The first big Bay Area rain storm in months steered clear of the peninsula on Friday night where the Palo Alto High Vikings shocked the Wilcox Chargers in come-from-behind fashion. With the rain staying away for another day, both teams were able to utilize their passing attacks, but it was the costly fumbles that haunted Wilcox, as they suffered their first conference loss of the season, 25-21.
“You can’t turn the ball over in those situations” commented Chargers Head Coach Paul Rosa after the game. “I think we killed ourselves. Give [Palo Alto] credit, but that was a game we needed. We just didn’t play well, maybe we thought we were going to win this game easy.”
Despite coming into the game with a 2-5 record (1-2 in league), the Vikings opened the game with a touchdown on their very first drive.
That opening score appeared to be a wake up call for the favored Chargers who were 4-3 and (3-0 in league) at the start of the night. Wilcox entered the game averaging over 200 yards more offense per game than Palo Alto, and immediately responded with a touchdown of their own. After a nice kick return by senior tailback Isaiah Chavez, the combination running of Chavez and fellow senior runner Richard Herrera powered the offense into the endzone. Herrera capped off the drive with a 6-yard toss for the touchdown.
From there, the Chargers defense made the necessary adjustments to keep the Vikings from scoring the rest of the half. That allowed the Chargers offense to take the lead with Herrera’s second touchdown of the game.
With the score now 14-6, Coach Rosa finally opened up the passing attack. After the Chargers got the ball back with just under a minute remaining in the first half, Rosa let junior quarterback David Hernandez launch multiple passes to 6’5” senior wide out Zach Hill. The passing attack nearly allowed the Wilcox to score a third touchdown to end the half, but Hill was tackled just short of the endzone as time expired.
The way this game unfolded, one could argue that was a game-saving tackle. Instead of being down by two touchdowns, the Vikings were down just one score at halftime. Wilcox would lose one of their three costly fumbles on the opening drive of the second half. Palo Alto would turn that recovery into seven points in jaw-dropping fashion. It appeared as if the Vikings had scored on a long touchdown run, but the play was called back for a chop block. The 15-yard penalty reverted the ball back to midfield. However, a long pass completion from sophomore quarterback Jackson Chryst, son of former San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator Geep Chryst, stunned the Wilcox defense. After the big play, the Vikings would punch the ball in for a touchdown just a few plays later, pulling within 14-12.
On the very next drive the Wilcox offense would fumble for the third time, their second official turnover. Fortunately for the Chargers, Palo Alto failed to take advantage. A broken play where Chryst tried to hand off to a tailback who wasn’t there helped stall the Vikings’ drive. Palo Alto would be forced to settle for a field goal attempt that was blocked by Wilcox’s special teams unit. On the Chargers’ ensuing drive, Chavez immediately broke loose for a 29-yard gain on the ground. The Chargers were able to hold onto the ball this time around with Herrera scoring his third touchdown. Wise beyond his years, the Wilcox senior was far more concerned about the team loss than his own performance.
“To be honest with you, I don’t care about my personal stats” responded the senior tailback. “I just want to win as a team, this is my family. Tonight, honestly, broke my heart.”
Herrera’s final touchdown put the Chargers up 21-12, but a deep throw from Chryst to wide receiver Jackson Hall helped set up the Vikings’ third touchdown to cut the lead to 21-18.
At this point, Rosa prepared his special teams for what he thought would be an onside kick attempt. Palo Alto instead pooched a kick down the sideline and a terrific special teams tackle pinned Wilcox deep in their own territory. The Palo Alto defense stood tall, forcing the Chargers to punt for the first time. The Vikings would muff the punt at midfield though, turning the ball back over to the Chargers.
Unfortunately for Wilcox, the theme of the second half was a comedy of errors. Just two plays later they fumbled for the fourth time, their third lost fumble of the second half. Palo Alto would take over on their own 40-yard line with just over five minutes left. Chryst then led the Vikings down field for a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute remaining.
Wilcox Chargers will be taking on Milpitas High School at Wilcox Friday, October 21 7:00 pm.