Palo Alto – St. Ignatius watches the game after being engulfed in smoke from wildfires after the game. Quarterback Aidan Smith and his teammates boarded the bus, then had their own uncertainty. He had to get off and wait 15 minutes to get word of his game down the peninsula in Palo Alto.
He got the green light and emerged in front of his first full-scale crowd in nearly two years, beating Paley 28–7, with Smith playing a well-rounded offensive.
“We had to move on, and that’s all we needed,” said Smith, who completed 15 of 25 passes for 176 yards, including six of his seven attempts on the Wildcats’ scoring drive. .
Smith’s effort was aided by two of his running backs, Ronan Greene and Keith Reyes, who each reached Pedart and combined about 100 yards on the ground.
But the momentum-shifting score came on the defence, with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
Smith was caught on a deep ball by Palo Alto’s Brody Simison to put the Vikings 14-7 behind, with a chance to score before half and get the ball out of the break. Simison forced three turnovers and caught the lone touchdown pass in a losing attempt.
The ball was back in the hands of Palo Alto senior quarterback Danny Peters, who matched Smith with 178 yards on 27 of 13 passes. Peters, with a big hand to match, found receivers for four plays of 20 yards or more.
On third and sixth, Peters swung to the right and threw junior receiver Amani Elfadil, but St. Ignatius’ Oliver Bligh stepped in front of the pass and did not turn until he reached the end field.
“D-Line played great, got him out of the pocket, maybe a little upset,” Bligh said. “Our defense played very well. Our linebackers covered. Our security was all over the field. Our coverage was really good. ”
Even on the losing side, there was a reminder of how lucky these teams were on the football field, playing in front of more than select family members. The COVID-19 pandemic limited Bay Area schools to six sports last spring, and only immediate household members were allowed to attend.
But on Friday the gates in Pali were open to all.
Students dressed in white filled the bleachers. Above one section, was the marching band.
Peters joined Simison from 20 yards and in the middle of the second quarter to tie the game at 7 o’clock.
Later, the third-year starter ran towards the home crowd, threw his arms in the air and let out a roar.
“Just before the game started, our entire team could just tell,” Peters said. “They were super amped. The crowd was going crazy. It felt great.”
An even bigger improvement last spring was the gameday experience in the school hallway.
Students were also turned away for online learning last spring, but are now back in the classroom.
Throughout the day, Pali football players carried a ball with them from class to class, which they tossed back and forth. Peters said that whoever dropped it had to drop it and do 30 push-ups.
“It felt like a stereotypical high school movie scene,” Peters said. “Everyone was high-fivesing each other in the hallways. …that energy we didn’t have last COVID year, that energy transfers to us on the field now.