Vikings qualify for playoffs by defeating Trojans

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Viking senior free safety Rocky Leitch tackles an opposing Milpitas High School Trojan at The Palo Alto High School Vikings’ last league and playoff-qualifying game. The Vikings won, 40-23, and secured their spot in the upcoming Central Coast Section tournament. According to Viking head coach David DeGeronimo, the victory was a thrilling finish to the season. “We wanted to make the playoffs and we’ve accomplished that,” DeGeronimo said. “This season has been a success in my mind — the players are happy.” (Photo: Annalise Balentine)

In its last league game of the regular season, the Palo Alto High School football team (2-3) successfully toppled the Milpitas High School Trojans (1-4), 40-23, with a dominating offensive performance, securing its spot in the upcoming Central Coast Section playoffs.

The game was a defining event for both teams, with both Paly and Milpitas tied for fourth place in the DeAnza league. Only one team would move forward.

The game started off with a Viking failed fake punt, which led to a series of running plays by Trojan senior wide receiver Ty Egorerua resulting in a touchdown. However, the Vikings responded quickly with a 50-yard pass completion by junior quarterback Declan Packer to senior wide receiver Amani Elfadil followed by a three-yard touchdown rush by junior running back Jeremiah Madrigal.

The Trojans continued their momentum, scoring a 76-yard rushing touchdown by Egorerua. However, the Vikings struck back, and Packer threw a 49-yard pass completion to Elfadil, resulting in another touchdown. After this back-and-forth momentum, the Trojans came out on top in the first quarter, 13-14.

The second quarter was dominated by the Vikings. A series of carries by Madrigal totaling 57 yards led the Vikings to another touchdown. Then, Viking senior tight end Oliver Marburg picked up a fumbled kickoff return by the Trojans, resulting in another touchdown after a 29-yard pass completion to Elfadil. The rest of the quarter was back-and-forth turnovers between the two teams, and the Vikings had a lead of 26-14 by the end of the first half.

According to Elfadil, the strong start at the beginning is what helped the Vikings carry their momentum throughout the game.

“It [Our mentality] was mainly just to start fresh from the beginning,” Elfadil said. “We always kind of come out good in the second half, but in the first half, we’re always usually slow. We fixed that tonight.”

Near the end of the third quarter, after a turnover at the Viking six-yard line, a series of yardage losses resulted in a safety for the Trojans. However, Viking senior cornerback Leon Unga returned the favor by intercepting a Trojan pass inside the 10-yard line, and in the first seconds of the fourth quarter, a 67-yard pass completion by Packer to Auzenne resulted in another touchdown, setting the scoreline to 33-16.

The Vikings continued their momentum in the last quarter, and a series of carries by Viking senior running back Jack Newman for a total of 69 yards resulted in another Viking touchdown. The Trojans attempted to score a touchdown of their own but were intercepted by senior free safety Rocky Leitch inside the 20-yard line. In the last seconds of the game, Trojan senior quarterback Zae Mims rushed for a touchdown, but the referee blew the final whistle, and the Vikings were victorious 40-23.

This is the Vikings’ second league game win coming right after its first against Mountain View following a rough opening to the season: The Vikings started off the season with three consecutive losses. According to Auzenne, the season has been strong despite the rocky start.

“The season has been exciting,” Auzenne said. “It’s been a good run. I had low hopes in the beginning about making the playoffs and everything, but now we’ve made it and we’re good.”

According to DeGeronimo, the players have been improving exponentially since they are more comfortable around their coaches and peers.

“We really struggled at the beginning [of the season],” DeGeronimo said. “I think part of that is just them getting used to a new system, and them getting used to new coaches. They’re doing it and they’re doing it and they’re playing better. We’re playing teams that we can beat and we’re beating them.”

According to Elfadil, the Vikings will continue to train harder so that they can perform to the best of their abilities at the playoffs.

“To prepare for CCS, we’ll be doing the same thing we’ve been doing probably, but just a lot more locked in a lot more intense practices,” Elfadil said.

The Vikings are scheduled to play their senior night game 7 p.m. Thursday against the Jefferson High School Grizzlies (0-5) at home.

Game Statistics

Vikings: 447 total yards, 17 first downs, 0 fumbles, 2 interceptions

Trojans: 370 total yards, 15 first downs, 1 fumble, 0 interceptions