The roles were reversed, but the result was a heartbreaking repeat for the Mountain View High football team.
Last year, the Mavericks rolled into the 5A state championship game on a hot streak, only to lose to undefeated and No. 1 Highland.
This year, Mountain View entered the state final as the unbeaten, top-ranked favorite — only to fall to red-hot district rival Rocky Mountain.
After the Grizzlies’ 41-22 triumph Saturday at Albertsons Stadium, Mountain View coach Judd Benedick once again found himself consoling his players on the blue turf.
“It stinks to look at their faces and see the disappointment,” Benedick said. “To have to repeat the same speech (from last season), to some degree, and try to help these kids realize the great things they accomplished this year … it’s tough.”
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Mountain View (11-1) used a dynamic, up-tempo offense and a stout defense to dominate opponents all year, including a 44-20 regular-season victory over Rocky Mountain (11-1). But this time, the Grizzlies seized control early, jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead behind the dynamic rushing duo of Jake Roper and Christian Blaser.
“They started really fast, and we were reeling a little bit,” Benedick said. “I think that really helped them and hurt us as the game went on.”
Mountain View eventually settled in, and the Mavericks’ playmakers posted their usual gaudy numbers. Standout senior TreyTon Bell ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Junior quarterback Tucker Rovig threw for 251 yards, including a 14-yard TD to Keenan Patwell. Top receiver Joe Farris snagged eight passes for 161 yards. But it wasn’t enough, and the Mavs were left to lament missed opportunities.
“Hats off to Rocky — they played hard, and I have a lot of respect for those guys,” Farris said. “But we kind of beat ourselves, too. We had some dropped balls, too many penalties, and we couldn’t finish in the red zone, either.”
Added Bell: “We made a lot of mistakes. When you don’t play your best, this is the way it goes.”
The mistakes included a deflected interception by Rocky Mountain’s Cal Criner, a missed extra point and several promising drives that failed to produce points. The miscues put Mountain View behind the eight-ball, and the Grizzlies’ devastating rushing attack never let the Mavericks recover.
Roper amassed 308 yards and five touchdowns as the Grizzlies racked up 499 rushing yards on a defense that came in allowing just 11.8 points per game.
“I was surprised that we didn’t tackle very well,” Benedick said. “We’ve been a great tackling team all year, a great defense. But Rocky broke a lot of tackles today, and they won the battle up front. That was the difference.”
Rovig and Patwell lead a quality group of returning players for Mountain View, but Bell, Farris and the seniors who helped make the Mavericks a 5A powerhouse are set to graduate.
“I’ll always remember this team and all the brothers I made,” Farris said. “This was a disappointing loss, but we still had a great season.”