When Mountain View High celebrated its seniors prior to Saturday night’s home finale, several players mentioned last season’s win over Milpitas – the Spartans’ first over the Trojans in 14 years – as a highlight of their football careers.
Three hours later, they left the field with another narrow victory over Milpitas, 27-19.
Last season’s 35-28 road win may have been more significant – the Trojans went on to claim a state title and entered this year’s game at 0-3 – but Saturday’s Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division contest may have been just as hard-fought. That pregame ceremony seemed to inspire, if not rankle, Milpitas.
“As our seniors are saying that (last season’s win) was one of their memorable moments, these guys are sitting there listening to that,” Mountain View coach Shelley Smith said of the Trojans. “So it kind of became a street fight.”
The refs flung flag after flag for personal fouls – penalizing both teams for late hits and taunting – throughout the back-and-forth game.
“Honestly, from the start, we’ve had bad blood,” Spartans halfback Julian Daniels said. “Last year it was a very intense game, and I think that carried over to this year.”
Daniels helped carry his team to victory Saturday, catching a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trent Steffen that broke a 13-all tie midway through the fourth quarter. With no defender within 10 yards of him, Daniels had time to turn around before reaching the end zone and walk backward across the goal line.
“On that play, their defensive end just didn’t want to run with me,” the senior said. “I took off downfield – wide-open touchdown. … I’ve never been that open.”
Josh Lillie’s extra point pushed Mountain View’s lead to 20-13 with 6:55 to play, but that almost wasn’t enough to ensure the win. Milpitas answered with a touchdown toss of its own, as quarterback Johnny Vogel and receiver Trevohn Ferguson connected for their second score of the quarter with 4:15 left.
The Trojans then tried a two-point conversion to take the lead, but Vogel’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete.
Clinging to a one-point advantage with just more than four minutes to go, the Spartans turned to their ground game to run out the clock. But after five straight running plays, they found themselves in a third-and-11 situation near midfield that called for a pass. Receiver Austin Flax, who missed Mountain View’s first three games with an injury, snared a 15-yard strike from Steffen to keep the drive alive.
Three plays later, halfback Andrew Lopez raced into the end zone from 20 yards out.
“We were actually just trying to get the first (down),” Smith said. “We had 4 yards to get and we figured up the middle would be tough, so we tried to get outside. (Offensive tackle) Henry Kaufusi got a nice block on the edge that kind of sprung that, and Andrew made a nice move.”
Running mate Mason Davies rushed for 17 yards on that final drive to finish with a team-high 78. The fullback racked up 47 of those yards on a touchdown run early in the third quarter that put the Spartans up 13-7.
Mountain View’s first score came from its defense; cornerback Marco Chavez-Avena scooped up a Milpitas fumble and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown with 4:09 remaining in the second quarter.
It was one of several big plays by the defense, which stopped the Trojans’ last-gasp drive at the Spartans’ 34. Mountain View recorded four sacks in the game, two courtesy of Slade Turn.
The Spartans (3-1) also blocked a pair of punts – the first by Kaufusi and the other by Davies.
Mountain View is scheduled to visit Wilcox (3-1) 7 p.m. Friday to finish the abbreviated season.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Daniels said. “My team will be ready.”