Vikings reach CCS open playoff championship, defeat St. Francis, 39-23

Aaron Chum, Author

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Paly running back Dre Hill breaks away from St. Francis’s defense in Paly’s 39-23 victory over the Lancers on November 26, 2011.

– David Lim

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The Palo Alto High School football team (10-2-0) is returning to defend its Central Coastal Section Open Division championship next week after emerging victorious against St. Francis High School (6-6-0) tonight, 39-23.

“Just about everything worked for us in the first half,” Palo Alto head coach Earl Hansen said. “Keller [Chryst] played his best game of the season at a perfect time, he really grew from a week ago.”

Paly opened the game with the ball, but fumbled it away on the second play from scrimmage.

Four minutes later, senior running back Durell Crooks scored from one yard out, giving the Lancers a 7-0 lead.

Paly quickly responded, marching down the field on a 76-yard drive. The drive was capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst to junior wide receiver Jayshawn Gates-Mouton.

Paly dominated the remainder of the first half, scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter. The first two were short runs, a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Chryst and a 2-yard dive by senior running back Morris Gates-Mouton.

The third touchdown capped a two minute drive orchestrated by Chryst, as the Vikings drove from their own 35-yard line into the red zone. Chryst found multiple receivers on the drive; senior tight end Austin Braff caught two passes for 40 yards, J. Gates-Mouton caught one, and senior running back B.J Boyd caught one. On the last play of the half, Chryst found Braff for a 5-yard touchdown pass.

The second half started in the same manner that the first had ended, as Chryst connected with Boyd for a 50-yard touchdown.

However, the Lancers soon began to mount a comeback. Crooks broke free for a 54-yard touchdown. On the ensuing Viking drive, a bad snap on fourth down led to a safety. The Paly lead was cut to 33-16 at the end of the third quarter.

The Vikings tacked on their final touchdown with eight and a half minutes left in the game, capping off a lengthy drive with a 6-yard pass from Chryst to M. Gates-Mouton.

The Vikings defense held for the majority of the remaining time, sacking Lancer quarterback Colin Johnson three times in the final quarter.

“We practiced hard in our protections,” junior center Spencer Drazovich said. We watched the film, we knew what they were going to bring.”

The Lancers scored a meaningless touchdown with three seconds left in the game on another 54-yard touchdown run by Crooks, ending the scoring at 39-23 in Paly’s favor.

The Vikings will be facing Bellarmine College Preparatory (11-1-0) in the CCS Open Division championship, marking another matchup between the two powerhouses.

“It feels good defending it again, it’s the third straight year we’re playing Bellarmine in the playoffs,” senior safety Gabe Landa said.  “We’re looking forward to it, we’ll be looking at film, we’ll be practicing, and just like last year, we’re going to get it.”

“We’re just going to work hard as we do every week,” Chryst said. “Focus in practice every day, every play.”

The Viking’s next game will be at 8:00 p.m. next Friday at San Jose City College against Bellarmine.

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