A ball-control offense turned out to be just what the Palo Alto High football team needed to break into the win column.
Playing someone other than a team from the WCAL helped out as well.
After a close first half, Paly completely dominated the second half in a 27-10 win Thursday over Pioneer.
"We needed that,'' Palo Alto coach Nelson Gifford said. "For the kids to feel good about themselves and gain confidence is really important.''
The score was 13-10 at halftime as Paly's offense was often short-circuited by penalties, eight for 73 yards over the first two quarters.
Pioneer (1-1) drove to the Paly 27 before turning the ball over on downs to start the third quarter. The Vikings proceeded to go on an 18-play, 69-yard drive that concluded on a Josh Butler 1-yard run with 39 seconds left in the quarter.
Then the Mustangs went three and out and their defense trudged back out to the field.
Paly put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 54-yard, eight-play drive, all on the ground, with Tobey Lau scoring on a 5-yard run.
Palo Alto, coming off losses to St. Ignatius and Serra, ran 75 plays from scrimmage in the game, 38 rushing and 37 passing, and gained 382 yards of total offense. Pioneer ran 36 plays, 25 rushing, 11 passing, and gained 223 yards.
"It's what we talked about, running the ball, controlling the clock,'' Gifford said. "That's what we can do well.''
Running back Josh Butler saw his first action of the season after missing the first two games, and carried 24 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns. His first score came on a 3-yard run with 16 seconds left in the first quarter. At that point he had carried on 12 of Paly's first 21 plays from scrimmage.
Once Pioneer's defense made the necessary adjustments to Paly's early run-heavy approach, quarterback Danny Peters got the team's short-passing game going. He finished 26 of 37 for 278 yards and connected with seven different receivers. Rowan Felsch, Lucas Black and Brody Simison all had six receptions apiece while Blake Chase caught four balls for a team-high 71 yards.
Simison, who had two interceptions in the season opener against St. Ignatius, came up with two more against Pioneer. Early in the second quarter he got a running start on a Pioneer screen pass, made the pick and raced untouched 66 yards for a touchdown.
"All thanks to watching film,'' Simison said. "Two or three days ago I told my friend, Jack Newman, I was going to make that play on that screen pass. Then I got to show my speed off.''
Later in the game Simison had to be helped off the field with an injured right knee after taking a short pass from Peters and making a determined run down to the one-foot line. Butler scored on the next play. Simison stayed out the remainder of the game, but said afterwards he didn't think the injury was serious.
"Brody's the heart and soul of this team,'' Gifford said.