Thunder defense thwarts the Falcons’ comeback efforts Thursday at District Stadium
BATTLE GROUND — Mountain View is still Mountain View.
But Prairie is definitely not the same old Prairie.
Mountain View freshman Kyle Chen intercepted a long Prairie pass at the 1-yard line with 11 seconds to play Thursday night, preserving a 23-22 victory for the Thunder in a Class 3A Greater St. Helens League game that just might decide the league championship.
The Falcons, who came into the game 5-0 for the first time in 1984, proved they belong among the elite of the league with this performance.
However, Mountain View is the three-time defending league champion. Mountain View has that winning tradition. And it’s Mountain View standing atop the standings again.
“Mountain View prepares the same no matter who we are playing,” quarterback Riley McCarthy said. “We just keep our eye on the prize.”
“Coach told us to stay off social media,” Austin Lee added. “We just played like it was a normal game. We played our hardest, played our best, so we could get the ‘Dub.’”
That “W” makes Mountain View 5-1 overall and 2-0 in league play.
“It means we’re 1-0 for another 2 hours and 17 minutes,” Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson said, 137 minutes before midnight Thursday. “Then we go back to work.”
For him, it’s all about week-to-week play. Still, this was a bigger-than-usual Week 6 game on a Thursday.
Prairie was looking to go 6-0 for the first time in program history. A win would have had the Falcons sitting pretty for a league title.
Now, it is Mountain View controlling its destiny.
McCarthy found Colby Gross for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 9:40 to go in the game to break a 16-all tie.
“He’s a great leader for us. He doesn’t get a lot of action. That might have been his first catch of the year. I trust all my guys,” McCarthy said. “It was awesome. I’m so happy for the kid. He’s a four-year guy, such a hard worker.”
The Falcons weren’t done.
They responded with 60-yard touchdown drive. A.J. Dixson seemed like he was going to scramble, but just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, he did a little push-pass to Nickolas Lawhead for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 6:38 to play.
The Falcons went for two points to take the lead. To be fair, that is what Prairie has done all season. The Falcons always go for two.
This time, though, Kevin Chen — Kyle’s older brother — knocked down the pass, keeping a one-point lead for Mountain View.
The Thunder killed some clock but could not put away the game, losing the ball on downs with 2 minutes to play.
Prairie would manage to get to the Mountain View 48-yard line after a defensive pass interference call on fourth down. But Dixson’s long pass on the next play was defended perfectly by Kyle Chen.
He and the receiver went up for the ball, and Chen came down with it.
There was some discussion between the officials, wondering if it was a case of dual-possession. But the call went Mountain View’s way at the 1-yard line.
“I was in man-to-man coverage. I followed him all the way down,” Kyle Chen said. “I started to play the receiver because I thought he beat me. Then I noticed it. As soon as it touched his hands, I went up and snagged it.”
Mathieson said what made that play so interesting is all week he has been telling his receivers to win those 50-50 balls.
“I didn’t anticipate it would matter for us on defense,” he said.
Oh it did.
The Thunder also won a tipped-ball drill in the end zone when Lee caught a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half, giving Mountain View a 13-8 lead.
“It was a perfect ball,” Lee said of McCarthy’s throw as three Mountain View receivers ran into the end zone. “I’m taller than everyone else, I have longer arms. It was tipped, and I just focused on it, and I celebrated.”
In this game, every point counted.
Jude Mullette made three field goals for the Thunder — 27, 30, and 33 yards.
Prairie’s offense struggled all first half but the Falcons got on the board when Dustin Shelby returned a Mountain View fumble 77 yards for an 8-3 lead.
Mountain View opened the second half with a field goal to make it 16-8.
The Falcons made some adjustments and went 80 yards on 17 plays, with Devante Clayton scoring on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line. His two-point run tied the game at 16.
The Thunder responded with their 11-play drive to take the lead for good. Zack Gable had six carries for 46 yards on the drive.
Gable finished with 77 yards after getting just three in the first half.
“I just woke up and started doing what I do and just ran,” Gable said. “I stayed calm, not hole-hunting. I just did what I was supposed to do.”
And he had a lot of help.
“I’m so happy they’re there,” he said of the linemen. “They did a great job blocking for me.”
McCarthy finished with 99 yards rushing for the Thunder, plus he threw for 149 yards and two scores.
Shelby rushed for 96 yards to lead Prairie. Dixson rushed for 64 yards.
“I just told them how proud I am of them,” Prairie coach Mike Peck said. “They battled for four quarter. A great football game.”
McCarthy said the Mountain View offense got it done because it was inspired by its defense.
“We have the best defense I’ve ever played with,” he said. “They give the offense a lot of confidence.”
Lee, by the way, had an interception and a sack to go with his Hail Mary. The Chen brothers each made big plays.
But Kyle Chen said you cannot single out anybody for the spotlight.
“Great team win. Great character. Great effort for all 48 minutes,” Chen said.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 23, PRAIRIE 22
Mt. View 3 10 3 7 — 23
Prairie 0 8 8 6 — 22
MV — Jude Mullette 27 FG
Pra — Dustin Shelby 77 fumble return (A.J. Dixson run)
MV — Mullette 30 FG
MV — Austin Lee 34 pass from Riley McCarthy (Mullette kick)
MV — Mullette 33 FG
Pra — Devante Clayton 1 run (Clayton run)
MV — Colby Gross 7 pass from McCarthy (Mullette kick)
Pra — Nickolas Lawhead 7 pass from Dixson (Pass failed)
RUSHING: Mountain View — McCarthy 21-99, Alex Hoang 3-(minus 8), Va Ili 4-(minus 7), Zack Gable 16-77. Prairie — Shelby 8-96, Dixson 16-64, Treyce Teague 1-(minus 6), Devante Clayton 4-13.
PASSING: MountainView — McCarthy 8-14-0-149. Prairie — Dixson 13-25-1-95.
RECEIVING: Mountain View — Alex Drake 1-23, Davis Delmage 1-12, Hoang 1-24, Dominic Stephens 1-3, Austin Lee 1-34, Malikiah Batties 2-46, Gross 1-7. Prairie — Clayton 1-11, Nickolas Lawhead 7-47, Ian Davis 2-11, Teague 1-4, Jimmie Barton 2-22.
Battle Ground 41, Heritage 35