Sports

Vikings looking to clinch a CCS football playoff berth

Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo revive the rivalry

A win over Los Altos on Friday would for all intents and purposes clinch a berth in the Central Coast Section playoffs for the Palo Alto football team.

The top four teams from the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League's De Anza Division get automatic berths. Palo Alto (2-6, 2-2) is currently in a three-way tie for third place with Los Gatos and Homestead.

The Vikings have the tiebreaker in hand with Homestead by virtue of a 28-14 victory over the Mustangs back on Sept. 22. And Homestead's two remaining games are with Milpitas and Los Gatos.

"Getting a win this week essentially puts us in," Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said. "That's one small goal. Hopefully we can achieve some of our bigger goals as well, like getting a win to end the season and in CCS."

Palo Alto concludes the regular season with a make-up game against Wilcox on Nov. 9.

Los Altos (2-6, 0-4) hasn't won yet in league, but is coming off a 35-0 win over Mountain View in its traditional rivalry game.

"I don't know of any one time in that series between those two schools that someone has won by that margin,'' Sullivan said. "Los Altos lost to Homestead by three and played Wilcox real tough. They made Wilcox work all day. They play really hard and have some decent size. Their record doesn't indicate what kind of team they are.''

The Eagles have a special player at tight end in Vincent Colodny (6-3, 223).

"I think of him as Baby Gronk,'' Sullivan said. "They put him all over the field.''

In the 42-21 win over Saratoga last week, Aiden Chang rushed for 126 yards on 18 carries for Paly and Paul Jackson III gained 111 yards on just seven carries.

Most encouraging of all was the emergence of a Palo Alto passing game, something Sullivan has been looking for since the beginning of the 2016 season, his entire time as head coach.

Jackson Chryst completed 7 of 13 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and the Vikings had 197 yards through the air in all.

"We've talked about how important it is for us to make plays through the air,'' Sullivan said. "Hopefully this is something that propels us going forward.''

SHP vs. Menlo at Foothill College, 7 p.m.

This year's Valparaiso Bowl will take place in Los Altos Hills. It's a non-league game with Menlo (6-2, 4-0), the team from the mid-level Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division, going in as the favorite over Sacred Heart Prep (2-6, 1-3), a member of the top-level PAL Bay.

A common opponent is Hillsdale, a team Menlo beat 33-10 last Friday to take over sole possession of first place in the PAL Ocean. Hillsdale defeated SHP 34-10 in a non-league game back on Sept. 9.

Two weeks ago the Gators broke a four-game losing streak with a 16-7 win over Terra Nova, but then had something of a disappointing outing in a 28-17 loss to Burlingame.

"Menlo is our rival,'' SHP coach Mark Grieb said. "A lot of the kids know each other. There's a lot of significance to this game no matter the records.''

One thing Menlo has consistently done over the years is teach the passing game. Early this season the Knights were being carried by a defense with returning starters comprising the entire front seven. But the passing game, and by extension the Menlo offense, has started to come on strong.

QB Emilio Simbeck has thrown eight touchdown passes his last two starts against South San Francisco and Hillsdale. He missed the Woodside game due to a medical emergency, but sophomore Kevin Alarcon filled in nicely, throwing three TD passes while providing optimism for the future.

"We have a lot going well for us,'' Simbeck said. "But we know that regardless of our recent success we are going through a lot of film and treating (SHP) with a ton of respect. We know how good they are, and these games are always a slugfest. So we just have to stay grounded and be as prepared as we can be.''

Menlo's only losses were in the season opener to East Nicolaus and to Palma.

"This is the best Menlo team since I've been here,'' Grieb said. "We're going to have to do a good job defending out in space. Menlo likes to spread you out. We have to be able to defend their passing game and what they do in the run game. We have to be able to tackle in space and pressure the quarterback.''

Gunn at Fremont, 7 p.m.

Gunn's defense will be tested against a prolific Fremont offense that is averaging 42 points per game on the season, 54.5 points per game in four SCVAL El Camino Division games.

"We will try to stop the run and make them one-dimensional,'' Gunn coach Brandon Boyd said. "It might end up in one of those shootouts.''

Gunn (3-5, 1-3) had a 14-12 lead over Cupertino heading into the fourth quarter last Friday before ending up on the losing end of a 29-20 score.

"We competed real well,'' Boyd said. "In the fourth quarter we ran out of bodies.''

After going with Solomone Paletua as the primary quarterback the previous week against Monta Vista, Hudson Alexander played most of the game at QB against Cupertino and completed 18 of 33 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

His most productive receiver was none other than Paletua, who caught six passes for 107 yards. DJ Barnes had seven receptions for 88 yards and Lee Howard six catches for 58 yards. Paletua, Barnes and Howard each scored one touchdown apiece.

Barnes saw his season totals swell to 61 receptions for 941 yards and eight TDs.

Gunn has three wins this season after having five wins combined over the previous four years.

"We're definitely headed in the right direction,'' Boyd said. "We've been in every game but one.''

Menlo-Atherton at Woodside, 7:30 p.m.

There isn't much in the way of competitive equity in this game between "quote-unquote rivals,'' as Woodside coach Justin Andrews characterized the matchup. M-A won last year's game 63-14 and by a 59-34 score in 2015.

M-A (5-3, 3-1 PAL Bay) is coming off a 35-30 win over Terra Nova in which its running game got going with De'Marshaun Payton rushing for 123 yards on 15 carries and Deston Hawkins picking up 114 yards on 19 carries.

"We made some schematic changes,'' M-A coach Adhir Ravipati said. "It was good to see us put together a physical effort up front and for us to be able to use both of our backs.''

It was the first extended action for Hawkins, a transfer from Serra who hadn't become eligible until M-A's fifth game of the season.

"I'm happy for him,'' Ravipati said. "He has worked hard in practice. I'm looking forward to next year. Both of those backs are juniors.''

Woodside (0-8, 0-4 PAL Ocean) is coming off a 43-26 loss to Sequoia.

"Offensively and defensively we showed improvement,'' said Andrews, who singled out linemen Christian Ochoa and Adrian Jimenez for praise. "In the first quarter we were really fired up and played good disciplined football. As the game wore on they were able to break off some big runs against us.''

Woodside has struggled with numbers all season. At Monday's practice only 18 players were in uniform.

"The Sequoia game took a lot out of our kids,'' Andrews said. "M-A has more players over 6-1 than we have players.''

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