In defeating Spartans, Vikings narrowly avoid playoff elimination

Palo Alto vs. Mountain View Football

After three consecutive losses, the Palo Alto High School varsity football team (1-3) narrowly won a crucial game against Mountain View High School (1-3), 48-35, keeping the Vikings’ playoff hopes alive.

The two teams faced off in Mountain View’s Homecoming game, resulting in the Spartan bleachers being packed, with Mountain View fans eager for a victory.

According to Viking junior wide receiver Jason Auzenne, his team was nervous going into the game since the stakes were so high. 

“We knew that if we lost this game, we wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs,” Auzenne said. “We knew we had to step it up and get the job done.”

According to Paly football head coach David DeGeronimo, the desire to qualify for playoffs was extremely helpful in boosting team effectiveness in practice.

“The players understood that our backs were against the wall, and they needed to win,” DeGeronimo said. “They just played their hearts out.”

The game started off with a fake punt by Auzenne that resulted in a 24-yard gain. The Vikings’ offense took advantage of this play to get the ball quickly to the one-yard line. Viking junior quarterback Declan Packer ran the ball for a one-yard touchdown, starting the game off 7-0 for the Vikings. The rest of the quarter was a struggle by both offensive lineups to gain yardage since both defensive lineups were able to prevent first downs.

“We [The defense] played really well,” DeGeronimo said. “The breakdowns that we [the defense] had were either missed assignments on coverage or they caught us in a blitz. … We just got back to doing what we do.”

During the second quarter, the Spartans started off strong with an 18-yard pass by Spartan junior quarterback Kevin Conway for a touchdown, tying the game, 7-7. However, the Vikings quickly brushed off the Spartan touchdown. With a series of rushing plays, junior running back Jeremiah Madrigal scored a touchdown and retook the lead, 14-7.

Throughout the third quarter, the score swung back and forth as volleys of touchdowns were scored by both teams. The first touchdown of the quarter was scored by the Spartans after recovering a snap fumbled by the Vikings, tying the score again, 14-14. Only a few plays later, Spartan junior running back Dillon Daniels scored another touchdown after evading multiple Viking defenders, making the score 14-21 for the Spartans. A series of running plays led Madrigal to score again, setting the score at 21-21. Everytime a team scored, their morale would rise. However, it would quickly fall again after a touchdown from the opposing team scored. 

Near the end of the third quarter, the Vikings’ kickoff landed at the 12-yard line but was immediately returned by Spartan junior running back Arturo Hernandez for an 82-yard touchdown. However, after the Spartans punted the ball back, Madrigal scored a 51-yard touchdown after hurdling over multiple tackle attempts, tying the score 28-28. 

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the back and forth continued with teams feeling victorious and then defeated in a matter of minutes. In the fourth quarter, the Spartans started off strong with a running touchdown by Spartan sophomore running back Diego Ortega-Gerow, setting the scoreline to 28-35. However, the Vikings bounced back and picked up a touchdown of their own with a 50-yard catch by Auzenne, tying the score yet again at 35-35. The Mountain View fans erupted each time the Spartans scored, with the Mountain View band playing their signature song after every Spartan touchdown.

According to Spartan varsity football head coach Tim Lugo, the Spartans were looking forward to playing their homecoming game in front of a large crowd.

“We were pretty excited to play,” Lugo said. “We didn’t do anything different [to prepare] than we do any week. We watched film and we prepared for what we think we’re going to see during the game.”

In the latter half of the fourth quarter, to the Mountain View fans’ dismay, the Vikings pulled ahead with their lead, scoring two more touchdowns after two consecutive interceptions by Viking senior defensive back Franklin Tutor and senior middle linebacker Jack Newman, ending the game with a score of 48-35.

Although it was an enjoyable night for the Vikings, that was not the case for the Spartans. Given that it was the Homecoming game and the ultimate qualification for the playoffs, the Spartans left the stadium filled with emotion.

Overall, there were two fumbles by the Viking offense and three interceptions caught by the Viking defense. The Viking offense got 11 first downs, while the Spartan offense got 12.

According to junior offensive tackle Iki Tupou, the Viking’s win can be attributed to the improvement in teamwork and working together. 

“I think over time, our team is getting closer,” Tupou said. “It’s showing on the field because we actually have some team chemistry. We’re not just playing for ourselves, but we’re playing as a team in a unit.”

The Vikings needed to win this crucial game as well as the next league match against Milpitas High School (1-3) to advance to the playoffs.

According to DeGeronimo, he believes that with more preparation, the team will have a good chance of beating Milpitas. 

“When it comes to Milpitas, they’re a tough and physical team,” DeGeronimo said. “But if you play defense like [we did], and we cut down on the turnovers, I bet we’ll be just fine.”

The Vikings are scheduled to play their next league game 7 p.m. Friday against the Milpitas Trojans at home.