There were moments when Brian Crum flashed back to three years ago, the last time Mountain View drew the top seed in the Class 5A football state playoffs. That year, the Cougars fell in the first round to the 16th-seeded team in the 16-team bracket. There were times Friday night, against No. 16 Milwaukie, that Mountain View appeared on the cusp of repeating history.
And then the Cougars’ defense, one of the best in 5A this season in terms of points allowed, took the field — and any doubt about Mountain View being able to hang on was erased.
Cameron Houchin’s 21-yard field goal with 32 seconds left in the second quarter was all the scoring the No. 1 Cougars needed against the visiting Mustangs from the Northwest Oregon Conference, as Mountain View recorded its first shutout in three years for a 3-0 win in the first round of the state playoffs. The Cougs will host No. 8 Silverton in the quarterfinals next Friday.
“That’s the most physical team we’ve played — the biggest, most physical team we’ve played,” Crum said of Milwaukie. “They presented a few problems, mainly for us offensively. We just really struggled to get any continuity in the game.”
On a frosty night at Jack Harris Stadium, the Mustangs, making their first playoff appearance since 2005, threatened to strike early in the second quarter of a scoreless game. The fourth-place team from the NWOC drove to the Mountain View 11-yard line but stalled, as the Cougars pushed Milwaukie back 3 yards. The Mustangs attempted a 31-yard field goal, but the kick was blocked, keeping Milwaukie off the scoreboard.
The Mustangs began their next possession at the Mountain View 34-yard line, but quarterback Grey Andreasen-VanOtten fumbled a handoff, and it was recovered by the Cougars, setting up the lone scoring drive of the night — which itself was dramatic.
Mountain View faced a fourth down at the Milwaukie 38-yard line. Cougars quarterback Caden Cromwell rolled to his right and lofted a pass that seemed too high for his intended target, Luke Schulz. The lanky tight end, though, made a leaping catch for 22 yards and extended the drive. And while Mountain View was kept out of the end zone, Houchin drilled the 21-yard field goal with 32.7 seconds remaining in the first half to give the Cougars (10-0) the lead.
“That was big,” Crum said of Houchin’s kick. “We played field position in the second half. We punted a few times when we probably wouldn’t. I really felt like there was no way they were going to go 80 yards on our defense. So we flipped the field a couple times, and guys stepped up on some big plays.”
Milwaukie (5-4) broke open several gashing runs in the second half, but the Mustangs could not put together a scoring drive. The few possessions that put Mountain View on its heels in its own territory stalled by the time the Mustangs reached the Cougars’ 35-yard line — such as Milwaukie’s last two drives of the game that appeared promising but ended with punts.
“When they moved the ball a little bit, that kind of takes it out of you,” said Mountain View defensive lineman Rylee Ettinger. “But when you get a stand, that gets everybody fired up.”
The Cougars took over with 3 minutes, 36 seconds remaining, and the Cougs used all of it to secure the win and advance to next Friday’s quarterfinals.
“Hopefully we wash (away) a game like this and the kids realize they have to show up and play,” Crum said. “We just made too many errors, too many mistakes. Execution wasn’t what it needs to be. The positive is our kids didn’t panic. We talked a bit at halftime about relying on each other and going back to those leadership lessons we worked on in the offseason. You saw our kids stick together and play through. And some guys stepped up.”
Junior running back Nalique Hogan was one of those guys for Mountain View. After entering the night with only eight carries for 47 yards this season, Hogan filled in for 5A rushing leader Jonas Larson, who left the game with an an apparent leg injury late in the first half and did not return. Hogan finished with 89 yards rushing on 16 carries. Cromwell also came through, completing 8 of 16 passes for a season-high 114 yards.
But it was the Mountain View defense that came through, limiting Milwaukie to 155 yards of offense, all of it rushing.
“That was a struggle,” Ettinger said. “We didn’t come out playing our best football, and they really put it on us. We got lucky on that one.”
Still, when it comes to the playoffs, Ettinger said, the only thing that matters is the win — keeping the season alive for at least one more game.
“That’s our main focus — earn another week,” the senior said. “We just have to earn another week.”