The varsity football team defeated Gunn 41-0 in the schools’ first football matchup since 2012, but the game was cut short due to sportsmanship and safety concerns.
“At the end with around five minutes left, a good three-quarters of the Paly student section started running across the field onto the Gunn side,” Assistant Principal Erik Olah said. “When you have fans that are not following protocols for the game and get out of control, you stop things and you wait for the fans to calm down and go back. But the fans didn’t, so the game was just shut down from there.”
Senior Kai Bussey said the team was unhappy about the student section’s behavior.
“As a team, we are kind of annoyed at the fans,” Bussey said. “They don’t seem to recognize it’s (the seniors’) last season, so every game, every minute counts. When they take that away from us, it’s kind of frustrating.”
Senior Josh Kaplan agreed and said this game impacted him personally as a newer player.
“Since I just started this year, I’m not getting a lot of plays, and I was expecting to be put on the field in those last five minutes,” Kaplan said. “So for me, I was honestly devastated when I found out that the game had ended early.”
Gunn senior Fae Crane said she was caught off guard by the incident.
“I was actually a little bit overwhelmed and confused because we’ve never actually had that happen at a football game before,” she said.
But Crane also said she enjoyed the energy of both student sections during the game leading up to the incident.
“I kind of liked that we were going back and forth because we couldn’t hear you guys (from the Gunn side),” Crane said. “I think both sides were pretty loud; it was just the distance, but we couldn’t hear you when you guys were like, ‘We can’t hear you.’”
A Gunn freshman who would only be interviewed if her name weren’t used said she didn’t know how the incident started, but the nature of the Paly-Gunn rivalry would always have such concerns regarding sportsmanship.
“If it was out of bad intentions, then it was not cool, but if it was friendly, then OK,” the freshman said. “We just always have a rivalry with Paly, and it’s just gonna be like that.”
Kaplan said the rivalry was what drove the team in Friday night’s blowout win.
“Since Gunn is our rival, that motivated us to push harder and not let them get anything against us,” Kaplan said.
Head coach David DeGeronimo said the most impressive aspect of the night was the team’s defense preventing Gunn’s offense from gaining a first down.
“Linebackers were saying they just weren’t getting past the D-line,” DeGeronimo said. “We were ready for Gunn, and we were excited to play Gunn. We haven’t done it in nine years, so our kids were fired up, and I think they came out and showed that.”
DeGeronimo said the team still has room to improve, though.
“Our system is new,” he said. “It’s a totally new offense. We’re still learning the language, so once everybody knows what to do, we’ll execute better and better every week. And that’s our job, to get better every week.”
DeGeronimo said learning the new system has been the team’s biggest challenge.
“It’s in the first year where you need to get that buy-in,” DeGeronimo said. “I think that’ll progress as the season progresses and as our guys learn the new system.”
In his first year back as a head coach, DeGeronimo said he is glad to have returned.
“The tradition is here; the history is here,” he said. “It’s great to be back and reconnect. It’s been the most fun.”