for a touchdown and a 14-8 lead that stood up until halftime.
Palo Alto got a break early in the third quarter when a snap went over the Los Gatos punter’s head and Paly took over at the Los Gatos 1. A plunge by Creighton Morgenfeld and Alex Wang’s extra point gave Paly a 15-14 lead. But Los Gatos scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the third quarter to go up 29-15.
The Vikings finally put together a sustained drive, going 90 yards in 16 plays with Peters connecting with Shepard on a 7-yard touchdown pass with 2:30 left. But Los Gatos ran out the clock and celebrated the win.
“We didn’t play our best game, but I’m proud of the way they fought and battled on that last drive,’’ Gifford said. “That pass Danny threw to Jamir was a real fastball.’’
The loss dropped Palo Alto into third place in the SCVAL De Anza Division, The Vikings will look to right themselves next Friday in the homecoming game against Mountain View.