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Palo Alto looking for ways to improve after loss to Los Gatos

Original post made on Oct 16, 2021

The Palo Alto football team lost its homecoming game Friday night to the SCVAL De Anza Division's lone unbeaten team Los Gatos, allowing too many big plays.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, October 16, 2021, 2:06 AM

Comments (33)

Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 16, 2021 at 11:19 am

Samuel L is a registered user.

I get that this is just high school football and it's basically just to get the kids out to get some exercise, but reading the quotes from the coaches and especially the players, there seems to be something wrong with the leadership of the Paly team. Paly had a bye week, after a horrible loss to Homestead, a team that just moved up divisions this year. Against Homestead, the players said they took Homestead too lightly. That points to a lack of preparation on the part of the coaches.

With two weeks to prepare for LG, players and coaches are still talking about lack of discipline and preparation. Danny Peters even seemed impressed that LG could go from the huddle to the line of scrimmage. Peters also said there were distractions at practice. That's a lack of discipline. The coach talked about the team taking bad penalties. Same thing, lack of discipline. That falls mostly on the coaching staff.

I've never been a fan of Gifford. He seems more concerned with presentation and appearance than substance. I guess that's what makes him a fit at Paly. He has a lack of respect for his opponents and fails to get the most out of his team. He has talent on that team. He's obviously not putting them in a position to succeed. Granted, they had no shot against LG, but they hurt themselves plenty. None of this even touches on the horrible job Gifford has done with the athletic department on a whole. No oversight, which seems to be how he runs his football program. Gifford doesn't have the leadership skills to coach a team or run an athletic department. Lucky for him, over the past years, fewer parents seem to care that much about sports than they did before. Of course that could be because the quality of the programs are slowly going down.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2021 at 11:33 am

Observer is a registered user.

As a parent of former athlete I wanted to see discipline for my kid and his teams.

Baseball and Basketball are thriving at Paly, especially baseball.

Both the basketball and baseball programs coaches run very tight ships and in baseball with Head Coach Fukuhara and his helper Colombo, it is either play the game the right way or it is the highway.

Colombo has been known to be huge on that discipline, play the game the right way stuff for years, he can be OVERBOARD at times but he cares and him, Jamal and Fuk make a great trio.

Paly Parent 2018





Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 16, 2021 at 11:47 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

True. Baseball has been the highlight of the school's teams. Girl's volleyball was, but seems to be in a dip.

Could be that the number of top athletes just aren't there anymore. But yes, coaching is a big factor.


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2021 at 8:30 pm

John B. Sails is a registered user.

Remember the ban-tackle football/nanny-state movement several years ago? It took hold BIG TIME in Palo Alto, with everyone from John Madden and Steve Young forced to chime in how they would never let their kids play football, to the approval of all the tech business parents who never played football. It's not that important, anyway, yada yada, was the claptrap, or you were an evil uncaring person who could expect your pending walking papers from the blue tribe if you dissented. So, the last kids tackle team, the Palo Alto Knights folded, what was it, about 10 years ago? and there was never another replacement allowed. This had an effect.

Well, this never happened in Los Gatos. Instead, one Los Gatos football dad told me that this year they have so many 14-year olds/8th graders coming out for their Pop Warner team that there are two full teams (they have smartly taken in other folded teams from nearby). Many of the best players on Los Gatos last night (or Wilcox, or Serra, or Menlo-Atherton, etc.) played little league tackle football with their same area friends since 2nd or 3rd grade even. In the meantime, the team was often at the Pop Warner Superbowl at Disneyworld. Nice experiences for those kids. This too had an effect.


Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 17, 2021 at 12:25 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

John, I agree that the loss of Pop Warner in Palo Alto has contributed to the decline of the quality, it doesn't explain the lack of discipline or poor preparation.

And, many of the parents that coached and ran the PA Knights, were "tech business parents". No one prevented anyone from starting up a new team or keeping the old Knights from continuing, outside of a lack of interest.


Posted by It.is.what.it.is
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2021 at 1:28 am

It.is.what.it.is is a registered user.

It’s obvious. Palo Alto is too expensive for athletic families. If they want to buy a house, they go elsewhere. Only nerds can afford Palo Alto’s prices.

Nelson Gifford is way better than the last two ADs. Our problem is both the lack of talented athletes and the lack of money to hire good coaches due to PAUSD misspending. The lack of talent is only going to get worse, although still better than Gunn, if that means anything.


Posted by Shawn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2021 at 7:59 am

Shawn is a registered user.

What an incredibly ignorant statement “is what it is” guy , have you bothered to attend a Gunn game recently to see if they have “talent” ? Or are you just stuck in the past thought process ?


Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2021 at 8:19 am

Observer is a registered user.

