With Friday’s 34-6 rout of rival Los Altos, the Mountain View High football team has entered unfamiliar territory. The Spartans are off to their first 3-0 start since Shelley Smith took over as head coach in 2013.
“It’s promising, and that’s what you want,” said Smith, whose squad has outscored its opponents by a combined 114-13. “We’ve got some momentum going here, and we’re doing some nice things.”
The last time Mountain View won its first three games of the season was 2010, when current players like receiver Austin Flax were in second grade.
“I’ve never had one here, so it’s really exciting,” the junior said of the Spartans’ stellar start. “Our group is super connected – we’re all friends – and I’m excited about this season.”
Flax has played a major role in it as the team’s leading receiver. He caught three passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns in Friday night’s home game, played under temporary lights in front of a near-capacity crowd.
Flax scored on the first play from scrimmage (set up by Julian Daniels’ 45-yard kick return), by turning Trent Steffen’s quick pass to the left side of the field into a 40-yard touchdown.
“I caught the ball and juked one guy,” Flax said, “and then we had someone come and block another guy and then I just had an open hole and ran it in.”
Despite scoring just 20 seconds into the non-league game and getting a turnover on Los Altos’ opening drive – a fourth-down interception by cornerback Sawyer Sevely – Mountain View wasn’t able to pull away until the second half. After forcing the Spartans to punt on back-to-back possessions, the Eagles (1-2 overall) cut the deficit to 7-6 early in the second quarter on Charles Kinne’s 25-yard pass down the middle to receiver Cole Rafferty. The extra point failed to clear the cross bar.
Mountain View looked to regain control of the game after Flax returned the ensuing kickoff 37 yards to the Los Altos 45 and then caught a first-down pass from Steffen for 24 yards, but the Eagles ended the drive there. Kinne, playing free safety, picked off a pass intended for Flax in the back of the end zone.
Los Altos stopped the Spartans’ next drive at midfield, stuffing Daniels for a 2-yard loss on fourth and 2, but couldn’t take advantage of the field position. The Eagles punted after a three-out series derailed by a false-start penalty on first down.
“We’re a young team, so we kind of get excited and we kind of make those mistakes that are drive killers,” said new head coach Dave DeGeronimo, who took over a Los Altos team that graduated 23 seniors last spring. “We’ve got to clean that stuff up in practice, but the effort of the guys is always tremendous.”
Mountain View added to its lead just before halftime, capping an eight-play, 69-yard drive with Steffen’s 21-yard pass to Sevely in the left side of the end zone. Josh Lillie’s extra point pushed the lead to 14-6 with 9 seconds left in the half.
The Spartans stymied the Eagles’ opening drive of the third quarter – dropping Kinne for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 play near midfield – but the Los Altos defense once again held strong. It was only after the teams traded punts that Mountain View extended its lead. Running back Mason Davies scored on a 49-yard tackle-breaking run with 6 minutes left in the third.
“We set that one up,” Smith said. “We knew Mason could hit that, and if he did, he could go.”
The junior finished with a game-high 90 yards rushing, needing only nine attempts to get there.
“He’s doing really well,” Smith said. “We’re very pleased with how Mason’s playing on both sides of the ball.”
A linebacker on defense, Davies helped the Spartans hold the Eagles to under 200 yards of offense. Mountain View stopped Los Altos four times on fourth down, including after the Eagles’ biggest play of the night – a flea flicker in which running back Aaron Parker threw a 39-yard pass to quarterback Kinne late in the third quarter. Despite breaching the red zone, Los Altos came up empty after a fourth-down pass from Mountain View’s 11 fell incomplete.
At that point, the Spartans were all but assured of retaining the Pride Bowl trophy since they held a 28-6 lead after scoring on their previous possession. Steffen’s short pass to Flax in the right flat resulted in a 71-yard touchdown, as the receiver outraced the Eagles to the end zone.
Mountain View added one more score: Daniels ran untouched for a 35-yard TD with 4:36 remaining in the game.
“That’s a pretty disciplined football team over there and they have some depth,” DeGeronimo said of the Spartans. “Coach Smith is doing a great job with those guys, so I think they’ll be ready for the De Anza.”
The Spartans don’t kick off SCVAL De Anza Division play until Oct. 4 at Milpitas; they visit Capuchino 7 p.m. Friday and have a bye the following week. The Eagles, meanwhile, host Santa Clara 1:30 p.m. Saturday and begin their SCVAL El Camino Division slate a week later at the same time and place against Cupertino.