After losing its first four games of the season, the Palo Alto High School football team (3-7.3-3) has made a miraculous turn-around in their season, squeaking into the Central Coast Section playoffs, where they will face the Salinas High School Cowboys (8-2, 7-0), tonight in Salinas.
The second-seed Cowboys have put together an impressive season, going undefeated in league play, and finishing with an overall record of 8-2. The Vikings will have to put forth a strong performance to slow Salinas’ strong running game.
According to Viking senior defensive end Bryant Jefferson, despite being the seventh-seed, the Vikings need to capitalize on opportunities.
“We just have to do our jobs and be very disciplined because Salinas is a very good team who runs their system well,” Jefferson said.
The Vikings, coming off of a 27-10 loss to Wilcox High School (7-3, 5-1) look to bounce back after a hard fought game in which junior running back Aiden Chang put up another strong performance, posting 96 yards on 15 carries.
The Vikings will look for players to step up all over the field tonight, on both sides of the ball.
For the Vikings to have a chance against the Cowboys, running backs Chang and senior Paul Jackson III need to continue their dominance on the ground, and wide receivers junior Paul Thie and sophomore Jamir Shepard will play key components of the passing attack.
Defensively, this season, junior linebackers Wes Walters and Seattle Hmelar have stepped up in a big way, leading the team in total tackles with 92 and 51, respectively. The defensive front, anchored by Jefferson and sophomore Louis Passarello will look to slow Salinas in the run game as well.
Salinas has weapons in the backfield, with running backs senior Ritchie Cerda and junior Moguel Cortez. Both players have posted over 300 yards this season, and have found the endzone for a combined nine times.
In addition to their strong run game, dual threat quarterback senior Brett Reade has a strong weapon in the pass game in senior wide receiver Jeffrey Weimer. Weimer leads the team with 230 receiving yards and five touchdowns this season.
This will be the first round of the Division 1 CCS playoffs, and the Vikings will need to win three games to win the championship.
“We really want to get to the championship and everyone in the team believes we can,” Jefferson said.