Matthew Larson has played in two state championship games and yet to taste victory.
The senior fullback for the Mountain View football team hopes for another shot this season at an elusive ring.
“This is the last chance to get to the state championship for the seniors,” Larson said. “We’ve been working even harder than we have the past three years because this is the last year we get to do this.”
After running the table in the Division III Southern League, the Saints are favored to repeat this season. And thanks to the 1-2 punch of Larson and classmate Jacob Duldulao in the backfield, Mountain View is primed to return to the state final for the third time in four years.
“We’ve got a strong senior class that has worked hard, so the sense of urgency is like every other year when you have a group that’s worked hard and is dedicated and loyal to the school,” second-year Mountain View coach Mike Valenzuela said.
Mountain View finished 11-2 last season but was blown out 56-6 by Pershing County in the Division III title game.
In 2010, the Saints led Pershing County 12-0 at halftime before wearing down in the second half and losing, 14-12.
“We’re in a difficult spot,” Valenzuela said. “We know we’re getting chased, and we’re also chasing Pershing at the same time. We know nothing’s owed to us.”
Much of the optimism surrounding the Saints stems from their powerful offense, which returns seven starters.
Larson gained 1,876 yards and scored 22 touchdowns on the way to being named Southern League player of the year. Duldulao added 1,121 yards and 14 TDs.
“Basically, we trust our line that they’re going to make the blocks, and we just hit the holes and get where we’re supposed to go,” Larson said.
Valenzuela expects opponents to stack the line of scrimmage in an effort to slow Larson and Duldulao but is confident the Saints will be more balanced this season.
Shifty junior quarterback Ian Locke threw for 344 yards and five TDs while splitting time last season. He will throw to wideout Bernard Williams and tight end Travis Wallace, who caught three TDs as a junior and also ran for 312 yards and four scores.
“The exciting thing about our team is you never know who’s going to get it going that day,” Valenzuela said.
The Saints open the season against Layton Christian (Utah) at 1 p.m. Friday and are looking to avenge a 41-0 loss in the 2012 season opener.
“Obviously state’s the goal, but getting the opportunity to play in that state game is a long ways away,” Valenzuela said. “There’s a lot of good teams in between that. If we take care of those steps and give ourselves an opportunity, I like our team’s chances.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.