Spartans stumble in CCS opener

Ken Flax/Special to the Town Crier
Mountain View halfback Julian Daniels looks for room to run. He rushed for 84 yards Saturday.

The life of a football coach requires watching plenty of game film, and it’s something Mountain View High’s Shelley Smith dreaded after Saturday’s 20-10 loss to Burlingame in the Central Coast Section Division III quarterfinals.

“I’ve got to look at it,” he said, “but I’m going to hate watching that darn film.”

Smith will have to relive a far-from-flawless performance by his third-seeded Spartans, who hosted their first playoff game in 15 years. They committed four turnovers, dropped a touchdown pass and gave up an 87-yard TD run to the No. 6 Panthers, who beat them in last year’s quarterfinals as well.

“We played hard, but we made mistakes today,” Smith said. “And every game that we’ve made mistakes, we’ve come out on the short side so far.”

Yet despite all the miscues, Mountain View (7-4 overall) led late in the third quarter. Halfback Julian Daniels darted into the end zone on a 7-yard run up the middle and kicker Josh Lillie tacked on the extra point to make it 10-7 with 4:32 left in the quarter.

“The hole that I hit wasn’t supposed to be there,” said Daniels, who rushed for a team-high 84 yards, “but (the defense) overflowed and I just saw that cutback lane and I hit it – and it was touchdown right there.”

The 11-play drive, which began at Mountain View’s 13-yard-line, featured two of quarterback Trent Steffen’s best passes of the day. He found receiver Austin Flax over the middle for 24 yards on third down and two plays later tossed a 21-yarder to halfback Andrew Lopez, who made an over-the-shoulder catch as he raced into the red zone.

But Burlingame (6-5) struck back with an impressive drive of its own. The Panthers marched 63 yards in seven plays, scoring on Elijah La Guardia’s 1-yard plunge across the goal line. Taylor Kaufman’s kick pushed their advantage to 14-10 with 51 seconds remaining in the third.

The teams traded punts early in the fourth, with Burlingame’s effort netting just 21 yards after a bad bounce. Starting at the Panthers’ 40, Mountain View needed only three plays to get back into the red zone. Burlingame stripped Steffen’s on the next play, however, recovering the ball at the 16.

After the Panthers drove to the Spartans’ 32, Mountain View stopped them on fourth down. Chris Barmore, a recent call-up from the frosh-soph team, sacked Jordan Malashus for a 10-yard loss with 3:40 to go.

The Spartans gave the ball back to Burlingame three plays later. Kaufman, who recovered the fumble minutes earlier, intercepted a deep pass by Steffen and returned it to the Spartans’ 10. That set up a 15-yard touchdown run (after a Panther penalty) by Lucas Meredith, who dragged a defender into the end zone. It marked the second TD for Meredith, who was untouched on an 87-yard scamper early in the second quarter.

Before that long run, Mountain View held a 3-0 lead; the Spartans settled for Lillie’s 34-yard field goal after a dropped pass in the end zone on the game’s opening series.

Mountain View’s other big play of the half came with 13 seconds left when the defense stuffed Burlingame’s fourth-and-goal run from the 1.

“That was a great goal-line stand,” Smith said. “At halftime, we thought we were right in this thing. And we come back out and we go up 10-7, and I thought, ‘Hey with our defense as good as it’s been all year, we can do this.’ But (Burlingame) made plays and we didn’t. That was the difference.”

Like Smith, Daniels expects the young Spartans to get another shot at CCS success next year.

“Oh, yeah – we’ll be back,” he said. “Trust me on that.”

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