Gifford is a good man, family guy who bleeds Viking Green!

He loves Paly and from my experience with him takes great pride in being the A.D. and does a good job in a very demanding position.

Yes, the talent might be down a little but the lack of discipline at times could be better.

No doubt that having no Pop Warner anymore has really hurt the program! No coincidence that glory days of Hansen were at same time as Piha and his Knights program. Knights even used Paly field.

Paly Parent 2018


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2021 at 8:59 am

John B. Sails is a registered user.

I keep saying I like Gunn's football team, they would match up well v. Paly nowadays, and believe they are much better than say Santa Clara. I also like Coach G. It just so happens though that if the 'tough' kids in town, before HS, want to play a 'tough' sport such as hockey, or rugby, or football, they have been forced to drive out of town. and those kids that had flags shoved into their rear ends by self-righteous/fearful/over-protective/over-reacting parents, heck, even those play flag football posters some misguided person keeps hanging all over the football field, have been glaringly wrong and counter-productive.

Pop Warner was a Palo Alto guy. Google him!


Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 17, 2021 at 9:05 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Pretty sure it's been Gifford and some of his coaches running the youth flag football program at Paly on weekends.


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2021 at 9:42 am

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

If the local public high schools (i.e. Palo Alto & Gunn) and their prep football fans really want to raise the bar they should consider following the parochial school model where the players are not restricted by their parent's residence.

In other words, recruit stellar athletes from outside of Paly & Gunn by offering inter & intra district transfers for those wishing to play football on a far more competitive level.

Building powerhouse prep football teams would also attract more college recruiters and serve as an incentive for the best & most promising football players to choose various high schools that are proven winners with outstanding & focused football programs.

Parochial high schools schools like Serra, Sacred Heart, De La Salle, St. Francis, Bellarmine, & Mater Dei recruit good athletes and are not geographically limited or restricted by where the student actually resides.

If Paly/Gunn football enthusiasts really want to experience prep football at its highest level, then recruit and provide admission exemptions for top-tier athletes residing outside of Palo Alto.

Given the evolving demographics of Palo Alto, prep football and its current/future pool of prospective players will not get any better than it is now.

Awhile back in a thread decrying the decline of interest in Palo Alto high school football, a parental poster suggested awarding block letters for activities such as chess and robot-building.

If this is the new mentality towards traditional sports and athleticism in PA town, then it would be safe to say that all is lost.


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2021 at 11:06 am

John B. Sails is a registered user.

Right, Mr. Lancaster, what you said last. But what I feel is that the loudest critics of tackle football, "piled on" to use a football expression. At the worst, you had Frank Deford--right before he died, and the previously respected Bob Costas, and the never respected Jason Whitlock--as well as his angry bald Canadian partner, ALL disgracing their respective legacies by predicting that football would die, sooner than later, as our society 'evolved'. But it did not die, thanks to the lower middle and working class kids who really did not find football to be any more dangerous than their own lives were, thank you very much. So, rules changes for the mostly better followed, better helmets, no crown of head launching hits, DQ's even, no hitting defenseless players like WR's and QB's, etc. Things changed, yet there are still those hold-overs from the earlier period coinciding with that terrible Will Smith movie. Those folk still rule Palo Alto unfortunately, and they remind me of the similar social media warriors who not only want to wear masks forever even though fully vaxxed, but force you to do so as well. The word is conservative. It's a very fearful word, and potentially represents totalitarianism if the most risk-adverse are put in charge of making rules outlawing things for everyone. One thing both have in common: I have never known of one athletic young person who died of football OR COVID (and especially not with new rule changes, better helmets, and the vaxxes...).

The free-agent option like parochial schools, is not a bad idea at all. Better in my opinion is that some nice sports guy in P.A. maybe he remembers the Stanford Heisman trophy winner Jim Plunkett, or the near/should have winners such as Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey, and perhaps he or she just had a kid or two who they would like to offer the chance to play real football, and they have the free time to bring a little league tackle football team back to Palo Alto.


Posted by BL
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 17, 2021 at 11:10 am

BL is a registered user.

1 reason Paly baseball is strong? The unspoken rule that players and wanna-be players pay $3000 [portion removed] - outside of the spring season - for one of the asst coaches’ club teams. So the baseball team is stronger, more disciplined than the football team but not every family can enter the [portion removed] world of Paly baseball.

Football doesn’t have a club team but some enterprising coach should start one. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

*" maybe he remembers the Stanford Heisman trophy winner Jim Plunkett, or the near/should have winners such as Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey, and perhaps he or she just had a kid or two who they would like to offer the chance to play real football,"

@John B.Sails

Andrew Luck played his high school football in Texas & Christian McCaffrey played prep football in Colorado.

