Mountain View quarterback Cody Rochon barely gets rid of the ball before being brought down by Liberty’s Troy Bethsold on Friday night.
Over the past four weeks, the Mountain View defense had been nearly impenetrable.
But Friday night, the eighth-seeded Mountain Lions could do little to slow down the balanced attack of No. 9-seeded Peoria Liberty, falling 57-20 at home in the opening round of the Division II playoffs.
“We got exposed, man, and we didn’t adjust well to some of the things they were doing,” Mountain Lions coach Clarence McRae said.
“I think they got us out of position and instead of being the ones who were making the action, we were reacting to whatever they were doing.”
The loss brought a sudden end to a stellar month.
After getting blown out by Salpointe Catholic on Oct. 4, Mountain View (7-4) rattled off four straight wins to clinch a home playoff game, allowing just 14 combined points in the process.
Friday night, though, was a different story.
After a 40-yard fumble return by Matt Thomas brought Mountain View within 22-20 to start off the third quarter, Liberty (8-3) scored 35 unanswered the rest of the way.
Liberty quarterback Tyler Wyatt picked apart the Mountain View defense, contributing six touchdowns — four on the ground and two through the air — to send the team on to the quarterfinals to play No. 1 Salpointe Catholic next week.
“It always sucks being eliminated and knowing you’re never going to play high school football again,” Mountain View senior Richie Estrada said. “But it was a great night. Even though the scoreboard wasn’t going our way, we were still fighting, never put our head down.”
Estrada finished the regular season as the leading rusher in Division II and he didn’t wait long to show why. The senior broke a 69-yard touchdown on his third carry to give the Mountain Lions an early 7-0 lead.
The advantage quickly disappeared though, as Liberty scored twice in a 2-minute-49-second stretch. After a Wyatt run tied it at 7, Mountain View quarterback Cody Rochon’s second throw of the night was picked off by Chad Bennett, who returned it 41 yards to put Liberty up 15-7.
It was the first time Mountain View had trailed since its loss to Salpointe.
Estrada finished the night with 231 yards on the ground on 31 carries, but other than a trick play in which running back Dylan Henschell found Andre Duncan for a 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the Mountain Lions passing attack was nonexistent.
Rochon went 2 for 9 for 15 yards and Estrada threw an interception on another trick play in the fourth quarter.
“When you get Richie (Estrada) going, you got to be able to counter and throw the ball and we couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn today,” McRae said.
A below-average passing game is normal for Mountain View. A struggling defense is not.
With two starters, safety Justice Summerset and defensive end Brandon Stoutmeyer, out with injuries, the Mountain View defense allowed 494 yards of total offense. That, plus a handful of Mountain Lions penalties in the second half, led to the school’s first home playoff loss since it fell to Phoenix South Mountain in 2007.
“We were battling ourselves a little bit and we didn’t do ourselves any favors,” McRae said. “But that’s what happens when you play good teams — they put you in uncomfortable situations and you start to make mistakes.”