MOUNTAIN VIEW -- The rallying cry from the coaching staff all week long was be "WCAL tough."

Maybe no one encompassed that more than St. Francis senior Alex Andrighetto, who after missing the previous three games with a shoulder injury returned to the gridiron Friday night in a 45-21 triumph over Palo Alto in the Central Coast Section Division II football semifinals.

Not only did Andrighetto spearhead a bruising ground attack for the top-seeded Lancers (9-3) that amassed 355 yards on 56 carries, the two-way player also made an interception in the first half as Palo Alto quarterback Keller Chryst tried to keep pace.

"I've played tackle football since I was 6 years old, so to be told by the doctor I couldn't play on the field with my guys, it's the most heartbreaking thing for me," said Andrighetto, who suffered the injury in an upset of rival Serra. "I owe it all to them. They kept me in it, they kept me wanting to come back out. And when I did come back out, it was fun. It was worth it."

It was the final home game for the senior class at St. Francis, which hopes to defend its Division II title next week against No. 2 Los Gatos (9-3).

"It's amazing to come out here with the great support, with my teammates," Landon Baty said. "We've played here four years, put in a lot of work. We ended it with a bang here at St. Francis -- can't ask for anything better."


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The Stanford-bound Chryst threw for 291 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but only 36 of those yards came after halftime as the No. 4 Vikings (6-6) failed to score after coming out of the locker room.

"They brought heat all day," said Chryst, who finished 15 of 34 with two interceptions and was sacked three times. "And when they're playing 2 deep, it's hard to throw against coverage like that. We were able to do that a little bit, but obviously not enough."

Things couldn't have started much worse for Palo Alto. On the second play from scrimmage, Chryst fumbled the snap. On its third drive, the Vikings lost senior co-captain Andrew Frick, a fullback and inside linebacker, to a right-leg injury.

"The last few games here, we only had 23 varsity players on the team," Chryst said. "We were fighting. Everyone was going both ways and special teams."

St. Francis turned the fumbled snap immediately into points as Baty took the first handoff and sprinted 28 yards up the middle for a touchdown 39 seconds into the game.

"Coach told us earlier in the week we gotta be WCAL tough," said Baty, who gained 122 yards on 14 carries. "Give all the credit to the o-line. We pride ourselves in being a physical group of guys. We wanted to wear them down and the first play says it all."

Palo Alto kept finding ways to respond in the first half. Defensive end Justin Rittman recovered a fumble -- one of three lost by the Lancers in a sloppy first half -- and three plays after the injury to Frick, it was Chryst hitting sophomore Eli Givens on a go-route for a 71-yard touchdown with 6:04 left in the first quarter to make it 7-all.

That's when Andrighetto went to work. The senior scored touchdown from 3 and 5 yards in the first half to build a 21-7 lead -- part of his 143-yard, 20-carry effort.

"Our coach harped on one thing, about being WCAL tough," Andrighetto said.

The last couple of minutes were a rollercoaster for Palo Alto.

After failing to convert a fourth down inside the red zone, Chryst got the ball right back on a fumble recovery by Mike Grandy. Three plays later, the senior lofted a touchdown pass on a 27-yard fade to Keesean Johnson with 1:56 left to cut the deficit to 21-14.

Just when it looked as if the Lancers would run out the clock, St. Francis quarterback Will Fischer-Colbrie completed his lone pass in three attempts -- a 68-yard bomb to Trill Herbert.

Once again, the Vikings had an answer in the form of a 98-yard kickoff return by Malcolm Davis to make it 28-21 at intermission.

"We battled the best we could the whole game," Palo Alto coach Earl Hansen said. "So I was proud of that. We weren't going to stop trying to score."

"It's definitely emotional," Chryst said. "But, I mean, the guys who this might be their last snap of football in general, I just feel for those guys. It's just emotional."

Palo Alto's inability to establish the run, finishing with minus-six rushing yards only thanks to a late 14-yard scramble by Chryst, caught with the offense in the second half as the Vikings never managed to cross midfield again.

"Keller Chryst is a great quarterback," Baty said. "We knew that coming in and we have got a great defensive coordinator in Coach (Matt) Scharrenberg. He told us, 'You know what? He's great, but we're better. We're going to contain him.'"

Meanwhile, St. Francis kept pounding away in the second half with its brigade of running backs. Andrighetto found the end zone for a third time on a 54-yard run off a toss play and teammate Devin Hurtado capped a 15-play, 53-yard drive that ate up more than eight minutes off the clock with a 1-yard plunge to make it 42-21 with 8:11 left in the fourth quarter. Fullback DC Canty had 68 yards in 13 carries.

Palo Alto          7          "‚14          "‚0          "‚0--21

St. Francis          14          "‚14          "‚7          "‚10--45

SF -- Baty 28 run (Fordham kick)

PA -- Givens 71 pass from Chryst (Patino kick)

SF -- Andrighetto 3 run (Fordham kick)

SF -- Andrighetto 5 run (Fordham kick)

PA -- Johnson 27 pass from Chryst (Patino kick)

SF -- Hebert 68 pass from Fischer-Colbrie (Fordham kick)

PA -- Davis 98 kickoff return (Patino kick)

SF -- Andrighetto 54 run (Fordham kick)

SF -- Hurtado 1 run (Fordham kick)

SF -- Forham 23 FG

Records -- Palo Alto 6-6; St. Francis 9-3.