Plainsmen improve to 5-0 this football season with a dramatic victory over rival Mountain View
That is Evergreen football.
The Plainsmen have been trying to tell us — fans, media, opponents — all season.
But nah, we weren’t ready. Not after the first couple of weeks. Nor the third game. And certainly not after the fourth week against an overmatched non-league opponent.
Evergreen’s schedule has been … hmmm … let’s just say the strength of schedule has been nothing to brag about this season.
Hey, that’s no fault of the players. They don’t make the schedule. They just go out every week, work hard, prepare, and try to put together some wins.
That’s what the Plainsmen did for four weeks … win.
Even by winning convincingly, some were not, well, convinced.
Until Friday night.
Until the Evergreen Plainsmen held the defending Class 3A Greater St. Helens League champions to two touchdowns.
Until the Plainsmen made a stop near the goal line in the closing seconds to preserve a 20-14 victory over Mountain View.
Until the Evergreen Plainsmen improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2004, the year the Plainsmen never lost a game en route to a state championship.
OK, OK, let’s not get carried away. Evergreen might not be a contender for a state championship just yet.
But the Plainsmen made sure that they are a contender for the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League title.
While one league victory does not even assure the Plainsmen a playoff berth right now, this one win does prove one thing.
The Evergreen Plainsmen are for real.
“We’re a brotherhood. We are a family. Everybody loves each other,” said senior Jaxson Morris, who had the hit of the game, forcing a Mountain View fumble with 23 seconds left in the game to secure Friday night’s victory at McKenzie stadium.
“Evergreen is back. Evergreen will be back. We’re just building a foundation for the program, and I love Evergreen,” Morris said.
“We’re trying to put Evergreen on the map, and that’s what we did tonight as a team,” said senior linebacker Tai Fa’Alevao. “We played as a team. That’s what made us successful today. That’s what I’m proud of. I believe we deserve this win.”
“We’re on the map now. Let ‘em know,” added senior Koby Kast, who was one of the best players on the field Friday night. The lineman was everywhere on defense and played a crucial role on offense, too.
“Hard work. Waking up early. Grinding in the offseason. Grinding during school. Always working,” Kast said of this Evergreen team. “I’m with family. That’s how we do.”
“This is the best program we’ve had in a long time,” said senior Jonathan Landry, a starter since his freshman year. “A lot of teams were saying we were only 4-0 because we weren’t playing no competition. We came in, we were talking about this would be a statement game. We are putting the league on notice.”
The Plainsmen did that early and often on Friday.
Evergreen scored on the first drive of the game, with Crace scoring on a 2-yard keeper. That drive was kept alive on a 13-yard pass from Crase to Landry on third-and-10.
On Mountain View’s first play on offense, three Plainsmen blasted through the line and took down the running back for a loss of three yards. The Plainsmen flexed, as if to say they’d be there all night.
Mountain View has had an odd start to its season. The Thunder scored only two touchdowns in a loss in Week 1, then got an overtime win over defending 2A GSHL champion Ridgefield. But then the Thunder put up 62 points in a win against 4A Union. Yes, 62. Last week, a loss to Hanford, but the team still scored four touchdowns.
We know from history that Mountain View can score. We know from glimpses of this season that Mountain View can score.
On Friday night, though, Evergreen’s defense was having none of it.
The Plainsmen held Mountain View to seven running plays for a loss or no gain. The Plainsmen also forced three turnovers.
“Our defense is the heart of our team,” Landry said. “We have so many athletes that people only think of the offense, but our defense is really big. We showed that tonight. We held a team that put 60 on Union to two touchdowns.”
“Our defense puts in countless hours,” Crace said. “Sometimes we have to give up time in practice for the defense. They say defense wins ball games. They kept us in it today.”
Just a few of the defensive highlights:
Isaac Taylor got a sack on Mountain View’s first drive of the game, and on the next play, Mark Williams Jr. intercepted a Thunder pass.
In the second half, after Evergreen took a 20-14 lead, the Thunder did manage an 11-play drive. Kast made sure it didn’t get to 12 plays or more. Kast blew up a fourth-and-short play, making the tackle for loss to get the Evergreen offense back on the field.
Early in the fourth quarter, Mountain View would get into the red zone. A penalty pushed the Thunder back, and into a passing situation. Cole Cuypers was the man with the hands, making the interception for Evergreen.
And in the closing seconds, with the game on the line, the decisive play. Mountain View had made it to the Evergreen 8-yard line. A quick pass to a receiver, who cut upfield. He was heading toward the end zone.
Then Jaxson Morris happened.
A big hit. Helmet on the ball. Mountain View player gets knocked off his feet, the ball escapes his grasp. In a nanosecond, Williams Jr. jumps on the ball for Evergreen.
Evergreen recovers fumble at 3-yl.— Paul Valencia (@ValenciaCCT) October 1, 2022
23 seconds left in the game. Evergreen leads Mountain View 20-14. pic.twitter.com/iwbjs0wnKi
“I just gotta go in and make a play,” Morris recalled thinking. “These guys set me up to make the play, and I love them for it.”
He added that the defensive line carried the team the whole game. Sure, it was his hit that ended the game, but he never would have been in that position had it not been for the guys up front all night.
“I love my team, and I love Evergreen.”
Of course, a team still has to score in order to win. Evergreen had just enough offense on Friday night to do the job. Crace added to his first-quarter TD run with a beauty of a bomb on a first-quarter touchdown pass to Landry that covered 71 yards, giving Evergreen a 13-0 lead.
Mountain View would get the next two touchdowns to take a 14-13 lead at the half.
That was it for the Thunder, though, and the Plainsmen had a couple more more weapons to show off on offense.
Khalil Osbin, a senior, shares some of the quarterback reps with Crace. The third quarter was his time to shine Friday night. On his first pass, he found Arthur Ban for a 40-yard touchdown pass to give Evergreen the lead again.
After the game, the two quarterbacks were seen posing together, sharing the W.
Just another special moment for a special night for the Plainsmen.
That word was used a lot, in fact.
Mountain View had won 13 of the past 14 matchups in this rivalry.
“Adam Mathieson is the best coach I’ve ever coached against,” Evergreen coach Christian Swain said. “We have so much respect for him and that program. It was ugly. We made some mistakes. But any time you get a win over Mountain View, it’s special.”
It is a statement, too.
And yes, it is … For. Real.
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