FOOTBALL: Palo Alto Eyes State Bowl Selection

Vikings appear to be a strong choice for a CIF State bowl game, 13-0 Paly awaits committee's verdict on Dec. 12.

Now the waiting game begins.

Amidst the Palo Alto High football team's celebration of its Central Coast Section Open Division championship on Friday night lingered a healthy dash of the unknown.

Simply put, the Vikings don't know if they have played their last game.

Palo Alto's hope, of course, is that it receives an invitation to compete in the California Interscholastic Federation State Bowl Championships at the Home Depot Center in Carson in two weeks. And a 13-0 record complete with the CCS Open crown certainly makes a compelling case.

But regardless, the Vikings won't know if they will represent Northern California in one of the state's five bowl games until the CIF section commissioners meet to select the field on Dec. 12.

So Palo Alto will bask in the afterglow of and cross its fingers that it has more than proven itself as the only undefeated program to ever win the Open Division.

"There's really nothing we can do at this point," senior co-captain T.J. Braff said. "We've already done all we can."

"I'm confident," Vikings coach Earl Hansen said when asked to assess his program's chances of playing in Carson.

Hansen has been through this before. In 2006, the first year of the CIF State bowl games, Palo Alto won the CCS Open Division and then had to wait a week to learn it earned a state berth. The Vikings then lost to Lutheran Orange 42-28 in the Division II state final.

The only other CCS program to land a CIF invite was Bellarmine last year. The Bells lost in the Division I championship.

A prerequisite for any team to be selected for a state title game is that it wins a section title. After downing Valley Christian – which harbored its own CIF hopes – Palo Alto will now be closely monitoring the results of other section championships in Northern California.

The Vikings' chances of extending their season received a huge boost with another final on Friday night. Folsom (13-1) defeated Grant 41-20 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game – an outcome that signals that Palo Alto now seems a strong bet to play in the CIF Division I championship.

Grant, which entered the night 13-0, might have been an enticing choice to be Northern California's representative in the CIF Open Division final if it had beaten Folsom. That outcome likely would have bumped the North Coast Section Division I champion – which has earned a state bid every year -- to the CIF Division I game, leaving Palo Alto out of the picture.

Now it seems likely that the winner of the NCS Division I championship on Dec. 11 will be selected to play in the CIF Open Division final – leaving Palo Alto as Northern California's likely selection for the Division I game in Carson. Folsom seems to have locked up a CIF berth – likely as the Division II representative.

The NCS Division I final pits on Friday night, and the winner of . De La Salle (12-0) has played in a CIF game each year – but California would be a sure-fire choice if it ended the Spartans' reign atop the NCS.

A California NCS title could even send Palo Alto into the CIF Open Division game (as Northern California's lone undefeated team in the top three divisions), with California and Folsom playing in Division I and II, respectively.

But for now, Palo Alto must keep its focus and prepare as if it will be playing in a CIF game on Dec. 17 (Division I) or 18 (Open Division).

"Next week's the toughest week, there's no question, because you don't know what to prepare for," Hansen said. "We have to stay fresh next week, keep 'em in running order."

Even so, on Friday night the jubilant Palo Alto players couldn't help but picture what it would be like if they could produce one last victory on the biggest stage.

"If we're juiced right now," senior co-captain Davante Adams said, "I can't imagine how great it would be to bring a state championship back to Palo Alto."


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