Vikings defeat Pirates in first football CCS playoff match

Ketan Altekar-Okazaki and Maxwell Zhang

Palo Alto vs. Stevenson CCS Football

In their first Central Coastal Section football playoff game of the season, the Palo Alto High School Vikings (2-3) beat the Stevenson High School Pirates (6-0), 38-18, in a stellar offensive performance Friday on senior night.

According to Viking Head Coach David DeGeronimo, the Vikings worked hard to improve their offense and defense leading up to their first playoff match.

“We talked about getting better every week, and I think we’re doing that because we’ve now got a win streak going,” DeGeronimo said. “We get better every week when we execute our offense. … They [The Vikings] are starting to understand it and it’s starting to click.”

According to Pirate Head Coach Kyle Cassamas, the Pirates were hoping to maintain the playing style they had developed throughout the season.

“Our mentality was just: We were gonna stick to the game plan of being a team and play with confidence, be aggressive, and be physical,” Cassamas said. “That’s really what carried us week after week.”

During the first quarter, the defense from both teams dominated the field. After a long drive of 15 plays, the Vikings scored a field goal halfway through the quarter, setting the score in the Vikings’ favor, 3-0. During the Pirate’s possession of the ball, they were unable to capitalize on any plays and forced to punt, leaving the score 3-0 at the end of the quarter.

During the second quarter, two consecutive passes by Viking junior quarterback Declan Packer to junior wide receiver Jason Auzenne and senior wide receiver Kai Bussey totaling 73 yards resulted in the Vikings’ first touchdown, setting the score at 10-0. Additionally, the Viking kickoff was recovered by Viking senior outside linebacker Oliver Marburg, and in the following play, Packer threw a 51-yard pass completion to Viking senior wide receiver Leon Unga for another touchdown, putting the Vikings in the lead, 17-0.

According to Pirate senior running back Rider McCormick, the Pirates were determined to persevere, even though Paly had the upper hand.

“We knew we were undersized, but that didn’t stop us,” McCormick said. “We thought we had a great play scheme to infiltrate Paly’s offense and defense. We knew that we were aggressive all year, and we thought we could just carry that into this game.”

The Pirates attempted to match the Vikings, but a series of sacks in the latter half of the 2nd quarter forced the Pirates to punt. The Vikings continued their streak after a series of running plays by senior running back Jack Newman, who got 139 total yards in the match, led to another touchdown, extending the Vikings’ lead to 24-0. However, the Pirates responded with a rushing touchdown by Pirate junior quarterback Justin Diniz, ending the half with a score line of 24-6 after a blocked one-point attempt. 

Near the start of the third quarter, Paly fumbled the ball, which was scooped up by senior wide receiver Thomas Lansbury, who was tackled at the Vikings’ 11-yard line. The Pirates took advantage of this opportunity and used it to score a touchdown but were unable to execute the two-point conversion, bringing the score to 24-12. However, the Vikings answered with a touchdown of their own, with Packer completing a 42-yard passing play to Viking senior wide receiver Amani Elfadil for a touchdown, setting the score at 31-12. However, the Vikings were not done. Viking senior outside linebacker Lincoln Tutor intercepted a Pirates’ pass after a deflection from Newman. A couple of plays later, Packer threw the ball to Auzenne for a 49-yard touchdown, increasing the lead to 38-12.

In the final quarter of the game, the Pirates came back with a 15-yard touchdown scored by McCormick, but lost momentum due to a failed two-point conversion and the strong Viking defense. The Vikings kept the ball for the rest of the game, finalizing the score at 38-18.

Although the Pirates lost the match, Cassamas still has high hopes for what is to come in future seasons.

“This is the first time that we’ve won a league championship in 22 years, so we want these guys to feel this and to cherish this,” Camssamas said. “We want to be able to make this a thing every year where we’re able to compete for a league championship and hopefully find ourselves back in the playoffs year after year.”

According to Packer, although the Vikings’ performance was solid, there are still things for them to work on.

“To prepare for our next match, we’re just gonna try to fix some little mistakes: breakdown, coverage, turnovers on offense, that sort of thing,” Packer said.

According to DeGeronimo, the focus now is on the next match against Seaside High School.

“Right now the focus is on Seaside,” DeGeronimo said. “They beat Woodside tonight. And they’re a pretty good athletic team coming up here. So that’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

The Vikings are scheduled to play their CCS semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday against the Seaside High School Spartans (4-2) at home.

Game Statistics

Vikings: 202 rushing yards, 286 passing yards, 19 first downs, 1 fumble, 1 interception

Pirates: 79 rushing yards, 81 passing yards, 9 first downs, 0 fumbles, 0 interceptions

All photos by Daniel Garepis-Holland