Football recap: Comeback attempt falls short as Vikings lose to Milpitas

Allison Cowie and Jared Schwartz

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Senior running back Matt Tolbert evades a Milipitas tackler in Paly’s home defeat on Friday night. Photo by Matt Ersted.

The Palo Alto High School football team (2-2-0) fell to the Milpitas High School Trojans (3-1-0), 24-19, tonight on the Vikings’ home turf.

After a dismal first half where the Vikings struggled to produce offensively, the Trojans led 17-6.  Paly mounted a comeback that looked promising, but was unable to convert on their opportunities, coming up short in the end.

After a scoreless first quarter, Milpitas forced Paly to punt on their first drive of the second quarter. A high snap on the ensuing punt attempt allowed the Trojan defense to converge on junior quarterback and punter Keller Chryst, forcing a fumble. Trojan senior linebacker and tight end Chris Malone recovered the football, running it back for a touchdown with 8:34 left in the second quarter. The extra point gave Milpitas a 7-0 lead.

Less than a minute later, Milpitas struck again after another Viking fumble.  Senior defensive back and running back CJ Reyes scored on a five-yard touchdown run, following a 55-yard run back on a fumble recovery by freshman Trojan running back and linebacker Jarred Green.

A Trojan field goal later in the quarter stretched the lead to 17-0.

Late in the first half, the Vikings began to claw their way back with a touchdown pass from Chryst to senior receiver Jayshawn Gates-Mouton. A botched extra point kept the deficit at 17-6.

Senior fullback and linebacker Erik Anderson was not satisfied with the Vikings’ first half performance.

“We just need to get fired up in the beginning,” Anderson said.

The second half didn’t start much better for Paly.

Milpitas came out of the break strong, scoring easily on their first drive of the third quarter with a 38-yard touchdown run by senior running back and defensive lineman Vita Vea.

The Vikings and Trojans battled throughout the remainder of the third quarter, but both sides remained scoreless until Paly started to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter.

With 10:55 remaining in the game, Chryst threw a 16-yard strike to De’Antay Williams for a touchdown.  A missed two-point conversion kept the score at 24-12.

“He [Williams] had a great game,” head coach Earl Hansen said.  “He made some big plays for us today… He’s getting better all the time.”

Williams wasn’t done yet. On the next drive, beginning with a Trojan fumble recovered by Anderson, he caught a short pass from Chryst on a fourth and 40 from the Viking 37-yard line.  Breaking several tackles, he rumbled into the endzone to bring the Vikings within six.  The extra point made it 24-19 in favor of the Trojans.

Paly senior running back and defensive back Justin Gates-Mouton managed to recover an onside kick, but the Vikings failed to put any points on the board on a drive beginning around midfield.

After a time-consuming drive by the Trojans, the Vikings finally managed to stop Milpitas on fourth down at the Paly 22 yard line with just over four minutes remaining in the game. However, Paly failed to pick up enough yardage for a first down, handing the ball back to the Trojans.

Milpitas picked up a first down at the Viking four-yard line with under two minutes remaining.  They lined up in victory formation, looking to take a knee and run out the clock. However, the Trojan quarterback lost control of the ball on the snap, and Viking defenders jumped on it, giving Paly one last shot at an improbable comeback.

From their own eight-yard line, Chryst nearly connected with junior receiver Malcolm Davis on a deep pass. On the ensuing play, a desperation pass by Chryst as he fell backwards was picked off at midfield, ending the Vikings’ comeback run.

Chryst completed 17 passes on 52 attempts for 270 yards and three touchdowns.  He also threw four interceptions.

However, Hansen was not worried about Chryst’s performance after the game.

“He [Chryst] is a strong kid, mentally and physically,” Hansen said.

Despite the Vikings’ mistakes, Hansen thought it was a strong performance by the team as a whole.

“We hung in there all the way to the bitter end,” Hansen said.  “We made some critical errors where we had the ball where we wanted it and one play and we win the game.”

The players reflected Hansen’s feelings regarding their performance.

“As a team, we did really well and gave it all we had,” junior linebacker Andrew Frick said.  “We made a couple mistakes, and that was the difference between winning and losing.”

Anderson shared Frick’s sentiment that the Vikings’ late effort was a strong one.

“We did a good job,” Anderson said.  “We just need to… come out and play like we played in the second half. Next time the score will be a little bit different.”

The Vikings will take on the Homestead High School Mustangs at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Homestead.