by Keith Peters
Until the offense can be a bit more consistent, Palo Alto's defense must maintain its dominance against the run if the Vikings are to be a factor in the SCVAL De Anza Division football race this season. Palo Alto (2-0) tuned up for Friday's 7:30 p.m. nonleague game at Fremont (of Sunnyvale) by allowing Lynbrook just 170 total yards in a 21-6 victory last Friday at Cupertino High.
The Vikings performed best against the run, holding Lynbrook to only 60 yards on the ground--20 in the second half. In two games, Palo Alto's defense against the run is allowing an average of just 33.5 yards per game.
The interior defense of Aaron Nelson, Doyle Rundell, Mike Fukuhara and Eli Frankel did a fine job of stuffing Lynbrook's running attack inside, while defensive end Mark Jensen and linebacker Sam Milroy turned sweeps in when they weren't pressuring Lynbrook quarterback Dan Sullivan to rush his throws or scramble from the pocket.
The best example of that came in the second quarter when Lynbrook threatened to trim Palo Alto's 14-0 lead with a sustained 14-play drive. With Lynbrook at the Paly 8, Frankel and Jensen swarmed Sullivan for a six-yard loss--forcing the hosts into a fourth-and-goal situation at the 14.
Sullivan then scrambled for 10 yards, but was chased out of bounds by Rundell at the Paly 4--thus ending the threat. That series proved to be a crucial one for Palo Alto when Lynbrook intercepted a Peter Hansen pass on Paly's first series of the second half, and turned the miscue into a touchdown--trimming Palo Alto's lead to 14-6.
Paly's defense made that stand up by putting the offense in scoring position by stopping Lynbrook on downs at the end of the third quarter. A meager 16-yard punt gave Palo Alto the ball at Lynbrook's 36. A three-yard run by Milroy was followed by a 21-yard screen pass to Chris Cupak that put Paly at the Lynbrook 8-yard line.
Milroy then carried three straight times, the final three-yard blast finding the end zone for a 21-6 advantage.
That was all the offensive fireworks Palo Alto could muster in the second half as the Vikings managed just 88 total yards after halftime.
"When we had to score, we did," Palo Alto coach Earl Hansen said, "but I didn't like the second half. Maybe I got a little conservative."
Palo Alto attempted just six passes in the second half, this coming after Peter Hansen had completed nine of 11 tosses in the first half for 160 yards and one touchdown.
Errol Johnson, who caught six passes for 110 yards, got 99 of those in the first half--including a 35-yarder that proved to be the winning points at 14-0. Johnson's leaping grab of a 23-yarder put Paly on the Lynbrook 1-yard line in the first quarter, setting up Hansen's scoring plunge.
Cupak, meanwhile, piled up 92 of his game-high 113 rushing yards during the opening two quarters as he showed why he's one of the top backs in the SCVAL De Anza Division. He and Hansen keyed Paly's offense that gained 267 yards before halftime.
Now all Palo Alto needs is to find a way to put two halves like that together. The search continues Friday night.
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