Mountain View head football coach Joe Germaine said despite being eight weeks into the season, his team was still figuring out its identity.
Some of that has to do with a quarterback change midway through the season, bumping senior Willy Roberts to full-time linebacker and allowing sophomore Jack Germaine, Joe’s son, to take over the offense on his own.
But overall, the players responded well to the adjustment. And in their 31-13 win Friday night against Desert Vista, they took a step closer to finding their identity.
“We’re getting closer to figuring that out,” Joe said after the game. “We’re happy to be where we are at right now, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Mountain View wasted little time Friday establishing momentum against Desert Vista. The Thunder’s first play from scrimmage — a pass from junior quarterback Jackson Akins — was tipped and intercepted by the Toros. However, the offense stalled against a stingy Thunder defense.
The Toros did, however, find the end zone on their next possession. A 30-yard pass from Jack to senior Matthew Clark set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-5 junior tight end Jackson Bowers, who went over top of the defender to snag the ball out of the air.
That was just the beginning for the Toro offense.
On their next possession that extended into the second quarter, senior running back Aiden Damiani bounced an inside run outside and took it 19 yards for the touchdown. A fumble on the first play of Desert Vista’s next drive by senior quarterback Xavier Castillo allowed Damiani to punch it in once again for his second score of the game.
“It’s the same old song and dance. At some point we have to move on and grow up,” a visibly upset Desert Vista coach Ty Wisdom said. “We aren’t going to beat a 7-1 football team turning the ball over. We’re just not. And we continue to do the same stuff.”
Turnovers and offensive miscues plagued Desert Vista.
The early interception, while it led to no points by Mountain View, threw off the Thunder offense. The fumble deep in their own territory was the second of five total turnovers on the night. Castillo was picked off by Clark late in the second quarter and Akins was picked off twice more by senior defensive back Cole Standage.
The turnovers, while not all resulting in points for Mountain View, often killed offensive drives for the Thunder. Wisdom estimated a potential 14-point swing if one interception doesn’t happen, and a block is picked up by one of his guards in the second quarter.
“I can’t tell you how many missed assignments we had tonight,” Wisdom said. “And we cut our stuff in half because we had a lot of guys out. I don’t know what it is, but I have to sit back and reevaluate what we are doing.”
Desert Vista’s only score of the first half came on perhaps its best drive of the game. Akins found a rhythm through the air and sophomore running back Christian Clark found open space out of the backfield. It led to a 1-yard plunge from Akins as the clock expired.
The Thunder’s second touchdown came late in the fourth with the game already decided. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Thomas found sophomore running back Isaac Acedo for a 10-yard touchdown.
Akins, who led the Thunder to a dramatic come-from-behind win over Higley the week prior, finished 11 of 24 for 112 yards. Clark carried the ball 16 times for 67 yards but was unable to find the end zone. As a team, Desert Vista had 246 yards compared to Mountain View’s 296, but costly mistakes and the offense’s inability to stay on the field led to a lopsided loss.
“Dudes have to go make plays and we just aren’t doing that right now,” Wisdom said. “It’s just disappointing because I feel like we took a major step back today. I just hope we can get better starting (Saturday).
“Tonight, I’m sick for the kids but this is one of the hardest ones I’ve been a part of. (Mountain View) did some nice things but we just shot ourselves in the foot all night.”
Mountain View’s lone touchdown of the second half came midway through the third when Jack connected on a 64-yard pass to senior wideout Reese Marziale. It was the second of two total touchdowns the sophomore gunslinger threw on the night, as he finished 16 of 20 for 216 yards.
With talent around him, including Clark, Damiani and Bowers, Jack has become more comfortable in the pocket despite his young age. But what has really stood out to his father is his toughness.
Desert Vista brought pressure throughout the night, but Jack was rarely touched. Much of that is due to the Toro offensive line. But Jack’s quick release allowed him to go unscathed. At least, for the most part.
Senior safety Tavian Dennis came on a blitz late in the game and forced Jack to fumble. It was Mountain View’s only turnover. But even then, he remained poised and led his team to victory, which is key for a Mountain View team that entered the week as the No. 5 team in 6A when Open Division teams are removed from the conference. But there’s still more work to be done.
“We came out here and played our game and executed,” Jack said. “Practice has helped a lot for me to get comfortable … (making the playoffs) is a big goal of ours. We just have to continue to take it opponent by opponent and keep playing our game.”