The bad news for the Mountain View Mountain Lions was that Cienega kicker Robert Griffith set a school record with four field goals.
The good news was that the field goals were symptomatic of a great red zone defense by Mountain View, which kept the Bobcats offense from scoring a single touchdown, as the Mountain Lions (4-1) upset Cienega, 21-19, spoiling the Bobcats’ homecoming night.
"Every week we prepare to win," said Mountain View coach Clarence McRae."It was a great win for our program."
Richie Estrada ran 78 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game to give Mountain View an early 7-0 lead.
Estrada rushed for 214 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.
The Mountain Lions flexed their defensive muscle early. Cienega's opening drive lasted nine plays. Diavanni Johnson caught a 22-yard pass that gave the Bobcats a first-and-goal at the Mountain View five-yard line. It seemed like it would be a 7-7 game within a couple of plays.
But the defense got penetration and nailed a Bobcat running back behind the line of scrimmage for a four-yard loss. A couple of incompletions brought out the senior kicker Griffith, who nailed a 26-yard field goal. He also kicked field goals of 35, 44, and 47 yards.
Defensively, they held the Bobcats to just 85 yards in the first half, despite trailing 16-7.
"We got better in the red zone," McRae said. "We adjusted."
But the biggest defensive sequence came on Cienega's final possession. Faking a first-down attempt on fourth down, the Mountain Lions pooch punted 35 yards down to the 13.
At that point, the Mountain Lions just wanted to protect a 21-19 lead, while Cienega was just looking to get Griffith close enough for a game-winning fifth field goal.
Cienega's leading receiver Luke Holley had been shut down for three quarters, but Adriell Alvarado began finding him on the final drive.
Holley caught an 8-yard pass, and an 11-yard pass, putting the ball on the 32-yard line. Then, it looked lie a big play, as Alvarado stepped away from traffic and connected with Holley on a big pass play, which likely would've put Cienega in field-goal range. However, Alvarado was called for stepping past the line of scrimmage before throwing, negating the big gain.
A couple plays later, Cienega crossed mid-field. Then, with 1:24 remaining, Zach Ayers made a big sack, and an incompletion followed, setting up a fourth and long. Alvarado ran for his life, and retreated backwards, before kicking the ball backwards and out of bounds deep in Cienega territory.
But this was not how the game ended. Mountain View's defense was called for a penalty, giving the Bobcats one last chance. This time, a pass went incomplete, and Mountain View took over at the Cienega 49-yard line with 1:03 left.
"It's an emotional game for us," Estrada said. Estrada's season rushing total is now up to 740 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. Estrada, not much of an offensive factor last year, credits his line.
"They're like semis," he said.
Cienega built a 16-7 lead at halftime, but it wasn't because of the Mountain Lions defense, as they yielded only 85 yards, 29 rushing in the first half. Overall, the Bobcats were held to 184 yards.
"Our defense has been a strong point all season," said McRae. "The most important thing is the next play."
Cienega scored on an interception return for a touchdown, and a blocked punt.
While Cienega inherited the ball at the Mountain View 15-yard line, they could not punch it in. The defense held tough, which set up a 47-yard field goal by Griffith and a 9-7 lead for Cienega at the time.
The Bobcats came out of the locker room at halftime, seemingly determined to remind them that they were the perennial playoff team, not the visitors. After missing the playoffs in their first season in 2002, the Bobcats have made it nine straight years.
Cienega marched from their own 27-yard line down to the Mountain View 10-yard line. Then McRae's defense met the challenge and stymied them again. Griffith's 47-yard field goal gave Cienega a 19-7 lead with 6:50 to go in the third.
The Mountain Lions hibernating offense woke up. Estrada broke a 23-yard run, gained 56 yards total on the drive to take it to the Cienega 34-yard line. Then, a couple plays later, he took it 33 yards to the house, and it was now 19-14.
Anthony Scott's interception on the next possession gave the ball back to the Mountain View offense. Quarterback Cody Rochon went 28 yards for a touchdown to give the Mountain Lions the lead, 21-19, with 2:39 left.
After that score, the Mountain Lion defense got even stronger.
"Our defense is one of the best defenses around," Estrada said. "I'm grateful for our coaches this year."
This Friday, the Mountain Lions will travel to Tucson High for a 7 p.m. contest.