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Vikings fall to Gators on day of stadium renaming

The Palo Alto High School Viking’s defense lines up against the Sacred Heart Preparatory Gators during a match that marked the renaming of the Viking stadium on Saturday night. The Vikings suffered a 14-28 defeat to the Gators after Sacred Heart overpowered the Viking’s defense with running plays. According to Vikings head coach David DeGeronimo, the Vikings played well despite the loss. “We wanted to keep things rolling, and we felt pretty good about it,” DeGeronimo said. “We thought we had a good game plan. We just made more mistakes than they did.” (Photo: Ketan Altekar-Okazaki)

The Palo Alto High School Viking varsity football team (2-1) suffered a defeat to the Sacred Heart Preparatory Gators (2-1), 14-28, Saturday night at home, during which a heartfelt ceremony recognized the renaming of the Viking Stadium to the Earl Hansen Viking Stadium.

According to Viking head coach David DeGeronimo, this was an important game for the Vikings.

“I really wanted to get a win,” DeGeronimo said. “I started [coaching] in 1999 with Earl Hansen, so he’s the reason I am coaching. We wanted to get a win for him, and it just didn’t come through.”

According to Gator senior running back Ravu Savali, coming into the game, the Gators had lost a few star players from last year.

“We knew that we didn’t really have the talent from last year,” Savali said. “We’re also kind of low on numbers this year, so we knew that we had to stay focused and have guys be prepared and ready.”

During the first quarter, the Vikings were outmatched by the Gators in both offense and defense. The first drive by the Vikings was stopped early after a fourth-down attempt resulted in senior quarterback Declan Packer being sacked for 10 yards. The Gators responded to the Viking’s drive by executing a series of six running plays and one pass, ending in an eight-yard touchdown rush by junior running back Greg Gamitian, putting the Gators in the lead, 7-0. The Vikings next drive attempt was stopped early, and a botched punt led the Gators to begin their drive at the Viking’s 19-yard line. After four running plays, Savali made a six-yard rush for another touchdown, increasing the gap to 14 points.

Gator head coach Mark Grieb said he was especially pleased with the way that the Gators played during the first quarter. 

“We had a lot of guys that ended up stepping up in this particular game that hadn’t played as much,” Grieb said. “It was a dramatic week in a lot of ways, but I was really pleased with the effort that we got with all the ups and downs of the week of practice. This was an impressive win for us.”

Both offenses were quiet throughout most of the second quarter until the Vikings executed a 13-play drive, ending with senior running back Jeremiah Madrigal diving for a two-yard touchdown, giving the Vikings their first points of the game, bringing the score to 7-14.

Earl Hansen and his wife listen to the heartwarming remarks during the renaming ceremony. During the football match between the Palo Alto Vikings and the Sacred Heart Gators, the Viking Stadium was finally renamed to the Earl Hansen Viking Stadium. According to Tina Bono, one of the speakers at the event, the project was a culmination of the effort of many different groups. “This has been a project that has been on our mind for the longest time, and we are finally, with a lot of hard work, administration help, our great committee, and all the fans, bringing back a little bit of Paly history,” Bono said. (Photo: Ketan Altekar-Okazaki)

The halftime began with a speech from sports anchor and Paly class of ’83 graduate Dave Feldman about his former coach, Earl Hansen, delivered in front of a crowd of athletes once coached by Hansen. Feldman shared his memories of Hansen and the great reputation he had as an athletic director and coach in the Paly community. After a series of heartwarming remarks and comments from Hansen about his coaching tenure at Paly, the former Viking Stadium was officially renamed the Earl Hansen Viking Stadium.

Feldman said in his speech that even though Hansen was harsh on players, his attitude for the sport always improved the skills of his players. 

“You were always better as a player and as a person after having played for Earl,” Feldman said. “He was tough, but he was fair. He would listen to what you had to say, and then he would make the final decision.”

At the beginning of the third quarter, Viking junior free safety Jeremiah Fung forced Gator senior running back Anthony Noto to fumble, and the ball was recovered by Viking junior outside linebacker Roman Jacobs. However, the Vikings were unable to capitalize on this opportunity, and were forced to punt. In the next drive, the Gators executed a series of 12 running plays, resulting in another touchdown, 7-21. The Vikings responded with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Packer to Viking senior wide receiver Auzenne, setting the score to 14-21.

The Vikings struggled to close the score gap in the final quarter. Both teams had difficulty gaining yards initially, but a short 6-play drive ended with a nine-yard touchdown rush by Noto, extending the Gators’ lead to 14-28. In a last-ditch attempt by the Vikings, the Gators forced Packer to fumble, with Gator sophomore defensive lineman Atelea Tau recovering the ball. Gator senior quarterback Jack Scully knelt three times to run the clock down and end the game.

Although the Gators had a stellar performance, Grieb said there are always improvements that can be made.

“Anytime we have turnovers, I think that’s something that you want to work on,” Grieb said. “We had a couple of balls hit the ground, and we’re always going to try to work on that.”

Auzenne said in the coming weeks the Vikings need to work on their coordination as a team.

“I feel like we should all need to learn how to trust each other and be able to depend on one another and have 100% trust that that person will do their job,” Auzenne said.

The Vikings are scheduled to play a non-league match at 7 p.m. Friday against the Los Gatos High School Wildcats (2-1) at Los Gatos High School.

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About the Contributors
Maxwell Zhang
Maxwell Zhang, Senior Staff Writer
Maxwell Zhang (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his sophomore year and wishes to pursue management and STEM in college.
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki, Senior Staff Writer
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his junior year and enjoys volunteering in his free time.

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