Except for maybe Jim Harbaugh of Paly, noteworthy NFL players rarely come out of Palo Alto or Gunn high schools.

PA/Gunn high school 'mental athletes' are better known for building robots and securing checkmates.

And then they go on to various enginering careers.


Posted by R. Cavendish
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2021 at 1:45 pm

R. Cavendish is a registered user.

At one time, student body and community pride focused on the success and on-field/court endeavors of its athletic programs most notably in prep football and basketball.

With the possible exception of Catholic high schools and red-state communities where prep football remains a major focal point, high school football has gradually been replaced by other recreational and intellectual outlets and interests within the immediate SF Bay Area.

It's merely a sign of the times for those residing in the heartland of Silicon Valley where brainpower is seemingly valued over athletic prowess and team success.

Whether this is attributable to the recent influx of highly educated and professional parents from abroad stressing academic success or contemporary parental concerns over possible concussions is debatable.

In other regions of the United States, high school football remains a major community interest with various boosters and high school alumni associations promoting their local prep teams.

Not so in Santa Clara (aka Silicon) Valley where software development and online gaming tends to take precedence over high school team-oriented athletic endeavors.

It wasn't always that way but times change.

Palo Alto and Gunn are essentially playing intramural-level football and all things considered, at least the players get to wear uniforms, shoulder pads and helmets to add to the overall imagery of the game.

Kind of like when we played Cowboys and Indians as children...it was still fun until
we eventually grew up and realized that we were neither.


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2021 at 9:17 pm

John B. Sails is a registered user.

Mr. Lancaster, you forgot Davante Adams, currently one of the very best players in the NFL, from Paly. I am very aware that the others I cited did not go to HS here, but they DID play college football here. The same town, right? There's some validity and respect to football in this town. Why only in college, why make a rule like that? In fact, playing football before high school is in and of itself, a great thing. Many college and pro players look back to Pop Warner as the most fun they had playing the sport. and if we are talking numbers, many more kids still play little league football than play college or pro football. Mr. C equates playing football with children 'playing cowboys and Indians.' Completely unfair analogy, that only be made by someone who never played the greatest American team sport.

Both Mr. L and Mr. C: of course, I am very aware of the robot builders and software/coders and what not that dominate P.A. I make those jokes myself. I actually get along with those people, do I have a choice? they are everywhere, and you are really flattering them to use words like brain power. They are video game players and hackers selling your private info to the highest spam bidders, aren't they? But let's pretend that these people are as important as you think they are. Still, why can't we have both? Why are THOSE robot-builders/software coders so exceedingly selfish--so afraid of sharing?


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2021 at 9:26 am

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

Mr. John B. Sails worst nightmare:

In a futuristic world, prep football in Palo Alto will be played via robots with the players using joysticks to perform their individual & virtual on-field tasks.

This measure would reduce most football-related injuries (except for maybe carpal tunnel syndrome) and allow even the non-athletic types to earn their varsity block letters.

Since the majority of Palo Alto/Gunn high school football players will never play on the collegiate or professional level why not encourage and promote their online gaming skills?

A software designer could easily create the app.


Posted by R. Cavendish
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2021 at 11:20 am

R. Cavendish is a registered user.

@John B. Sails

I have no issue with PA kids playing prep football...just keep it within the boundaries of reality and reasonable expectations.

It's kind of like expecting an Ivy League collegiate football team to measure up to SEC standards.

No different than dressing-up as a cowboy while never having worked on a real ranch or being a bona fide contestant on the Grand National circuit.

Just have fun and don't get too carried away.


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2021 at 11:51 am

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

Since Mr. Sails appears to be only one of a few die-hard advocates of the local prep football scene, perhaps he can position himself to become Palo Alto's very own ambassador of high school football.

Facebook is awaiting along with various local sponsorships and a webpage.


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2021 at 7:30 pm

John B. Sails is a registered user.

I've never been on Facebook, or Instagram, or twitter, and I never had a cellphone. [Portion removed.]
But, if I cited Davonte Adams, and I could have added Keesean Johnson, the star WR after DA, who also went to Paly then Fresno State and also was drafted into the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, then why not admit you were wrong?. That's two professional NFL athletes from Paly Football within the last 11 years. Can you name another pair of pro athletes from other Paly sports that did as well? I can't. So there goes your argument about Paly can do this or that, but they can't seriously play football. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Oct 18, 2021 at 10:47 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Oct 18, 2021 at 11:13 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2021 at 9:30 am

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

"Can you name another pair of pro athletes from other Paly sports that did as well? I can't."

@John B. Sails

Fortunately Paly was gifted with two outstanding prep school football athletes who went on to noteworthy NFL careers and while we are at it, let's include Jeremy Lin (NBA).

