The Palo Alto High School boys’ soccer team (7-0-1, 3-0) took down its cross-town rival, Gunn High School (0-0-8, 0-2), 3-1 on Wednesday at Gunn.
The match was full of action, with three yellows cards and one red card for Paly and two yellow cards for Gunn. The red card, given to junior center defender Neil Verwillow, also resulted in a free kick play right outside of the goal box. The free kick resulted in Gunn’s only goal, allowing them to get back into the game, down by one goal with a score of 2-1 with 25 minutes left in the second half.
“We got that red card and then they scored a goal,” head coach Don Briggs said. “It felt like ‘Oh my gosh, we’re in a dog fight now, 2-1.’”
The Vikings were able to come into the game with a lot of energy, according to junior forward Michel Ange Siaba.
“We came on the field very pumped because, you know, this is Gunn,” Siaba said. “It’s the ultimate game. The energy was really high up, which is probably our greatest strength right now: coming onto the field with energy and challenging the opponent.”
After a roughly even first half, the Vikings led 1-0 on a goal scored by senior midfielder Dami Bolarinwa, finished off of a slowed breakaway by senior forward Alessandro Reale. Despite leading in score, both teams struggled with keeping possession during the first half.
“That first half was a little sketchy,” Briggs said. “I don’t know if the kids were a little bit nervous, but it seemed like they were holding onto the ball and waiting for the perfect pass, and then they’d make a bad pass. We make three or four or five good passes and then we make one bad pass and give it up, and we’re back on our heels again.”
According to Gunn head coach Ken Luis, facing Paly was a challenge, but the Titans performed well.
“A lot of the players were really up for the Palo Alto rivalry,” Luis said. “This is always a big game. I could tell that, this week, the guys were really excited for this game. We had our moments, but it was overall probably one of our better games this season.”
Paly’s third and final goal, scored on a free kick by senior midfielder Roberto Sotelo to Bolarinwa and finished by senior forward Max Hallberg, shifted the game’s momentum back into Paly’s favor, helping the team to finish on a strong note, according to Briggs.
“We scored the next goal and it kind of ended that feeling [of panic],” Briggs said.
Despite being able to finish on multiple chances, including an early goal in the second half by Siaba, Paly struggled with finishing their offensive chances, according to Briggs.
“We had so many opportunities we just need to put the ball in the net when we have those crosses,” Briggs said.
Paly will face off against the Mountain View Spartans (5-1-4, 0-0-1) at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at the Vikings’ field.