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November 24, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Palo Alto's big gamble pays off with CCS football victory Palo Alto's big gamble pays off with CCS football victory (November 24, 2004)

by Keith Peters

When the 2004 prep football season is over, Palo Alto head coach Earl Hansen can look back on two games that provided turning points to the year.

The first was the Vikings' SCVAL De Anza Division victory over Wilcox, which put them in a safe position to earn an automatic berth into the Central Coast Section playoffs.

The second was last Friday's 15-14 triumph over visiting Monterey in the CCS Medium School Division playoffs. After pulling to within 14-13 on a 44-yard touchdown reception from Nathan Ford to Matt Wismann with 1:27 remaining to play, Hansen was faced with a decision to make or break the season - go for the tie and face overtime or go for the win in regulation.

Hansen called time, giving a tired Wismann a breather after his eighth catch had given him 146 yards his team a chance to win. The coaches quickly consulted and agreed: go for the win.

"I didn't think we would have won an overtime game," Hansen said. "Our defense was spent and I didn't think we could stop No. 32 (Markus McFolling) anymore. Second, we have been inconsistent on kicking our extra points all season; we nearly had our first try blocked. The last thing that you want to do is lose a 14-13 game."

So Hansen sent his team back on the field for a two-point conversion. Ford took the snap, rolled left with the offensive line before spinning back to the right. Wismann flared into the end zone and was wide open, taking the pass for the winning two points.

Paly had run that play only once this season.

"It's a good play against an aggressive team," Hansen said.

The gamble paid with a berth in the CCS semifinals this Saturday when second-seeded Palo Alto (8-3) takes on No. 6 Westmont (8-3), which advanced with a 27-19 win over No. 3 Mountain View, at Milpitas High at 7 p.m.

Westmont will offer all kinds of potential problems for Palo Alto, with its varied option offense. The Vikings, meanwhile, will need a better running game than it showed against Monterey, a season-low 57 yards on 22 carries.

"We couldn't run," Hansen said. "We couldn't get any push on them."

After taking the first half to realize that, Paly looked to Ford in the second half and the senior quarterback responded. He put a dreary four completions for 36 yards in the first half behind him and completed 12 of 20 passes in the second half for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

When Monterey took a 7-0 lead on a 34-yard run by McFolling, a tank disguised as a running back, Ford moved his team from its own 32. Helped by two pass interference penalties, Ford capped the drive with a five-yard TD pass to Ted Way.

Monterey came right back and scored four plays later, with quarterback Austin Elmore dashing 48 yards past missed tackles for a 14-7 lead.

Ford moved the Vikings to the Toreadores' 20, where one drive ended, then drove the Vikings to the Monterey 11 before being hurried into an interception that appeared to have killed any comeback hopes.

When Paly's defense came up big once more and forced a punt, the Vikings had life. A 17-yard pass to Buddy Teevens Jr. and a 28-yarder to Wismann set up Ford's 44-yard scoring strike to Wismann.

Next came Hansen's decision to go for the victory, which still wasn't assured until Palo Alto stopped Monterey one more time when Way stepped in front of Elmore's pass in the right flat for an for an interception that he returned 38 yards to the Monterey 10. Two plays later, Palo Alto was celebrating its victory and the decision that helped make it all possible.

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