Sports

And the Vikings had fun, fun, fun in clinching playoff spot

 
Junacio Henley scored on a 60-yard run for Palo Alto. Photo by Karen Ambrose Hickey.

The Palo Alto football team has been on the wrong end of a number of one-sided games this season. On Friday, the Vikings got a chance to experience the other side, the winning side, the fun side, in the form of a 44-6 romp over Los Altos on Senior Night at Hod Ray Field in a SCVAL De Anza Division contest.

The win did a lot for team morale and well-being, for a sense that all the hard work and sacrifice had been worth it.


Bryant Jefferson/Karen Ambrose Hickey.
And it made the team hopeful about the future. Palo Alto (3-6, 3-2) clinched a berth in the Central Coast Section playoffs with the win over Los Altos.

“We’re getting better every day in practice,’‘ said senior defensive end and tight end Bryant Jefferson. “We want to shock the world. Every player on this team believes we can.’’

Friday’s win was no contest as Los Altos (2-7, 0-5), a team with 42 players listed on its MaxPreps roster, had only 19 players suited up.

Senior running back Paul Jackson III broke a 54-yard touchdown run to get the scoring started. Then sophomore Junacio Henley broke a 60-yard run to make it 14-0. Henley also had 113 yards on three kick returns.

“Junacio Henley is a pretty good football player,’’ Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said. “He’s starting to come into his own. He made some electric plays.’’

Seattle Hmelar blocked a Los Altos punt out of the end zone for a safety. And then after Henley’s 38-yard return of the free kick Aiden Chang scored on a 16-yard run to give Palo Alto a 23-0 lead at the half.

Jackson Chryst connected with Paul Thie on a 34-yard touchdown pass on Paly’s first possession of the second half and then David Hickey picked off a pass and ran it back 30 yards for a touchdown and a 37-0 lead. A running clock went into effect at that point.

Hickey’s interception return for a touchdown was actually the third time Palo Alto had appeared to do so. But in the first two instances -- a 90-yard return by Dwayne Trahan and a 47-yard return by Damien Richard-Valencia -- penalties wiped out the apparent touchdowns.

On Palo Alto’s final possession of the game Manny Soto carried four times and on his final carry scored on a 7-yard run to extend the lead to 44-0.

Los Altos spoiled the shutout on a 14-yard pass from Rocky Hidalgo to Ben Parker with two minutes left.

In all it was a game that produced many positive takeaways:

“It was nice to have Sione Latu back,’’ Sullivan said. “He always looks tired but he never wants to come out of a game. It was nice to see Manny Soto get a touchdown. He’s worked extremely hard to help the team any way he can. And it was good to see Richard-Valencia get a pick.

“But who would’ve thunk David Hickey would get our first pick-six?’’ Sullivan said of the defensive lineman wearing a No. 71 jersey. “He’s very solid at what he’s asked to do, very smart. He knows his role.’’

Palo Alto’s upset win over Wilcox was the team’s highlight a year ago. The rematch takes place Thursday at Wilcox.

“We know what’s ahead, know what to expect,’’ Sullivan said. “Wilcox will be fired up and ready to play. But I don’t think I’ve seen our best football yet.’’

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