Thunder survive tiebreaker to advance to Week 10 playoff
It took only minutes for Mountain View to wipe away weeks of frustration on the football field.
The Thunder are exactly where they expected to be at this point of the season, preparing for a Week 10 playoff game in hopes of making it to the state playoffs.
Only, this journey to the postseason took some detours.
One of the most talented teams in Adam Mathieson’s 15 seasons as head coach, the Thunder expected to compete for a league title. It was not a far-fetched idea that the Thunder could go 8-1 or even 9-0 in the regular season.
Instead, Mountain View had to win three of its last four regular-season games just to have a winning season.
Mountain View also needed help from Kelso just to get into a tiebreaker.
Then Mountain View had to win that tiebreaker to get back on pace.
Here we are. It’s November. And Mountain View, after all of that, is still playing football. The Thunder will be taking on Rainier Beach at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“It shows our resilience,” said Mountain View quarterback Mitch Johnson, who helped the Thunder eliminate Prairie and then Evergreen on Monday night in a series of tiebreakers to claim the final playoff spot from the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League.
“It was tough. It wasn’t just one game of adversity. Our season, it hasn’t gone how we wanted,” Johnson said. “We really just had to take a step back and realize it’s not going to happen overnight. We had a couple tough losses. That was heartbreaking, honestly. Low morale and everything. We just came together and said, ‘Hey, we’re in this thing together. Let’s build our morale back and get some dubs.’ That’s all it was.”
The Thunder thought they had something figured out when they scored 62 points against Class 4A Union in Week 3. Two weeks later, though, they scored 14 points in a loss to Evergreen.
“That was one of those moments,” senior Kyle Chen said. “We just have a bunch of dawgs on our team. We have a bunch of brothers on this team who love playing together. The way we pulled together after that really showed who we truly are, and that’s a family.”
The Thunder responded with a win over Prairie, but then lost a close one to eventual league champion Kelso.
Mathieson said the Kelso game, even in defeat, was a solid effort by his team. However, it meant that Mountain View’s playoff hopes hinged on Prairie beating Evergreen and then Kelso beating Evergreen to force a three-way tie for second place.
Well, that’s exactly what happened, leading up to Monday night.
Mountain View, Evergreen, and Prairie showed up to Doc Harris Stadium in Camas for the tiebreaker.
Evergreen drew the bye, so Mountain View and Prairie played the first elimination series. The format? Teams started at the 40-yard line and had two possessions. The team in the lead after two possessions would advance. If still tied, another possession would be played until there was a winner.
It might have been an imperfect season for Mountain View, but it was a perfect tiebreaker for Mountain View.
Prairie went first and did not pick up a first down.
Mountain View scored a touchdown on a pass from Mitch Johnson to Kyle Chen.
The Mountain View defense quickly shut down Prairie again, ending the first tiebreaker in about eight minutes.
Action paused for 20 minutes to allow for Evergreen to warm up for the final elimination series. It would take less than 20 minutes for Mountain View to claim the final playoff spot.
This time, the Thunder went first, cashing in on a short touchdown run from Johnson.
Again, the Mountain View defense was solid. Evergreen did not come close to scoring on its possession.
So it was up to the Mountain View offense again. Score here, and it’s over.
They did, and it was. Owen Purvis was true on a 28-yard FG for the 10-0 victory.
Purvis would have loved it had Mountain View got the first down to extend that drive or even scored a touchdown. But he knew kicking the field goal was an option.
“They put me out there on the field just to do my job, and that’s what I did,” Purvis said. “I’m always ready for it when they need me. Especially now. When it’s time for the playoffs, it’s time to go.”
In the two tiebreaker series, Mountain View scored on all three of its offensive possessions and shut down their opponents in all three of their possessions.
Evergreen concluded its season with a 6-3 overall record and a tie for second place. It is the first time the Plainsmen have won six games in a season since the 2007 team went 8-2.
Prairie also went 6-3 and a tie for second place in the league.
The Thunder do not yet know what their final record will be for the 2022 season. Johnson said the team’s final push to qualify for Week 10 is a confidence booster.
“These games have shown our true capacity and potential,’ Johnson said. “Now that we know what we’re truly capable of, as long as we keep loving each other and playing together and playing hard, the sky’s the limit. We’re just excited to have some more fun together.”
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