GOODYEAR – It was a thrilling night on the field all the way until the buzzer sounded for Mountain View, who dropped a close one tonight to the Millennium Tigers on the road. While most teams would be feeling bummed following a 23-20 loss, the Mountain Lions have an entirely different outlook following the game.
“You know, this is one of those things, everybody talks about it, but the reality is, you’ve just gotta go through the process… It’s gonna take some time, and we’re gonna get better everyday. Admit our mistakes, as coaches and as players, and get better,” Mountain View head coach Matt Johnson said.
Mountain View opened up the game with a touchdown on the first drive. Sophomore quarterback Will Howell was able to find senior Dillon Arvayo for a 15-yard touchdown, followed up with a good extra point attempt from Nikolas Kornacki to put the Mountain Lions on top with just under eight minutes left in the first quarter.
After a good defensive stop on Millennium’s first drive, the Tigers were able to counter, closing out the first quarter to tie things up. It was a 17-yard touchdown run from sophomore Zues Pinder, who would ultimately terrorize the defense most of the night.
With just seconds remaining in the half, a field goal gave Millennium the 10-7 edge.
Millennium received the ball to open up the second half and made good use of the possession. After taking just around four minutes off the clock, Pinder took another one in for a touchdown, this one from the five, to make it 17-7.
Things were looking promising for the Mountain Lions on the following drive, but a monstrous interception from junior Shahid Wilson sent their defense right back out onto the field again.
“We tell everybody, ‘There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake, there’s a problem with repeating a mistake.’ So I told our sophomore quarterback, ‘Hey, guess what, you’ll never make that mistake again.’ It was just a foot too low and about one step too late. He had the right thing, the right eyes, his feet were right, it’s just learning to get there a little quicker,” Johnson said.
Following the interception, the Tigers struggled to capitalize on the turnover, ultimately deciding to punt the ball, but a fumble on the snap would send the ball rolling into the endzone. Senior Austin Osterkorn was immediately on it, doing everything necessary to make the play and secure the ball for a touchdown.
“I was really debating whether I should just hit him, or jump on the ball. So I just decided to go for him, see what happened, and I barely caught the ball out of the corner of my eye. So I just jumped on it and the next thing I knew, there were just five of my teammates around me congratulating me,” Osterkorn said.
The kick was good, making the score 17-14 with 3:09 left in the third.
On the Tigers next drive, the Mountain Lion defense put out a killer effort, forcing them to settle for a field goal in the second play of the fourth quarter to make it 20-14 with 11:43 remaining.
Unfortunately for The View’s offense, it was a quick three and out, allowing the Tigers to come back on the field and eat up the clock. After taking off six and a half minutes, Millennium kicked another field goal, ultimately ensuring the win.
Despite the fact time was quickly running out and a comeback was unlikely, there was never any quit from the team. Down 9 with around 2:50 remaining to play, the Mountain Lions knew it would be a long shot.
Time continued to dwindle off the clock, and even when it became apparent there would be no time to pull off a comeback win, the Mountain Lions continued to look like they were playing and genuinely enjoying themselves while doing it. With just two seconds remaining in the game, sophomore quarterback was able to get the ball snapped and beautifully complete a tough corner pass for a touchdown as the play continued to unfold after the final buzzer sounded, fighting their way to the end.
“I think we’re a great team. We’ve always been kind of like a ‘grind it out’ team, so I think that’s exactly what we showed here tonight. Millennium was ranked really high in the state, but it just shows that even if we’re not really ranked as high, with a little spirit we can come out here and whoop some ass,” Osterkorn said.
“I’ve been telling everybody that will listen, ‘We know we’re gonna end this season as a great team.’ It’s just (a question of) how long is it going to take for us to get there? It’s watching film, competing against great teams, and I don’t know how many losses, but I know we’re gonna end the season as a great team,” Johnson said.
Howell had another solid night, completing nine of his 13 pass attempts for around 175 yards and one interception. It was the Mountain Lions’ run game that struggled in the game, as they only put up roughly 70 yards the entire night.
Howell’s performance against Millennium attests to the fact his performance last week against Sahuaro was no fluke, where he completed his first 15 straight pass attempts of the game. While he may not have had quite as strong of a night, he was up against a much tougher defense than last week.
“I’m super excited to see where he goes. I love that guy to death. He seems like the type of guy who would be picked up by Salpointe, but he seems really committed to Mountain View,” Osterkorn said.
“He’s got a bright future. He’s really growing up,” Johnson said.
During the game, the coaching staff remained cool and collected, and it showed in how the players were on the field. After the game, Johnson was telling his players that they’re continuing to improve every week and there’s a lot to look forward to.
“We’re optimistic. We know we’ve got a really tough gauntlet here. We go from Millennium to Notre Dame Prep, from Notre Dame Prep to Cienega, so we know it’s tough, but we’re excited about our kids’ energy. We’re excited about their improvement,” Johnson said.
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07