The majority of high school athletes earn their participatory block letters (along with the cheerleaders) and reminisce about it later at class reunions or while sitting in their armchairs eating pizza and drinking beer watching NFL Sunday or Saturday collegiate football.

And there's nothing wrong with that as adolescent pipe dreams never die.

BTW...except for maybe Jim Harbaugh, has Paly ever turned out any noteworthy white NFL football players within a similar and general time frame?

Davonte Adams & Keesean Johnson are both outstanding African-American athletes and would have succeeded in any high school football program.

Palo Alto High School football was fortunate to have them at the time.


Posted by R. Cavendish
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2021 at 10:37 am

R. Cavendish is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2021 at 12:21 pm

John B. Sails is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2021 at 12:39 pm

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2021 at 1:46 pm

John B. Sails is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 20, 2021 at 9:39 am

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

Perhaps some of the more talented but grade-deficient prep football athletes could consider a 'walk-on' tryout with an SEC powerhouse team or perhaps Ohio State where the term 'student-athlete' remains an oxymoron.

Since collegiate football players can now opt-out for the NFL, why not simply take the fast track?

ACT & SAT scores are no longer being required by many colleges and high school grade transcripts can easily be embellished by enrollment in 'soft courses'.


Posted by R. Cavendish
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2021 at 10:39 am

R. Cavendish is a registered user.

QUOTE: "why not simply take the fast track?"

If high school basketball players can go directly into the NBA, talented prep athletes should also be allowed to enter the NFL upon graduation or after turning 18.

For those with professional aspirations, collegiate football is essentially a 'minor league' for the NFL and all players should be free to sell their athletic skills to the highest bidder.

This is already taking place to a certain extent as college athletes can now sign sports product endorsement contracts.

The NCAA is little more than an exploitive 'sports plantation' and the colleges are the slaveholders.

This scenario is finally on its way out.


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2021 at 11:07 am

John B. Sails is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Roberta Lancaster
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 20, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Roberta Lancaster is a registered user.

The NCAA is a plantation and as far as the 49er who went to Harvard, that was his choice along with the other vocational opportunities that followed.

The Ivy League is not noted for churning out major NFL players (whether black or white) and instead offers a 'prestige' stepping stone towards other more lucrative professional endeavors. Ivy League football is essentially high school football played on the collegiate level.

Stanford might be an exception and more power to them.

Most gifted African_American prep football players tend to opt for 'football colleges' that offer maximum exposure for their talents with minimum focus on academics.

And perhaps this also explains why local midpeninsula prep football borders on the mediocre as there are other more promising options for the academically inclined.


Posted by Jon D
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2021 at 8:33 pm

Jon D is a registered user.

Hey, BL - there is no “unwritten rule” for Palo Alto baseball; club baseball is a thing all over the country. Oh, let’s not forget club soccer, club water polo, club swimming, club Lax, private golf/tennis coaches, etc. if you want to play club football - there’s a club in Oakland…can you handle Oakland? Oh - and we both know the coach you are talking about; he has earned every cent in all phases of his life. BTW - he charges nowhere, nowhere, near $3k and he eats scholarship costs for underprivileged kids, turns nobody away, and gives back to underprivileged kids daily


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2021 at 6:11 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Dear BL - a resident of "Palo Alto High School" - [Portion removed.]

That volunteer assistant coach is a valued, respected, and beloved member of the Palo Alto baseball community, who coaches gratis to give back to the community. He is a Paly Alum, a former Pro Baseball player (drafted from Paly by the Minnesota Twins) and one of the few African-American teachers/coaches at Paly. He has served as a true mentor to countless kids and has been transformational for kids from at risk situations -- an area in which Paly has been notably lacking.

The Club baseball team to which you refer is open to all kids regardless of financial situation, as this volunteer coach always makes room for kids who cannot afford to pay. Additionally, the travel team does NOT charge $3000/month -- that is absurd. Rather, the team charges $3000 for the 20-week *season*, which is far below-market for travel teams in the area, and which barely covers tournament fees, which usually are about $1000 per team per weekend. Regardless, almost every high school has a coach that offers a travel team; only Paly's coach's team is so inclusive and affordable.

Finally, Paly baseball is not "pay to play." One example: the only freshman who made the Paly Varsity team last spring was one of the few players who does not play with the volunteer coach's travel team. The no-cut & inclusive approach can make the volunteer's travel team less appealing to some.

We, members of the Paly baseball community, do not know why our irreplaceable volunteer asst coach could would have been terminated by Paly, but some point to BL's post as a possible reason, despite the inaccuracies in that comment which are easy to confirm with baseball families.

I emailed Paly's principal about this, but obv needed to clear up matters here too. Feel free to reach out w/questions - I posted using my name.


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