Varsity football to kick off season

Allie Feitzinger, Editor-in-Chief

Following a season in which the Palo Alto High School’s varsity football team went 5-1 in league and 10-2 overall, reaching the section semi-finals, the Vikings are preparing for their first kickoff this weekend with an away game against St. Ignatius.

According to Nelson Gifford, head coach and recently appointed athletic director, Paly’s varsity roster is down three players from last season, having reduced in size from 32 to 29 team members.

However, Gifford said that Paly’s football has historically functioned well as a small team relative to the school’s size. Additionally, future varsity teams may see a boost in a membership, as 30 freshmen came out for football this year, according to Gifford.

Senior Kevin Cullen, who plays as both quarterback and free safety for the team, said he anticipates more players engaging in both offense and defense as a result of the roster’s relatively size.

“We have a lot of talent in our senior class, and a lot of those guys are going to be playing both ways,” Cullen said.

Overall, Gifford anticipates a season with many strong competitors and is focused on each individual game as it approaches.

“All the matchups are competitive,” Gifford said. “The one thing that stands out about football is you get one shot at each of these contests, and there’s an entire week to prepare. So you really have to stay laser-focused in on each contest as they come.”.

The players have been preparing since fall sports began practicing on Aug. 9, and were involved in summer conditioning prior to the official practices kicking off, according to Gifford.

The coaches are also working to focus on the present this season, Gifford said. They hope to treat this year’s team as a blank slate, rather than comparing it to previous groups.

“Every year is a new one, we start from zero,” Gifford said. “It’s not about trying to compare them to last year’s team or the team 10 years before that. They’re their own group.”

This season marks varsity football’s second year with the Gifford-led coaching staff. Cullen said hopes this year’s familiarity with the staff and playbook will strengthen the team.

“We are no longer learning the playbook and trying to figure out all the plays,” Cullen said. “I’m excited to see where that takes us.”

The Vikings are currently preparing for their first game against the St. Ignatius Wildcats at 1 p.m. tomorrow at St. Ignatius College Preparatory, hoping to reprise last year’s win, 21-14. Based on the opposing school’s performance last season, reflected by individual games more so than by its actual record (3-8, 3-4), Gifford anticipates a challenging game.