Homecoming heartbreak for Eagles

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Dale Simms scores a touchdown in Friday night’s homecoming gamea against Gunn.

The Los Altos High football team has suffered some bitter defeats this season – shut out at Santa Clara and edged by rival Mountain View in overtime – but Friday’s loss to Gunn probably stings most.

The undermanned Titans spoiled the Eagles’ homecoming by scoring a touchdown with a second left, then running in the two-point conversion to win 14-13 Friday night at Foothill College.

“This one’s tough; we have twice as many guys as they have,” Los Altos coach Trevor Pruitt said. “We didn’t do our jobs today, and it starts with me. I did a horrible job getting our guys ready. Everyone was ready for the dance, and I don’t think we were ready to play. Gunn absolutely came out ready to play.”

It marked the first league win of the season for the Titans, who dressed only 18 players. They held the Eagles scoreless in the first half and rallied from a seven-point deficit late in the fourth quarter of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division contest.

Down 6-0 at halftime after twice squandering favorable field position with turnovers, Los Altos (2-3 league, 4-5 overall) tied the game on its initial drive of the third quarter. The Eagles marched 73 yards in 12 plays, scoring on halfback Dale Simms’ 17-yard scamper down the left sideline. Los Altos missed the extra point.

The Titans (1-3, 3-5) responded with a clock-draining drive of their own – running 13 plays in nearly seven minutes – but the Eagles stopped it 27 yards from their end zone. Linebacker Ari Guzman batted down Solomone Paletua’s fourth-down pass, leaving Los Altos with more than nine minutes to break the tie.

The Eagles only needed six. They ran the ball nine straight times, scoring on Simms’ 26-yard gallop with 3:16 remaining. Aaron Parker’s extra point extended the lead to 13-6, further rousing the large home crowd.

Parker’s older brother, Ben – among Los Altos’ leading rushers this season – took a shot to the head during the drive and would not return. Also the team’s starting strong safety, Parker watched helplessly from the sideline as Gunn drove 69 yards in 3:15 to pull out the victory.

“I’m pretty mad – I felt like I could have been in the game,” said the senior, who was held out for precautionary reasons. “We played pretty well, but there were just a few key plays there at the end that I feel we should have made.”

Paletua completed four passes on the decisive drive, capped by his 5-yard touchdown to tight end Kylen Liu. Rolling left, Paletua threw a dart to Liu, who snared the ball with defenders draped on him in the end zone.

With one second showing on the game clock, Gunn went for two and its first league win in more than a year. The Titans tried some trickery – snapping the ball directly to halfback Leemaster Howard, who threw it to Liu in the end zone – but Guzman broke up the pass. There was a flag on the play, however, as Los Altos was called for a late hit on Howard. Gunn handed the ball to Howard this time, and the senior barreled across the goal line for the win.

“Undisciplined football,” Pruitt said of the penalty. “That starts with me and my coaches. We don’t have our guys disciplined enough. I’m going to take this one hard and I’m going to make sure our guys are ready to play next week.”

Los Altos is slated to conclude its season 7 p.m. Friday at Saratoga, where Ben Parker is eager to finish his career on a high note.

“I just want to go out with a bang – have a good game, play hard and put some people on their butts,” he said. “As a team, we want to leave it all out there. We’ve got nothing to lose now.”

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