A couple hours before Friday’s kickoff, Richie Estrada sat in the locker room with his Mountain View teammates.
He put on his shoulder pads, jersey and cleats. And he felt something special.
“I hadn’t felt this good in a while,” he said. “We all felt great, the vibe was really good in the locker room.”
It was even better after the game. The Mountain Lions won their third straight game in a 33-7 thrashing of Tucson High thanks in large part to Estrada, who ran wild with 279 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
“I’m proud of my line blocking for me,” he said, “and I couldn’t be any happier.”
Neither could his coach, Clarence McRae.
Three weeks ago, the Mountain Lions dropped to 3-3 following a 56-9 loss to Salpointe Catholic. To make the playoffs, Mountain View players and coaches figured, they would probably have to win out.
Then the Mountain Lions beat Casa Grande Vista Grande 38-0. And Ironwood Ridge 14-7. And now Tucson High.
At 6-3, Mountain View is facing a one-game season. It will face winless Rincon/University next week.
“We knew what type of football team we were, and we’ve played a tough schedule coming into tonight,” McRae said. “We knew we’d been beaten and battered and our record definitely shows that. We’re a strong team, but at the same time we dropped some earlier in the season against some tough opponents.
“I told our team that if we can take care of our business, we’ll always have a sound chance and be in great position to win football games.”
It took a while for the Mountain Lions to take care of business Friday.
Tucson High quarterback Donovan Moore completed a 30-yard pass to tailback Bryce Coleman on its first play from scrimmage. A few plays later, Tucson was at Mountain View’s 20-yard line. Four plays later, they stayed there, and turned the ball over on downs.
Then Estrada went to work. He carried the ball seven times for 38 yards on the ensuing drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown run.
Mountain View added a 42-yard Jorge Rangel field goal before the Badgers finally got on the board with 7:58 to go in the second quarter.
It wasn’t exactly the play Tucson coach Justin Agraves drew up.
Thanks to a long kick return from Coleman, the Badgers started their drive from Mountain View’s 16-yard line, then moved it to the 2. On a designed run, Moore coughed the ball up and into the end zone, and offensive lineman Thomas Gray pounced on it.
That’s right: The Badgers’ lone touchdown came from their starting center.
Tucson went into halftime trailing 13-7 after another Mountain View field goal, but it never got closer than that. Estrada’s second touchdown — another 14-yarder — came with 3:38 left in the third. His third score, a 78-yard dash, came just 2:33 later.
“Mountain View played a hell of a game, dominated probably every aspect of the game,” Agraves said. “Their defense was special; they shut us down. We just gotta respond when we get punched in the face like that. We can’t afford to drop our head.
“We just gotta learn from this and move on.”
The Badgers fell to 7-2.
“We faced adversity,” Estrada said. “We knew if we didn’t win this game, we wouldn’t make it to the playoffs. We knew what we had to do and we just played with a lot of heart tonight.”