Mountain View senior Varney Larson snatched the tipped pass out of the air.
The right play was to go down, but he wasn’t going to let this moment end so quickly.
He raced up the sidelines for 20 yards, looking to score but unselfishly stepped out of bounds at the first sign of contact. The defense’s third interception of the night sealed Friday’s 21-14 win over visiting Desert View and the Class 5A Sonoran section championship.
As he crossed the white line, Larson turned to the crowd, put his hands up and shrugged his shoulders. In their first season under coach Matt Johnson, the Mountain Lions (5-4) had their signature win.
The play came almost three quarters after Larson’s costly fumble on the goal line. Up 7-0, the pint-sized receiver/cornerback fought for the end zone on second down, and the ball was stripped. It was one of three times the Mountain View offense marched inside the Desert View 10-yard line and came away empty. The early mistake fueled Larson on the game-winning play, as Desert View faced fourth down from its own 33-yard line with 53 seconds remaining.
“I was just telling myself I needed to make a play to make up for fumbling,” Larson said. “I kept telling my teammates I was going to do something by the end of the game.”
If the offense could have mustered any progress in the fourth quarter, such heroics wouldn’t have been necessary.
Instead, after taking a 21-7 lead on a 71-yard drive to end the third quarter, the offense recorded back-to-back three-and-outs. The defense made a stand around midfield, turning away the Jaguars (5-4) on third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 with 2:55 left. Blitzing safety Branden Devoy was responsible for both tackles, finishing with three for a loss and an interception.
“He’s a heck of football player who plays with a ton of passion,” Johnson said. “We love coaching him.”
Desert View coach Robert Bonillas had a short talk with his team, which had bounced back from a 2-3 start with a three-game winning streak. He was happy with the effort, particularly in the second half, despite the result. Running back Carlos Alvarez led the comeback attempt, rushing 94 yards on 15 carries with three receptions for 30 yards and a 32-yard touchdown pass on a trick play for the final score.
“I was glad to see the kids didn’t put their heads down,” Bonillas. “They still had fight in them.”
Mountain View entered Friday with question marks on its postseason resume. After missing the playoffs last season outside expectations weren’t high and 0-2 start reinforced that, even if it included decent efforts against Gilbert Higley and Ironwood Ridge.
The Mountain Lions won four of the next five, but those opponents are a combined 10-23. Thus, they were ranked No. 18, just barely in the playoffs when accounting for Centennial, Horizon and Higley, in the very last spot, making the open tournament. They hope Friday’s gutsy win shows they belong in the bracket.
“Who doesn’t like an underdog,” Devoy said. “We’re always right there.”