Vikings storm back in second half to defeat Leland, 20-6

Aaron Chum, Author


A swarm of Paly defenders led by senior linebacker Brennan Miller sack Leland High School’s quarterback in Paly’s 20-6 CCS first round victory over the Chargers.

– Matt Ersted

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The Palo Alto Vikings (9-2-0) staged a thrilling comeback in the first round of the Central Coast Section playoffs, defeating the Leland High School Chargers (9-2-0), 20-6, on a cold and rainy night.

The first half of the game was a defensive struggle, with both teams trading punts up and down the field. Leland gained the early advantage by intercepting sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst, setting up a field goal with six minutes left in the first quarter.

Leland would tack on another score early in the second half, capping off a lengthy drive with a 25-yard field goal.

Senior running back and defensive back Chris Santini, who already committed to play football at Boise State University next year, led the way for the Chargers.

The Vikings were shut out in the first half for the first time all season, going into the locker room down 6-0.

Chryst threw four interceptions on the night, but came back in the second half with touchdown strikes of 37 and 42 yards to senior running back B.J Boyd.

On both plays, Boyd raced down the sideline and jumped over Leland cornerbacks to snag the ball.

“He [the Leland defender] almost caught the ball,” Boyd said, describing his second touchdown catch. “But I reached around him and caught the ball.”

Chryst said that the offensive gameplan for the Vikings did not change regardless of the interceptions.

“We just played our game and got into it,” Chryst said.

Paly head coach Earl Hansen praised Chryst’s performance.

“That [Chryst’s recovery from four interceptions] was huge,” Hansen said. “The first half he was shaky, first playoff game of his life. Maybe we asked a little bit too much of him, that’s probably on us, but he showed character and poise in the second half and did what he had to do.”

Senior running back Dre Hill scored the third Viking touchdown on a 1-yard run with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The defense repeatedly came up big for Vikings, keeping them close in the first half and sealing the victory in the second. With under five minutes left in the game, seniors Austin Braff and Morris Gates-Mouton sacked Leland quarterback Jason Habash on a crucial fourth down in Leland territory. Later, Boyd picked off a Habash pass with under a minute left to close out the game.

“We fought the whole time,” Hansen said. “They had a good game plan for us in the first half.  This is the Open Division so everybody’s good. They’re 9-1 for a reason. Our defense played well and our offense picked it up in the second half.”

Chryst said that the Vikings would prepare for their next game as usual.

“We’re just going to play our game,” Chryst said. “Throw when it’s open, run when it’s open, and just pound it on them.”

Leland head coach Mike Carrozzo was impressed by both teams’ performances.

“Sometimes the weather doesn’t help you,” said Carrrozoo. “I don’t take anything away from Paly, they had a great defense, both teams had a great defense. They are a strong ballclub, but I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch of kids than I am of ours.”

With this victory, the Vikings advance to the second round of the CCS playoffs. They will play Saint Francis High School (6-5-0) at 7:00 p.m next Saturday at San Jose City College.

A liveblog of tonight’s game can be found here.

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