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Pershing County runs to third straight crown

Heading into Saturday’s Division III state championship game, the Mountain View football team knew, at some point, it would have to contend with Pershing County’s revered running game.

The Saints just weren’t expecting it to be so soon.

Scoring early and often, the Mustangs dismantled Mountain View 56-6 at Bishop Gorman to earn their third consecutive state title.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t get to finish our goal,” Mountain View coach Mike Valenzuela said. “We had one goal, and that was to win state this year. We gave ourselves an opportunity, but it’s just disappointing when you fall short of any of your goals.”

On the first play from scrimmage, Pershing County quarterback Seth Montes slipped through Mountain View’s defensive line and raced down the left side of the field, eluding multiple tacklers, on his way to a 39-yard touchdown run.

“The offensive line, nothing works without them,” said Mustangs coach Dave McLean, whose team came into the final averaging 307.3 rushing yards per game. “That’s our philosophy. That’s where the game is truly won or lost is up front. Of course, we ran our option game there early, and they just made some great reads. Seth really got things going for us.”

By Pershing County’s second possession, Montes was at it again. On the third play of the drive, the senior faked a pitch and scrambled 83 yards up the middle for a score. Montes then completed a 2-point conversion pass to Colten Davis, staking the Mustangs to a 16-0 lead.

On the Saints’ ensuing position, the offense seemed to come alive when quarterback Ian Locke located Elijah Armstrong in the end zone on a 14-yard pass, but the score was overturned due to an illegal block. Despite advantageous field position, Mountain View eventually turned the ball over on downs at the Pershing County 8-yard line.

“I think our boys still wanted to fight,” Valenzuela said. “I think if we had that touchdown, our boys were still ready to fight. That kind of defeated our morale when we didn’t get to punch it in after it was called back.”

The Mustangs rode to the end zone twice in the second quarter. In the opening seconds of the period, Jacob Flores controlled a pitch from Montes on the option and broke free of three Saints defenders for a 22-yard touchdown. Jared Jensen powered in a 2-yard dive to extend the lead to 30-0 heading into the half.

“There’s not much that didn’t work,” McLean said. “It was one of those days where everything seemed to work. Offensively and defensively, the kids just executed.”

In a rematch of the 2010 Class 2A state title game, the Saints’ typically solid running attack staggered. The one-two punch of Jacob Duldulao and Matthew Larson had trouble all day finding running room. Larson, the Division III Southern League player of the year, managed 39 yards on 14 carries, and Duldulao ran 23 times for 73 yards.

Valenzuela said when his second-half plan of opening up the passing game floundered, his running game couldn’t pick up the pieces.

“Their defensive line is good,” Valenzuela said. “We dug ourselves in a hole where we couldn’t really commit to grinding it out in the second half. We abandoned the run maybe a little too soon.”

Pershing County (11-1), which had 374 yards rushing collectively, muscled in three more scoring runs in the third quarter, including an impressive 18-yard dash from Flores down the right sideline. The Mustangs concluded their scoring barrage in the fourth quarter on Randolph McLean’s 1-yard run.

It wasn’t until the waning seconds of the game that Mountain View (11-2) mustered its lone score on a 39-yard strike from Locke to Larson.

Montes had three runs for 127 yards, and Flores tallied 12 carries for 139 yards. Jared Jensen had nine runs for 85 yards and two scores for Pershing County.

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