The most-anticipated football game of the season for rival high schools Los Altos and Mountain View has rarely lived up to the hype – 14 of the last 20 meetings were decided by double digits – but Friday night’s contest sure did.
Mountain View edged Los Altos 23-20 in overtime at Foothill College, where the sizable crowd witnessed a game-turning 95-yard pick-six, a breakout performance by a frosh-soph call-up, a herculean effort by the smallest player and a long field-goal attempt that nearly extended overtime.
“It was crazy,” Spartans coach Shelley Smith said of his team’s first victory over the Eagles in three years. “It was a great game – back and forth – and a big win for us.”
Although the setback essentially eliminated his team from league-title contention, Los Altos coach Trevor Pruitt – a Mountain View graduate – ranked the game among the most memorable he’s coached or played in.
“It was a very tough game to lose, but it was such a great game to be a part of,” he said. “It was an epic game for the ages. There was so much passion from the players, coaches and fans. Every single play mattered.”
Two plays in overtime – in which each team got four downs to score from the other’s 10-yard line – mattered most. The Spartans didn’t go anywhere on their opening drive of OT, but Neal Lund drilled a 30-yard field goal to put them ahead.
“For being a rookie kicker, he sure did come through,” said Smith, whose squad improved to 2-1 in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division and 3-4 overall. “That’s a huge kick down there. And these are college goal posts – they’re narrower than the high school goal posts.”
The pressure was now on the Eagles (1-2, 3-4) to score. But they, too, struggled to move the ball and committed a personal foul that cost them 15 yards. That made for a long field-goal attempt for Mario Lopez, whose 46-yard boot narrowly missed.
“Three yards and a gust of wind – that’s what we needed,” Pruitt said. “But that wasn’t the reason we lost. We felt the game shouldn’t have come down to that; we made mistakes and paid for them at the end.”
A mistake at the end of the first half changed the game dramatically. Los Altos, up 6-0, seemed poised to at least double the lead on a 75-yard drive that had reached Mountain View’s 10. Instead, Spartan safety Ryan Cambouris intercepted Rocky Hidalgo’s pass and raced 95 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds left.
“That wasn’t on the quarterback – that was on the coach,” said Pruitt, who noted that during a timeout before the pick he called run and pass plays that may have led to the intended receiver not running his route. “It was poor communication on my part.”
Ahead 7-6 at intermission, Mountain View extended its lead on the opening drive of the second half. The Spartans marched 81 yards in 10 plays, scoring on Trent Steffen’s 19-yard touchdown toss to fellow sophomore Austin Flax.
Halfback Justin Cortinas rushed for 36 yards on the drive and finished with a team-high 98. Smith called the 5-foot-4 senior “the heart and soul of our offense” and “pound for pound our strongest player,” but Cortinas downplayed such accolades.
“When I’m running, it’s not about me – it’s about the team,” he said. “I just run as hard as possible and as much as possible.”
Cortinas wasn’t the only runner to put up big numbers Friday. Los Altos’ Parker brothers – senior Ben and sophomore Aaron – combined for 232 yards rushing and scored all of their team’s points.
“I can’t say enough about the Parker brothers,” Pruitt said.
Ben, playing on a sprained ankle, rushed for a 1-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that cut Mountain View’s lead to 13-12 (both teams missed PATs).
Aaron, making his varsity debut, totaled a game-high 155 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns. His 30-yard TD midway through the fourth quarter, coupled with Ben’s two-point run, tied the game at 20.
Mountain View scored earlier in the fourth – Steffen tossed a 29-yard strike to Ju Ju Daniels at the right pylon – but the Los Altos defense thwarted the Spartans the rest of the quarter. Osvaldo Arellano and Aaron Parker both intercepted Steffen passes and the Eagles held them to a three-and-out series in between.
“I’m proud of the way our defense played,” said Pruitt, whose team outgained Mountain View 341 yards to 216.
Smith also praised his defense, which played most of the second half without standout Victor Baird. The senior linebacker sustained what Smith called “a neck strain” trying to make a tackle late in the third quarter. Baird did not get up afterward and play was suspended for nearly 30 minutes so first responders could safely secure his neck and carry him off the field on a stretcher. Smith said Monday that Baird was “doing fine” and “all tests were negative.”
Mountain View is set to host Lynbrook 7 p.m. Friday under temporary lights; Los Altos visits Monta Vista at the same time.
St. Francis 7, Valley Christian 3
St. Francis linebacker Joshua Pakola’s third-quarter interception led to the only touchdown in Friday’s West Catholic Athletic League game, scored by fullback Opeti Fangupo on a 3-yard run. The host Lancers improved to 3-0 in league, 5-1 overall.