The Vikings fall 20-19 in a nail-biter against the Wilcox Chargers


Rowan McEvoy

Paly lines up for a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. The Vikings failed to gain the two points and lost by one point against the Wilcox Chargers.

Daniel Douty, Staff Writer

The Palo Alto Vikings lost 20-19 to the Wilcox Chargers at Paly on Friday night after mounting a fourth quarter comeback, only to fall short on a potential game winning two-point conversion.

Paly was led by very strong performances from star players such as running back Jayshawn Puckett (‘15) and wide receiver Eli Givens (‘16). Wide receiver Oliver Svirsky (‘16) and backup running back Jon Martinez (‘15) also made great contributions. Quarterback Justin Hull (‘16) made just his second start at quarterback and showed good ability to lead his team down the stretch.

Wilcox opened the scoring with a 41-yard rushing touchdown on their second possession of the game, giving them an early seven point lead. Wilcox ran a running offense which involved quarterback options and many multi running back formations. They did not attempt a single pass in the game.

A few series later, Paly turned the ball over on downs on the Wilcox one yard line on a Hull run. Three plays later, Wilcox broke off an 85-yard touchdown run and expanded their lead to 13-0 after missing the extra point.

The first play after the ensuing kickoff resulted in a Hull interception at midfield. Wilcox then gashed Paly’s defense on two runs, the latter resulting in a touchdown giving the Chargers a commanding 20-0 lead. Wilcox ran for 22 yards per carry on their first nine attempts, and 226 yards total in the game.

On Paly’s next defensive series, defensive back Svirsky made an interception at the Wilcox 42. Paly converted on a 3rd and 10 and  crossed the Wilcox 30. Puckett took it from there, rushing three times for 29 yards and a six-yard touchdown to put Paly on the board. The score was 20-6 after a missed Jose Patino (‘16) point after touchdown. The next play for Wilcox would bring the game to the end of the first half.

Paly had several issues to address at halftime, mostly their inability to stop the run.

“We made some adjustments on defense,” Coach Halas said. “We came back and played really good defense, and we forced a lot of turnovers.”

After Coach Halas talked to his team about second half plans, Paly allowed just over a yard per carry on Wilcox’s final 19 carries.

Puckett recovered the second fumble by the Chargers after they returned the second half kickoff to the Paly 35. Paly had to punt again from the Wilcox 49, and the punt was returned to Paly’s 27. They gave up several lengthy returns on special teams during the game.

On the Chargers’ first play after the punt return, Puckett was again in on the action, recovering his second fumble in the past two defensive plays.  Puckett sprained his ankle on the play and did not return. He finished the game with 98 rushing yards on 21 carries and one touchdown.

“It was very painful [to watch the game] because I wanted to be out there with my team,” Puckett said. “I was just trying to get points for the team. I do what I can to get the win.”

Martinez came in and picked up where Puckett had left off. He rushed for 72 yards on 15 carries.

“It felt good because Jayshawn took care of me when I wasn’t starting. He showed me the plays, so I knew what to do,” Martinez said. “There was no pressure at all, I knew my job and I had to execute.”

Hull was sacked, turning the ball over at the start of the fourth quarter. He was sacked five times. The Viking defense recovered yet another fumble at their own 40. While the defense had stepped up their play, the offense continued to struggle through the air. Hull had completed seven of his 18 pass attempts for 71 yards, with one interception and zero touchdowns. With the clock starting to wind down, Paly was down to their final two possessions.

Using the momentum of their fourth fumble recovery, Hull took the reins of his team and lead the Vikings downfield with two passes to Svirsky, including one for 31 yards. Hull finished off the drive with a five-yard touchdown to Givens.

Paly came up with another stop, forcing the Chargers to go three and out and punt the ball with less than three minutes left in the game. Hull and the Vikings took over on the Wilcox 48 after a nice punt return by Givens. Hull converted a 3rd-and-6 to Svirsky, who made a great one-handed grab to keep Paly’s drive alive. They converted another third down and advanced to the Wilcox 23-yard line.

They were then faced with another third down situation. Wilcox blitzed and Hull was brought down by multiple defenders. Paly was looking at 4th-and-13. Hull took the snap and was immediately pressured by Wilcox defenders, and he scrambled around the pocket to avoid being sacked. He threw the ball up in the direction of his play-making receiver, and Givens rose up over the defense to haul in a 27-yard touchdown with just 17 seconds left on the clock.

“It felt really great. It gave our whole team hope. It was one of the best moments I’ve ever had,” Givens said.

“We threw the ball to our playmaker and he came down with it. It was a great play,” Coach Halas said of the play.

The Chargers’ lead was down to one. Coach Halas decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win.

“The decision to go for two was a no-brainer,” Halas said. “If you told me I have three yards to beat Wilcox, I would do it every single day.”

On the two-point attempt, Hull was brought down for a sack, and the Vikings would need a few more miracles if they wanted to have a chance to win the game. The Chargers fell on the onside kick to secure the win.

While the game result did not favor the Vikings, it still revealed many bright spots for the struggling team. Hull proved that he can come through in the clutch, as he completed six of his final seven passes for 88 yards and threw two game preserving touchdowns. Puckett and Martinez showed their talents in the backfield, and the run defense stuffed the Wilcox rush attack on nearly every carry in the second half. Vikings receivers Givens and Svirsky racked up 66 and 77 yards respectively.

“I do believe we could have won this game, I do believe we could’ve pulled it out. I was just thinking, lets make it happen, lets make it happen,” Puckett said about their fourth quarter rally.

Givens commented on what he’s expecting for his team the rest of the season.

“It’s gonna be a long season, but we’re gonna have a lot of fun,” Givens said.

The Vikings will play next against the Monta Vista Matadors on October 17th at 7:00 p.m.