The Homestead Mustangs (3-1, 0-1) pounded the ball relentlessly, wearing down the Palo Alto (3-1, 1-0) defense and keeping the high-powered Viking offense off the field, but ran out of steam. After a physical first half, Palo Alto came out of the locker room aggressive, and proceeded to shut out the Mustangs in the second half en route to a 29-13 victory.
The dynamic duo of Palo Alto senior runningbacks Dre Hill and B.J. Boyd kept the pressure on Homestead all night, with Hill running repeatedly at the heart of the Mustang defense and Boyd wreaking havoc with his speed all over the field. While Boyd spent most of his time out wide as a receiver, the Vikings showcased their depth chart, handing the ball to senior Morris Gates-Mouton instead, who took three of his five carries for at least 20 yards.
“Homestead is a great team,” Palo Alto senior lineman Tory Prati said. “They really pounded it on us in the first half and made us elevate our game.”
The door opened early for the Mustangs, who recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff at the Palo Alto 20-yard line. After a 13-yard run by senior receiver Robbie Graham on a reverse and a short scamper from senior runningback Tyler Bond, junior runningback Jorge Talamante pounded it in to put the mustangs up 7-0. Bond racked up 95 yards on 16 carries while Talamante compiled 87 yards on 26 carries of his own.
However, the Vikings would answer back on the next play as Boyd took the kickoff from his own 17-yard line and returned it for a touchdown – his second of the season. The Vikings would tack on two to the touchdown, after a bad snap on the point-after led to a two-point conversion.
The teams continued to pound it at one another, until, with 2:38 left in the first quarter, Palo Alto quarterback Keller Chryst threw a bomb down field toward the back of the endzone, where Boyd, streaking past his defender with ease, reeled in the ball for a 26-yard score. That would be Boyd’s lone catch for the night, accompanying three carries for 30 yards on the ground.
“Morris played great and putting B.J. at receiver adds another threat on the outside,” Chryst said.
Both teams’ offenses sputtered in the second quarter, struggling to string together a successful drive. With less than a minute left in the half, Homestead forced a poor punt from the Vikings that provided the Mustangs with ideal field position. With 19.4 seconds remaining, from the Paly 32-yard line, senior quarterback Cameron Heen found a hole in the right side of the Palo Alto zone defense and zipped it over to Graham. Graham ran down up the sideline, broke an open field tackle, and strutted in for the score. Following a failed two-point conversion, the half ended with Palo Alto on top 15-13.
“This was a good challenge for us,” Graham said. “We played well but could’ve done better. We made some mistakes and they keyed on them.”
The second half was all Palo Alto. Hill scored twice from inside the red zone, finishing his night with 104 yards on 15 carries and the two touchdowns. The Viking defense forced two turnovers on the night: an interception by junior safety Matt Tolbert in the first half, and a strip from behind by senior defensive tackle Nathan Hubbard, which senior defensive back Gabe Landa pounced on instantly.
Palo Alto will take on Wilcox High School at home next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“We are going to come out and be focused [next week] and get ready for another physical team in Wilcox,” Hill said.