By Colin Becht
In a game that pitted an unstoppable offense against an impenetrable defense, the defense prevailed as Palo Alto High School upset Menlo-Atherton High School 14-7 to win the Central Coast Section Large School Division Championship.
The game remained at zero to zero until the fourth quarter with both teams driving the length of the field, but failing to convert their yardage into points.
Paly finally broke through the deadlock with a three yard touchdown run by running back James McCollough with 9:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. McCollough's touchdown was set up by a fourth-down and one conversion by Paly from the M-A five yard line, moving the ball to the three yard line and keeping the scoring drive alive.
However, M-A quickly responded, as Will Latu returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards to the M-A 42 yard line. M-A capitalized the good field position and scored on a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Troy McCabe to tight end Matt Mosher, tying the game at 7-7 with 6:01 left in the fourth quarter.
Nevertheless, a game that for three quarters featured no scoring saw a final touchdown drive by Paly, scoring with 13.6 seconds left on a pass from quarterback Will Brandin to wide receiver Mike Scott. The Paly scoring drive was again set up by a fourth-down conversion, as they were able to pass for 19 yards and reach a first-down on fourth and 13 from the M-A 43 yard line.
Paly then intercepted McCabe on M-A final possession, securing the victory and the CCS championship.
Both teams had several chances to score in the first half, with each team reaching their opponent's red zone on two possessions. However, Paly failed to convert on fourth and goal from the three yard line on the game's opening drive, which set up M-A to drive the length of the field only to have their field goal attempt blocked by a slew of Paly defenders.
Paly continued to effectively gain yards on the M-A defense until Brandin was picked off by Nick Dove of M-A. M-A then returned the favor to Paly, driving to the end zone, only to be intercepted there by linebacker Jordan Jefferson with 13.9 seconds remaining in the first half.
Paly players and fans were able to celebrate their triumphant victory, while M-A was left to wonder "what if."