They call it the “Battle of the Boot,” but this year’s annual Mountain View-Marana rivalry game took on added significance because the game at Marana High School was played on opening night of the football season.
Despite both teams coming off losing seasons, both sides of bleachers were packed with enthusiastic fans, and the halftime score was a close 7-2 in favor of visiting Mountain View.
But the action really heated up in the second half. Everything came together for Mountain View’s Mountain Lions, who rolled to a 27-2 win, scoring three touchdowns and racking up a defensive shutout.
The Marana Tigers’ sole two points came on a safety by defensive lineman Michael Susa, who tackled quarterback Cris Thorson in the end zone seconds before halftime.
“We knew we were solid on defense,” said Mountain View coach Larry Branson.
Branson, in his first season at Mountain View, is not exactly a newcomer.
Branson has been a high school head coach for 16 years. He has a career record of 84-65, and spent the last seven years at Francis Howell High School in Missouri.
Although the Mountain Lions are unveiling their third coach in three years, the team under Branson looks like a winner, if the season opener is any indication.
Late in the second quarter, the Tigers put a drive together that took them into Mountain View’s red zone. Four runs by sophomore quarterback Ben Honea netted 17 yards. After a reverse by Derek Wengert went for five yards, it was suddenly a first and goal at the 3-yard line. Then, Honea took it down to the 1-yard line. However, the next two runs could not move the ball into the end zone. After Tanner Morse was turned away, the Mountain Lions took over on downs.
“Power football,” Branson said. “My wife would say we’re a third- and fourth-quarter team.”
And this is where the Mountain Lions might be better than they were the past few seasons.
The Mountain Lions offense was led by Thorson, wide receiver Jerry Teague, and running back Marcos Mcmillon.
The offensive line went to work immediately to start the third quarter with a 77-yard scoring drive. Mcmillon ran for 7 yards and a first down out to the 30. A few plays later, Thorson found Teague for 21 yards and a first down to Marana’s 12-yard line.
A couple of plays later, Mcmillon ran it in for a touchdown. The extra point made it 14-2.
Mcmillon finished with 90 yards, rushing on less than 20 carries.
On their next series, the Mountain Lions showcased their passing attack.
Thorson, in his second season as a starter, connected with Teague for a 9-yard touchdown. After a missed extra point, it was 20-2 for Mountain View.
Teague really showed off his talents in the fourth quarter. Thorson hung up a pass for the wide receiver in the end zone, and Teague made a leaping catch in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown reception.
The Mountain Lions’ Austin Trebilcock, who thrived on the ground, carried nine times for 65 yards. Teague finished with three catches for 55 yards.
“I should’ve come down with the ball,” Teague said. “It’s the quarterback’s ball and he made a good throw.”
Thorson and Teague seemed to be just missing in the first half, as Teague kept getting open.
“We were just a hair away,” Branson said. “Cris is a leader. (Senior) Zach Carter stood out a bit.”
Marana’s Tanner Morse, a strong contributor in last year’s Mountain View match-up, is more impressed with his team this year.
“We have a lot more intensity in practice,” Morse said. “There’s more unity in the team and the coaching staff.
“We’re excited about Ironwood Ridge (this week’s opponent).”
Mountain View will host defending state runner-up Canyon Del Oro Friday, at 7 p.m.
Marana will travel to Ironwood Ridge on Friday.