When the Palo Alto Knights moved to the National Youth Football League (NYFL) over the summer, they were not sure what to expect from the competition in the new league. What the Knights discovered, however, was the NYFL is very competitive.
Two of the Knights' teams finished under .500 this season, proving the legitimacy of the new league.
One of the Palo Alto teams that finished above .500 was the Varsity, which capped a 10-0 regular season on Sunday with a 22-6 win over the Mission Valley Cougars at Palo Alto High.
The Varsity (14-year olds) this year season won the division title and clinched the No. 1 seed for the NYFL playoffs. More impressively, perhaps, the Knights' defense yielded a league-low 40 points over the 10 games.
The Knights clinched the top seed for the playoffs with their win on Sunday. Leading the Palo Alto offense were running backs Eric Redwood and Dante Boyland, who received some fine blocking from fullback Erik Anderson.
The Knights' defense also was outstanding, holding the Cougars to 63 yards of total offense. In eight games this season, the Knights have held an opponent under 100 yards of offense.
“This 2008 Varsity team is only the second Knights team over the past 25 years to finish a regular season undefeated. This is a huge accomplishment for these players,” says Mike Piha, the Knights' head coach.
The last team to achieve that accomplishment was Piha’s Jr. Midget team in 2002.
Piha credits his defense for the perfect record: “Anytime you hold a team under 100 yards of offense you have a pretty good chance of winning the game. We did that eight times this season. Our players really fly to the ball; this is one of the quickest defenses I have ever coached.”
The Knights' defense is led by linebackers Redwood, Boyland, Anderson, Dominique Dawkins and Drew Rider; defensive ends Andrew Frick and Mark Duby, defensive tackles Brandon and Michael Jorgenson and defensive backs Justin Mouton, Jayshawn Mouton, E.J Floreal and Alex Furrier.
“What’s great about our defense is we have about 16 players who can play outstanding defense, so we are always fresh and the depth is key to our success,” Piha said.
The Knights' Varsity will have a bye and play the Mission Valley Cougars in the second round of the playoffs on Nov. 8. That winner will advance to the championship game and, possibly, the California State Championship on Sunday Nov. 23 at San Jose City College.
The Knights' Starters team finshed 4-6, the Rookies finished 4-6 and the Jr. Varsity finished the regular season at 6-4 as the runnerup in their division.
Those three Palo Alto teams will travel to Brentwood for first-round playoff games on Saturday, Nov. 1.
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