The leading rusher on the team comes off the football field during a break in action and gives the head coach a suggestion for a play.
We’ve all heard this one before, right? “Give me the ball, coach!”
This is Mountain View football, though. More often than not, that player wants one of his teammates to get the ball.
“I ask to block for him all the time,” Austin Mace said, referring to fullback Preston Jones. “I love blocking for Preston. He runs so hard.”
That is the mentality of Mountain View ball carriers, and it has served them well. The run-oriented Thunder host O’Dea of Seattle in the Class 3A state quarterfinals Friday night at McKenzie Stadium, and the Thunder hope the Irish defense never finds out who has the ball.
It could be Mace, with his team-leading 1,205 yards rushing. Or Jones, who has 1,002 yards. Nicholas Wright and Carl Falls have switched off playing the wingback in the formation, and the two have combined for 982 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“If everything goes perfectly on any play in our offense, we’ll score,” Falls said. “That’s what we’re striving for every play. We’re doing what it takes to win.”
Falls, in fact, is getting fewer carries now than earlier in the season because he switched starting roles with Wright. Now, Falls is starting in the defensive secondary while Wright is first team on offense.
It just does not matter with the Thunder because they are all doing this for each other, anyway, from wherever they are on the field.
Wright, who rushed for a team-best 269 yards in the win over Columbia River for the 3A GSHL title, said any and all Mountain View ball carriers must first master the position away from the ball before coaches trust them to get the ball.
“You have to learn this is your assignment, this is your blocking path,” Wright said. “You have to learn this to actually be able to get the ball.”
So when a team like River does a good job of stopping Mace and Jones, the Thunder can go to Wright.
But what made it possible for Wright to go for four touchdowns that night was Mace and Jones carrying out their fakes, becoming decoys for the defense, or getting the block that launched Wright into the open field.
“The kids are so selfless,” Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson said. “They sell their fakes. They block for each other. They encourage each other. Usually, when they have a play-call suggestion, it’s going to the other guy. They’re all like that.”
It certainly helps the coaching staff.
“We’ve never said, ‘We have to get so-and-so the ball,'” Mathieson said.
Jones leads the team with 16 rushing touchdowns.
“We all play a major role in our offense. We’re all capable,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who gets the ball. We’re all skillful players. We just do what is expected of us.”
They get the yards, they score the touchdowns, they are part of an offense that is averaging 40 points per game. Yet, not a single me-first guy among them. Heck, they sound more like offensive linemen.
Yes, the linemen. Those are the real stars of this machine, according to the backs.
“God, they’re amazing,” Mace said. “The line is just sensational. They don’t complain. They’ve gone through injuries, and they keep pushing. They don’t know the word no. And they’re so smart.”
“It’s safe to say they are the heart and soul of the team,” Falls added.
With the line play and the team-first attitude, the Thunder have already accomplished so much this season. Their win last week was the program’s first in the state playoffs since 2002.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought we could make it here in the first place,” Wright said.
Now that they are here, though, they hope it does not end this week.
Jones said the goal is the Tacoma Dome and the semifinals. For Falls, this is an opportunity to keep playing football with his teammates.
“This year has meant so much to me. I’ll never get a chance like this again,” Falls said. “This is my chance to give it everything I’ve got, and I owe it all to my team.”
This is Mountain View football, after all. They don’t care who gets in the end zone, who gets the yards, as long as they get there together.