Treasure Valley high school football kicked off in style Friday night with the smell of barbecue filling the air, a standing-room-only crowd packing Mavericks Stadium and two perennial state championship contenders doing battle on a perfect 75-degree night.
The action on the field wasn’t always pretty, but the result couldn’t have looked better to the Eagle Mustangs. Senior quarterback Slayter Jeffries rushed for 119 yards and threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Cole Christensen with 1:57 remaining as visiting Eagle knocked off Mountain View for a 22-19 victory.
“We’ve been working so hard for this,” said Christensen, who led all receivers with six catches for 81 yards. “We haven’t beaten Mountain View in five years, so it’s a great feeling and a big win for us.”
Eagle scored the winning points after Mountain View lost a fumbled handoff at its own 37-yard line. Jeffries did most of the damage with his feet before firing a goal-line strike to Christensen.
“We were fortunate, but I’m proud of our team’s composure,” Eagle coach Paul Peterson said. “We have a veteran group, and there was never any panic. We were given a break there on the fumble, and the kids were able to capitalize.”
The game bore all the hallmarks of a season-opening showdown, with penalty flags flying, overthrown passes sailing and loosely-carried footballs littering the turf. The game’s first two possessions ended in punts, but Eagle found some big-play magic to break the stalemate.
Jeffries — half of Eagle’s two-quarterback platoon — fired a 45-yard strike to a wide-open Christensen. Moments later, Devan Bridgewater took his turn under center and hit tight end Kaden Snooks up the seam for a 30-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.
Mountain View’s offense continued to sputter early, but the Mavericks caught a break when a Jeffries fumble ended a promising drive deep in Mountain View territory. Two possessions later, the Mavericks strung together a long drive, with senior quarterback Tucker Rovig scampering in from the 2. Mountain View added a two-point conversion on a swinging gate play to take an 8-7 lead.
The first half concluded in bizarre fashion. With less than a minute remaining, Eagle went for it on fourth down near midfield, but a bad snap gave the ball back to Mountain View on the Eagle 45. Mountain View drove to the 15 and, as time expired, Rovig’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete as receiver Cordell Shelton took a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Eagle safety Ryan Swanson drew a personal foul on the play, giving Mountain View an untimed down from the 8. Christian Mondragon booted a 25-yard field goal for an 11-7 lead.
Yardage continued to be a rare commodity in the second half as penalties and miscues bogged down both offenses. Eagle put together one quality drive, with Jeffries orchestrating and then punctuating the march with a 6-yard TD run that put Eagle back on top 14-11.
“Slayter played harder than anyone I’ve ever seen tonight,” Christensen said. “He was just a fiend out there, and we followed his lead. I’m really proud of him.”
Eagle was driving toward a two-score lead, but Mountain View linebacker Khalid Hardy stoned Jeffries on fourth-and-two near midfield to give the Mavericks life.
Moments later, Rovig ran a play-action bootleg and found senior Chris Evans open in the end zone on a 22-yard strike. Another swinging gate conversion made it 19-14.
Mountain View forced an Eagle punt, but the fumble flipped the momentum one last time. The Mavericks’ last-gasp drive stalled near midfield.
“I thought the effort was there,” said Mountain View coach Judd Benedick, whose team was held to 249 yards of offense. “But we were sloppy. You can’t make mistakes and beat yourself against a team like Eagle. They’re a great team, and hats off to them tonight.”
Rovig, a Montana State commit, threw for 116 yards, and Cole Franklin had 81 rushing yards for Mountain View. Eagle managed 274 yards, 194 of which was generated by Jeffries.
The teams combined for six fumbles — two lost — and 21 accepted penalties.