The Mountain View football team has never been about winning a state championship under coach Adam Mathieson.
If it happens one day, that would be great for the Thunder.
But only if they do it their way.
With their approach.
The only way they want to get “To the Top,” the team’s motto, is to use the team’s covenants: Love. Prepare. Compete.
Friday night, Mountain View will take on Lakes of Lakewood in the opening round of the Class 3A state football playoffs. It is the Thunder’s first trip to state since 2004.
“Obviously, it’s exciting. We’re talking about writing our own history,” said Mark Hartley, one of three permanent captains for the Thunder. “We’re almost a new face coming into this tournament. Our biggest thing is we want to shock the world.”
That is what they want. They also know it might not happen. Yet, under the leadership of Mathieson, they understand that losing a football game is not the worst thing that can happen to this team.
As long as they follow their code, they will be successful.
“If we do all three (love, prepare, compete), most of the time we will come out with the win,” said Cory Creagan, who has been a game captain this season, rewarded for his work and dedication.
Hartley and Creagan were enthusiastic when talking about the Mountain View way.
It is like a pyramid, with love as the base that supports all.
“We love each other. Not the lovey-dovey kind. It’s brotherly love,” Hartley said. “The accountability type of love. Also described as tough love. If a teammate is dogging it at practice, hold him accountable. Same with school work. That’s my job.”
And on days when Hartley is not into it, a teammate will make sure he gets back into it.
Prepare is the next step.
“You gotta know the other team, study film,” Creagan said. “Off the field, you have to do your homework.”
Notice a theme here?
“It’s about preparing for life, for preparing for the workplace,” Hartley said. “Not only is it for football, but it bleeds over for our preparation for life.”
Then there is compete.
“The word says a lot,” Hartley said. “We play as hard as we can. Again, we talk about life. Prepare like crazy for the job interview, then I’m going to compete for that job.”
Mathieson has said it for years, that his Thunder do not measure themselves against any other team. He respects Camas, Skyview, and Union for all of their wins in recent years. In terms of wins and losses, Mountain View is just below the level of success of those programs. The coach is OK with that.
“Those programs are great. They stand alone. We love to play those programs because we love to compete,” Mathieson said. “Our focus is not chasing anybody else, though. The focus is how good can we be.
“How good are we at loving one another? How good are we at caring for one another? How good are we at preparing? Then we get to compete together on a Friday night. That’s fun.”
When the players say it is more than just a football philosophy, well, they are not kidding.
Mike Meloy, the school’s principal, said his school’s goal is to one day have a zero drop-out rate. The football team’s philosophy is now utilized throughout the building, he said.
“The only way we can do that is to connect with our kids,” Meloy said.
Mathison’s way permeates throughout the campus.
Clearly, a connection has been made with the football players. It shows with their game plan, too.
The Thunder spread the ball around in their offense. Four different players have led the team in rushing in a game this season. Three others have finished second. That’s seven players who have proved capable of sustaining a drive behind one of the toughest offensive lines in the region.
The wide receivers do not get a lot of opportunities in a run-happy offense, but they know what their jobs are each play.
“That’s the love. You love your teammates,” Hartley said. “If we are doing a run play, even if the play is on the other side of the field from me, if I’m not blocking the cornerback the way I can, I’m not loving my teammate. And if the line isn’t blocking when it’s a pass play to me, they aren’t loving me.”
There is a lot of love at Mountain View these days. The philosophy has turned into a number of wins.
While winning might not be the most important thing at Mountain View, the players will tell you it sure is fun.
“You don’t really see Mountain View as being a playoff contender,” Creagan said. “It feels good to know we’re in the state playoffs, competing with the big teams.”