After the first quarter of Friday’s opening night football matchup between longtime rivals Mountain View and Marana, it appeared it would be a battle between defenses.

As the clock ran out on the first 12 minutes, the scoreboard still showed zeros for both sides. The Mountain View Mountain Lions found their stride in the second quarter though, and took over and maintained the lead for the rest of the game, culminating in a 25-17 victory on their home field.

“I think overall, ultimately we accomplished our goal, which was to win the game,” Mountain View head coach Clarence ‘Bam’ McRae said. “We have a lot of things work on and clean up, and we’ll definitely try to become better as we prepare for next week.”

While both teams started out sluggish on offense to begin the game, the Mountain Lions appeared to be gaining momentum after a 75-yard kickoff return touchdown from senior Weston Kimmel with less than a minute left in the first quarter. However, a flag was called for interference with the kicker and the play was redone with less success for Mountain View. It was one of many penalties called throughout the game.

“In the first game there’s always going to be a little more flags than normal,” said McRae. “At the same time, the refs did a good job, they tried to call it the best they could see it and at the end of the day, the players play football, the coaches are coaches, and the refs officiate.”

On the drive that followed the reattempted kickoff, the Mountain Lions had a strong drive that was helped by a 29-yard run from junior running back Richie Estrada. However, they were shut down by the stingy Marana defense, and forced to try a 32-yard field goal, which missed wide left. The defensive line was the Tigers’ brightest area of the night, as they consistently made it tough for the Mountain View offense.

“Really I’m very proud of our defense and the way stood up to the run,” Marana Head Coach Andy Litten said. “A lot of people thought they were going to out-physicalize us, but that just wasn’t the case tonight.”

The score deadlock was finally broken midway through the second quarter, as junior Mountain View quarterback Cody Rochon broke free for a 46-yard run to set the Mountain Lions for a short 1-yard TD run by senior fullback Austin Trebilcock.

Rochon proved to be the offensive star on the night, as he played a part in three touchdowns, passed for 152 yards and ran for 35. Coach McRae was very pleased with his offense as a whole during the game.

“Our offense really stood out,” McRae said. “Marana played tough defense and they got downhill and made some good defensive plays, so we really had our work cut out for us. I think our whole offense did a decent job.”

The teams went into the locker room at halftime with Mountain View up 6-0. The

Mountain Lions added another touchdown to board in the third off a 38-yard pass from Rochon to senior wide receiver Brandon Cruz. Earlier in the drive, Kimmel was stripped of his second big play after a 30-yard run was called back due to an illegal block. The Lions stood with a 12-0 advantage at the end of the third quarter after they failed on a 2-point conversion attempt.

It was in the fourth quarter that both teams came to life, as the Mountain Lions and Tigers combined for 30 points, 18 more than the total of the pervious three quarters.     

Marana finally got on the scoreboard early in the quarter on a drive consisting of a 40-yard pass from junior quarterback Ben Honea to senior wide receiver Jeffrey Carranza, a few medium gains by Honea and junior running back Jake Bewley, and finishing off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Carranza. The Tigers converted on the extra-point kick to cut the score to 12-7.

Mountain View responded immediately, scoring on a 65-yard drive capped off by a 19-yard scoring run by Rochon.

With the score at 18-7, Marana refused to back down, as senior Dennis Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Mountain View 25-yard line. Mountain View was handed 15 yards in penalties, so the Tigers were pushed up to the 10-yard-line, where they eventually settled for a field goal to make it 18-10. Coach Litten called for the team to take a risk and go for the onside kick to try to recover possession of the ball. The plan backfired though, as Rochon retrieved the ball and took it all the way to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown return, pushing the margin to 15 at 25-10.

“We thought we had it,” Litten said. “We had practiced it and we thought it was there. He didn’t get the right foot on it, it went straight, and it wasn’t supposed to go there. We didn’t have anybody there, and Cody Rochon made a great play and took it to the house. I really thought the tide was starting to turn there again, and we let them back in.”

Down by 15 with less than three minutes to play, the disadvantage proved too much for Marana. They did manage to record one more touchdown though, achieved through an 18-yard passing gain to Bewley, 15-yard gain to Carranza, and a seven-yard scoring pass to senior wide receiver Davon Roebuck as time expired.

The contest marked the first game experiences for both McRae and Litten with their new respective schools. Both coaches were pleased by many aspects of their team’s performances, but also feel there is a lot to take away from and learn from the game.  

“The team needs to improve upon seizing the opportunities that present themselves,” McRae said. “Rarely do you get second chances on opportunities, so if they seize the first opportunity we’ll come out on top a whole lot more.”

  “We absolutely have to be able to know what we’re doing in coverage at all times,” Litten said. “Our secondary played great 99 percent of the time, but the times they didn’t it hurt us big. I also think our offense needs to be more football intelligent, and make the right checks at the right times and run the plays when they’re there.”

For Marana, the result was a positive sign of encouragement for the recently struggling program. After a winless season last year, Coach Litten looks to be able to have some immediate success with this team. Friday night was a positive start.

“I thought they played tough, and did their town proud,” Litten said. “Really it was the small little things that cost us at that game. Overall, Mountain View challenged us physically, and they really responded well to that, but again it’s the small things that we have to fix to be a great football team. They’re right on that cusp.”

Mountain View will look to continue their winning ways at Canyon Del Oro this coming Friday night, while Marana will look to hold their own in hosting Ironwood Ridge.

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