Mountain View football: Five returning starters up front give Thunder confidence

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter

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How strong? Too strong?

Well, no team can be too strong up front, but Mountain View has a problem every coaching staff would love to have in any given season.

The Thunder have too many quality linemen.

The Thunder return all five starters from the offensive line that produced an average of 400 yards of offense per game last year, plus they have a few younger guys who are destined to shine. While nothing is official in terms of the starting lineup for the 2015 season, it is clear that center Chris Mitchell, left guard Isaiah Carbajal, and left tackle Ethan Tonder will anchor one scary group of big guys.

The Thunder totaled more than 2,500 yards on the ground last year. Preston Jones, who led the region in rushing with 1,351 yards in eight games, is back, as well.

That will make for a scary combination for any opposing team to try to slow.

“It’s an awesome feeling when Preston’s running behind you and then you see him take off down the field,” Tonder said.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Mitchell said of getting the block to spring a teammate into the end zone.

Mountain View threw the ball some last year, too — including one game with 47 passing attempts — so opponents cannot just concentrate on one thing.

A talented offensive line opens up a lot of scenarios.

“I don’t care what your scheme is: Football is still a line-of-scrimmage game,” Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson said. “You want to pass? You gotta protect the quarterback. You want to run? You gotta move people. When you have veteran offensive linemen back, it’s a huge positive for the program.”

The physical strength comes from the weight room.

“Isaiah and Mitchell are weight room phenoms,” Mathieson said. “They drive you nuts. ‘When can we get in the weight room for the 12th time today?’ “

Tonder is a track and field star, who throws in the winter and spring.

Being active all year just makes them better.

Then there is the studying of the game itself.

“I’m always nervous,” Carbajal said of watching game video with the coaches. “You know you did well in a game, but you always know you made a lot of mistakes.”

Still, he appreciates the positive approach the Mountain View coaches take. The linemen do get praised for their strong play, and they get corrected — not picked on — when things go awry.

Still, it takes mental toughness to handle the critcism, Mitchell said.

“If you can’t deal with it, you can’t get better,” he said.

Mitchell’s mentality has led to more than just success on the football field. With a 3.96 grade-point average while taking advanced placement courses, he plans on attending the Air Force Academy to play football for the Falcons.

“Now that I’m committed, I can focus on my senior year and make it the best year possible,” Mitchell said.

At Mountain View, the players rarely make any specific goals — at least they do not announce them publicly.

“Compete,” Mitchell said.

“Get better,” Carbajal said.

“I just want (the team) to score more points, and I want to win more blocks than I did last year,” Tonder said.

If all that happens, the Thunder will be pretty strong.

No such thing as too strong, though.