Mountain View running back Richie Estrada has the ball pitched to him by quarterback Cody Rochon. He sees the opening – right down the middle. He goes for it, finding the gaps behind a wall of blockers, and, untouched, speeds 69 yards into the end zone to put the Mountain Lions up 7-0 a minute and a half into the first quarter.
It’s the last touchdown the senior running back will score as a Mountain Lion, in the last game he’ll play at Mountain View High School.
“Things were going in a good direction,” said Estrada. “We were thinking we could get this.”
But the visiting Liberty Lions knew Mountain View’s strengths and weaknesses, and adjusted accordingly en route to a 57-20 win to eliminate the Mountain Lions from the first round of D-II playoffs on Friday night.
Estrada was one of those strengths quickly addressed by the Lions’ coaching staff.
“We knew they were going to feed Estrada, he’s a heck of a running back,” said Liberty head coach Danny Filleman. “We knew if we could stop him, then we had a good shot. Our kids executed really well.”
While Estrada would cap off his high school career with 231 yards on 31 carries for the night, he was stopped from finding the end zone again. Having eliminated the Mountain Lions’ biggest threat, the Lions struck repeatedly.
After tying the score 7-7 on a 20-yard quarterback keeper by Tyler Wyatt, the Lions Chad Bennett snagged an interception near the Mountain View 45-yard line and ran it in for the score. A botched point after attempt forced Wyatt into a scramble, but he found receiver Alex Hunter in the end zone for a two point conversion, making it 15-7.
Then, midway through the second quarter, Wyatt connected with Bryce Utter for a 27-yard gain, and Zach Niell finished the drive off with a one-yard rushing score to build a 22-7 lead.
With the half winding down, Mountain View switched things up with a trick play. Quarterback Cody Rochon took the snap, pitching it to Alex Jackson, and when the defense collapsed on the assumed run, Jackson threw downfield to a wide-open Andre Duncan to put the Mountain Lions within eight points heading into halftime.
The Mountain Lions looked recharged as they took the field in the third. In Liberty’s first drive, Mountain View’s Enrique Sparkman knocked the ball out of Wyatt’s hands, and defensive end Matt Thomas collected it and ran the other way for the score, putting the Mountain Lions within two at 22-20.
But from there, it was all Liberty.
The Lions would go on to score 35 unanswered points under the helm of Wyatt, who ran for three more touchdowns and threw for another two to build a 57-20 lead, where it would remain.
“He’s a special kid, a special player,” said Filleman about Wyatt. “I’m glad he’s only a junior.”
He was a player the Mountain Lions had no answer for.
“Defensively tonight, we struggled,” said Mountain View head coach Clarence “Bam” McRae. “They got us out of position. Our kids, instead of being the ones making the action, we were reacting to whatever they were doing, instead of playing our game.”
Loss aside, Estrada remains optimistic about the legacy he and others like Cody Rochon and Corbin Gouby have left behind for the Mountain Lions to build upon after what, prior to McRae’s arrival as coach, was an unstable and failing football program.
“It’s been a heck of a ride,” said Estrada. “I love my teammates. I want to lead these guys coming up in a good direction. Hopefully next year they will pick up where we left off and do even better. It’s good to be one of the guys to help start off the program, getting it on the road again.”
Liberty will advance to face Salpointe Catholic High School in the second round.