Spartans fall to Firebirds in shootout

Spartan Football
Megan V. Winslow / Town Crier
Mountain View High fullback Michael Capote tries to break a tackle in Friday’s game. He rushed for 100 yards in the loss.

Every time the Mountain View High football team clawed its way back into Friday’s league opener at Fremont, the Spartans lost their grip – either on the ball or on the opposing ball carrier – enabling the Firebirds to hold on for a wild 58-41 win.

“You score 41 points, you should win the game,” Mountain View coach Shelley Smith said. “But we gave up big plays and made too many mistakes.”

The Spartans committed five turnovers, with a pair of first-quarter fumbles contributing to their 18-0 deficit.

But Mountain View shook them off, scoring back-to-back touchdowns before halftime to make it a four-point game. JD Coyne surged across the goal line on a 1-yard quarterback keeper as time expired in the first quarter, and fullback Michael Capote plowed into the end zone on a 3-yard run with 2:32 left in the second.

Capote, moving from guard to fullback due to a rash of injuries, shined in his backfield debut. The senior rushed for a team-high 100 yards and scored twice, and also caught two passes for 41 yards.

“It’s very fun running the ball,” Capote said. “The adjustment wasn’t that hard because I have past experience catching and running the ball, and since I was a guard previously, the blocking part came easy.”

Scoring came easy for the Firebirds in the first quarter, but the Spartans slowed down their prolific passing attack in the second quarter. Fremont turned the ball over on downs on its initial drive of the period and was forced to punt on its other possession after a sack by defensive end Una Kaufusi.

Mountain View had a chance to take the lead on the last play of the half, but Coyne’s 48-yard pass to the end zone was dropped.

The Spartans opened the third quarter by marching 73 yards, only to get pushed back by a sack and penalty. Fremont’s Jacob Gibson then broke up Coyne’s fourth-down toss into the end zone.

“We came out and made a nice drive to start the second half and then we stalled – had a penalty,” Smith said. “We self-inflicted, and that’s the story of our season.”

Fremont responded with an 84-yard touchdown drive and got the ball back seconds later on a fumble. Firebirds quarterback Roman Stein soon found his favorite target, receiver Rodney Chand, on a 6-yard pass into the back of the end zone to extend the lead to 31-14 with 18 ticks left in the third. Stein threw for six touchdowns Friday, three of them to Chand.

The scoring continued at a video-game pace in the fourth quarter. Each team produced four touchdowns, starting with Coyne’s 1-yard keeper with 10:53 left. The junior rushed for three TDs in all and finished 15-of-29 passing for 253 yards – all career highs.

“I thought our quarterback kind of grew up tonight,” Smith said. “He played pretty well for us and made some good decisions and made some good plays.”

The Firebirds made more plays, however, including three long ones for touchdowns in the fourth. The first came from Isaac Cardenas, who slipped tackles to score on a 61-yard screen pass.

Mountain View (1-3 overall) answered with consecutive touchdowns on short runs by halfback Sam Gill and Coyne, trimming the deficit to 38-34 with 3:52 left.

Fremont (3-2) countered with a 67-yard touchdown on Stein’s downfield toss to Chand, who outran the defense with 3:32 to go. The Firebirds secured the win on the next play from scrimmage when Maake Tuulakitau returned an interception 53 yards for a score.

The Spartans are set to host Monta Vista 7 p.m. Friday in their second Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division game.

Local football roundup

Pinewood 48, Trinity Christian 32: Sean Murphy scored back-to-back touchdowns in the fourth quarter – on a 58-yard run and a 5-yard pass from Jaeden Bailey – to push the Panthers (2-1 overall) past the visiting Warriors Friday to open Mission Trail Athletic League play.

Wilcox 49, Los Altos 11: The Eagles, playing at Levi’s Stadium, trailed by only 10 points at halftime but were outscored 28-0 the rest of the way in Saturday’s SCVAL De Anza Division opener. Los Altos dropped to 1-3 overall.

Valley Christian 28, St. Francis 21: Opening West Catholic Athletic League play on the road Friday, the Lancers dropped their second straight game to fall to 2-2 overall.

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