Falcons, plagued by turnovers, face undefeated Vikings in a ‘must-win’ game

November 8, 2010 — by Karthik Annaamalai and Abhishek Venkataramana

Anything is possible. That’s what coach Tim Lugo told his players when they beat Los Gatos 21-17 to end a 27-year losing steak. That’s also what he’s telling his players today as they look to beat the undefeated Palo Alto Vikings on Friday at home, in the team’s final regular season game of the year. After losing to Milpitas 7-0 on Nov. 5, tonight’s game is a must-win for the Falcons if they wish to advance to the CCS playoffs.

“This is perhaps our biggest game of the year,” said senior captain and linebacker Marcus Hoffman. “People might say it was Los Gatos, but this decides whether or not we’re advancing to the CCS playoffs, which is our ultimate goal.”

For the Falcons to guarantee a CCS bid, they must either defeat or tie Palo Alto, a difficult task in itself. However, if Santa Teresa is able to upset Piedmont Hills, the Falcons will receive a bid regardless of the outcome of their game against Palo Alto.

The 5-4 Falcons have a clear challenge ahead of them tonight as they face the 9-0 Vikings, who are currently ranked fourth in CCS, in addition to leading the De Anza Division. The Vikings sport a potent offense and have come up with huge wins this season, including a 42-0 win against Los Gatos and a 35-0 win against Milipitas.

“Our defense has been playing extremely well in the past few games, so I think we can match up well with Palo Alto,” said senior captain and middle linebacker Greg Johnson.

In a battle of the quarterbacks, Milpitas quarterback Christoph Bono, who leads the league with 1580 passing yards will be pitted against senior quarterback Kevin Smith, who follows behind in the rankings with 1140 yards. Bono’s prime target, Palo Alto senior wide receiver Devonte Adam’s, leads the league in receiving yards with 763 yards, followed by Saratoga senior wide receiver Chris Guengerich, with 615 yards.

In addition to posing an offensive threat, the Vikings also command an impenetrable defense, which has shut out some of the league’s most explosive offensive teams, including Los Gatos and Milpitas. Senior Palo Alto defensive end Kevin Anderson, a 6’4, 230 pound Stanford recruit, leads the league with 9 sacks, and must be contained in order for Saratoga to establish an offensive rhythm.

“Our offensive line has played really well so far this season, so this will be the final test for them,” said Johnson. “We will probably be running triple options to [Anderson’s] side to force him to make quick decisions.”

The team lost to Milpitas 7-0 on Nov. 5 and 23-16 to Wilcox on Oct. 29. On Nov. 5, a stout Milpitas defense and a multitude of penalties left the Falcons scoreless for most of the game. With 4:26 left in the game Smith led his team into scoring position. However, the Milpitas defense pressured Smith to throw the ball away on fourth down, dashing any hope of a comeback. Four costly turnovers resulted in the loss for the Falcons.

“The [Milpitas] game was a little bit of a disappointment,” said Hoffman, “because they were a team we knew we could beat. We just lost focus and couldn’t protect the ball. The most important thing for us to do [tonight] is play fundamental football without turning over the ball.”

Similar problems with turnovers led to a 23-16 home loss against Wilcox on Oct 29. The Falcons trailed just 16-14 until the Chargers managed to score with 2:44 left in the game. Saratoga turned the ball over five times, which cost them the game when the Chargers managed to score on three of them.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at the Benny Pierce field.