Many teams have trouble taking solace in moral victories, especially during 24-point losses, but there were a sizeable number of positives for the Palo Alto football squad in its nonleague game against Mitty on Friday night.
The Vikings (1-2) hung tough against the heavily favored Monarchs (3-0) for most of the contest, steadily moving the ball on offense, converting on crucial fourth downs, and forcing three turnovers to keep the game tied into the third quarter.
In the end, the moral victories were the extent of the Vikings' accomplishment. Mitty controlled the second half and shut out Paly for the final 21 minutes of the game, rolling to a 52-28 victory at Foothill College.
After the contest, Paly head coach Jake Halas made sure his team appreciated its performance against a tough West Catholic Athletic League opponent.
"It stings, but I tried to tell these kids we hung with that team who should contend for their league title," Halas said. "I'm happy with our guys. We're still a good football team."
After both teams played fairly even football for 2 1/2 quarters, Halas felt the Monarchs' depth was the biggest factor in Mitty's ability to pull away in the second half.
"That's the issues sometimes with the De Anza schools compared to the West Catholic," Halas said. "I give them all the props, but that's what happened today. They wore on us."
The Monarchs' running attack from their no-huddle spread offense gave Paly trouble in all four quarters. Running back Derek Bauerle rushed for 156 yards, while quarterback Samuel Serra ran for 102 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown scramble to end the first half.
"We gave up the perimeter quite a bit," Halas said. "That's a very explosive offense."
On the other hand, the Vikings struggled to establish a run game, and were forced to rely on senior quarterback Justin Hull, who threw the ball 42 times.
The Vikings' offense also suffered a big blow in the first half, as senior left tackle Mikey Grandy went out with a leg injury and did not return.
The combination of a depleted Vikings' offensive line and a relentless Monarchs' pass rush forced Hull to scramble and rollout on many plays in order to avoid a takedown in the backfield.
Despite the heavy pressure, Hull was only sacked once, and hooked up with senior wideout Riley Schoeben eight times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Hull and the Vikings were not scrambling at the onset of the game, as a fumble recovery in the end zone by senior Jon Samos and a juggling touchdown catch by Schoeben gave Paly a 14-0 lead five minutes into the contest.
The Vikings' advantage did not last long, as the Monarchs rattled off 21 unanswered points, capped off by a 44-yard touchdown screen pass from Serra to Bauerle.
Undeterred, Paly proceeded to march 84 yards on an 18-play drive that lasted nearly eight minutes. Hull stretched the ball across the goal line on a quarterback keeper to tie the score with one minute remaining in the half.
But Serra would answer with his 70-yard dash down the left sideline, and the Vikings entered the locker room searching for answers defensively.
"That hurt the momentum of the game," Halas said of Serra's run.
The Paly defense turned the momentum back around on Mitty's first offensive play after halftime. Jordan Schilling recovered a fumble by Bauerle in Monarchs territory, and Hull found Schoeben in the left corner of the end zone for a second time to tie the score at 28.
But Paly could not withstand the fast-paced Monarchs attack, and touchdown passes from Serra to Colin McKinnon and Andrew Cairns put Mitty up 14 points heading into the final quarter.
After a 20-yard field goal by Nikolas Eppel put Mitty up 45-28 three minutes into the fourth, Monarchs senior nose guard Jonathan Trujillo wrapped up the victory by intercepting an attempted screen pass from Hull and returning it 32 yards to the Vikings 1-yard line.
The Vikings face their final nonleague opponent, Oak Grove, at home next week before the start of the SCVAL De Anza Division season.
In other games Friday, Pinewood evened its record following a 54-34 triumph over visiting Anzar; Priory fell to visiting East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, 42-32; Gunn was blown out by visiting Branham, 57-6; and Menlo-Atherton dropped its third straight following a 26-9 setback to visiting Riordan.
Pinewood (1-1) got its first Mission Trail Athletic League win in a big way as senior Kyle Murphy accounted for 245 yards and five touchdowns. Murphy had 106 rushing yards on 10 carries and one score in addition to catching five balls for 139 yards and four TDs. He averaged 27.8 yards per catch with a 55-yarder as his longest reception.
Jaeden Bailey completed eight of 14 passes for 223 yards and six touchdowns for Pinewood, which rolled up 378 total yards.
Defensively, Pinewood's sophomore trio of Huck Haun, Bo Fick and Alex Dagman combined for 39 tackles. Haun led the way with 16 (five solo) in addition to intercepting a pass. Sophomores Casey Bates, Connor Riches and junior Clayton Hodgett all came up with a sack.
Pinewood pulled away from a 12-12 halftime game with 30 points in the third period.
In Atherton, the Bears (0-3) opened their home season and produced their highest point total yet, but fell to a strong Riordan team that ended Sacred Heart Prep's 14-game win streak last week, 41-28.
M-A struggled mightly on the ground, rushing for a minus 12 yards on 34 carries. Jordan Mims managed 22 plus yards on nine hauls. The Bears finished with 147 total yards as Stavro Papadakis threw for 101 yards. Ben Stanley scored M-A's lone TD on a five-yard reception from Papadakis. Tate Tussing had three catches for 67 yards.
In Portola Valley, Keyshawn Ashford carried 13 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns with John Lee finishing with 135 yards on 19 carries and one score, but it still wasn't enough as the Panthers fell to 0-2. Priory quarterback Adrian Lavalle completed eight passes for 196 yards.