Those were real, those things falling down Nicholas Wright’s face Friday night after he played the football game of his life for the Mountain View Thunder.
“Tears of pain and joy,” Wright said.
The pain will go away, but the joy just might last forever.
Wright rushed for 269 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Thunder to a 34-28 victory over Columbia River to win the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League championship at Kiggins Bowl.
“I’ve only dreamed about it,” Wright said of a game like this one.
“I wanted it for the guys. We didn’t get it last year,” Wright said of the title. “We got it this year. I pushed my hardest to get us there.”
Mountain View completed the regular season with a 5-0 mark in league, 7-2 overall, heading into the state preliminary round. The Thunder will host a playoff game in Week 10.
Columbia River (7-2, 4-1 GSHL) missed out on its opportunity to win a second consecutive league title, but only after threatening the Thunder with a serious fourth-quarter comeback. The Chieftains will be on the road for the Week 10 playoff game.
Mountain View led by 20 on two occasions, and twice had answers when the Chieftains pulled within six points in the final quarter. Wright provided that first answer, a 68-yard touchdown run to put the Thunder up 34-21 with 3:15 to play. After another River touchdown, Preston Jones and Austin Mace answered with first-down runs to run out the clock, preserving the victory.
“It’s probably sweeter for the seniors,” said Jones, a sophomore. “This was their last opportunity to do it, and they did it.”
“It” would be Mountain View’s first league title under coach Adam Mathieson.
“It means a lot to all the kids who started with us in 2008, to all the kids who came before,” Mathieson said.
It is special to the current players, too.
“It is something they will always remember,” Mathieson said. “That’s a big deal. You feel good for them.”
The Thunder scored the first 20 points of this one. Wright had a 39-yard touchdown run, then Jones topped that with a 47-yard run. Wright would make it 20-0 midway through the second quarter with an 18-yard touchdown run.
“They probably felt down because we jumped on them so early,” Jones said. “We just built off those three touchdowns.”
Those three scores also woke up the Chieftains, who had two turnovers in the first half before getting a bit of momentum with an 80-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Jonathan Branson’s 2-yard keeper made it 20-7.
Then Wright struck again for the Thunder on the first drive of the second half, breaking free for a 70-yard touchdown run to make it 27-7.
Mistakes plagued the Chieftains most of the night, including on their next two drives. Close to scoring, River fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a Mountain View touchback. On River’s next drive, a holding penalty turned a first down into third-and-long. Then on fourth down, a bad snap resulted in a loss of seven yards, giving possession to Mountain View.
Still, the Chieftains weren’t done.
Branson was injured on a run to the 1-yard line. Back-up quarterback Gabe Evenson entered the game and found Nathan Hawthorne for a 1-yard TD pass to make it 27-14.
The River defense got the ball back to the offense, and five plays later, Evenson scored on an 8-yard keeper to make it 27-21 with 3:31 to play.
That’s when Wright did his Wright thing again, breaking free for the 68-yarder.
Again, the Chieftains fought back. Evenson found Hawthorne all alone on a fourth-down play for a 43-yard touchdown to make it a six-point game again, this time with 2:09 remaining.
Mountain View would recover the onside kick, and the Thunder running attack picked up the first downs to end it. Wright would get injured on that final drive — remember, pain and joy — but he had done his part.
The Thunder running backs praised the linemen, but the linemen praised the running backs.
“It’s just great to have the backs that we do,” guard Phillip Rudolph said. “It makes it easy on us. Speed kills. All I have is just the love for them.”
Mountain View ended up with 479 yards of offense, 460 on the ground. Jones rushed for 107 yards.
The Chieftains ended up with more yards, rushing for 265 and passing for 265 for a total of 530. Jonathan Branson (110) and Jayson Branson (105) each hit the century mark in rushing. Hawthorne finished with 11 catches for 128 yards.
Columbia River coach John O’Rourke reminded his players that the season continues, despite this tough loss.
“We need to focus on executing and correcting the mistakes,” O’Rourke said. “We should have had six touchdowns. We only had four.
“Still, I’m really proud of them. We could have just died.”
Instead, it turned into a game worthy of a championship.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 34, COLUMBIA RIVER 28
Mountain View 13 7 7 7—34
Columbia River 0 7 0 21—28
MV — Nicholas Wright 39 run (Will Warne kick)
MV — Preston Jones 47 run (kick failed)
MV — Wright 18 run (Warne kick)
CR — Jonathan Branson 2 run (Garrett McKee kick)
MV — Wright 70 run (Warne kick)
CR — Nathan Hawthorne 1 pass from Gabe Evenson (McKee kick)
CR — Evenson 8 run (McKee kick)
MV — Wright 68 run (Warne kick)
CR — Hawthorne 43 pass from Evenson (McKee kick)
RUSHING — Mountain View — Wright 15-269, Jones 13-107, Garrett Jones 2-9, Austin Mace 16-63, Lex Reese 1-1, Carl Falls 3-12, Jose Leyva 1-1, Team 2-(minus 2). Columbia River — Jon. Branson 18-110, Jayson Branson 20-105, Evenson 3-50.
PASSING — Mountain View — Reese 2-6-0-19. Columbia River — Jon. Branson 20-29-2-194, Evenson 4-9-0-71.
RECEIVING — Mountain View — Jones 1-3, Nolan Biggs 1-16. Columbia River — Nathan Hawthorne 11-128, Marcus Gaylor 6-50, Holden Fielding 4-50, Dante Coleman 3-37.