KELSO — Mountain View players entered the locker room at halftime of its most consequential game of the season to date, score tied, and were, for the most part quiet.
“A lot of intensity,” Makai Anderson said. “We knew what we were capable of.”
Sitting there, quarterback Garrett Moen knew if the Thunder just played within themselves and stuck to the plan they painstakingly prepped for all week, they’d finish strong.
Just how strong might have surprised even Moen. Or the rest of the team, for that matter.
Mountain View exploded for a 28-point third quarter and turned what appeared to be headed for a defensive stalemate into a drubbing of Kelso, 49-7, at Schroeder Field on Friday night.
What was pegged as a league title-deciding battle of the two best teams in the 3A Greater St. Helens League turned lopsided on a night that included fireworks, homecoming festivities and a typically raucous Hilander crowd.
Jack Mertens finished with 139 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. Philip Earnhardt scored three touchdowns, two on the ground and one in the air. The Thunder gained 244 of their 320 total yards of offense in the second half and two of their touchdowns in the third quarter came via interception.
“(It was a) hostile environment here, they’re always going to play their game, do what they do, so it was really important for us to come in and play well in that,” Moen said. “It’s going to look good for the postseason, too.”
The win puts the Thunder (7-1, 4-0) in the drivers seat for a 3A GSHL three-peat, which would secure them the No. 1 seed heading into districts, and hands Kelso its first loss of the season.
The Hilanders (7-1, 3-1) won each of their previous games by an average of 26 points.
Mountain View’s offense took off in the second half, and was fueled by a defense that set the tone. The defense forced seven punts, two turnovers on downs and three interceptions — two of which were returned for touchdowns.
And it held Kelso to 153 yards of total offense.
“It was humongous,” Anderson said. “When our defense stepped up, our offense stepped up. Our offense came off the energy they set and just rode off it.”
It opened the Thunder’s passing game, too.
After gaining just 1 yard through the air in the first half, Mountain View found more success downfield. A 28-yard pass from Moen to Anderson on the first drive of the second half set up the first of the team’s barrage of touchdowns (a 15-yard option keeper by Moen).
After a quick Kelso three-and-out following a Mertens interception return for a TD that put the Thunder up 35-7, Mountain View went to the air on the first and only play of the drive. Moen slung a deep ball to Philip Earnhardt past double coverage for a 68-yard touchdown.
After the game, once the Thunder were done leaping and cheering in their end zone, head coach Adam Mathieson didn’t have much to say, and admitted as much, praising the team’s complete performance against a “very good football team.”
Typically, when Mathieson’s postgame message is short and sweet, that’s a good thing, according to players.
Friday night that rang especially true.
“It usually is, usually is, yeah,” Moen said.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 49, KELSO 7
Mountain View 0 7 28 14 —49
Kelso 0 7 0 0—7
MV—Philip Earnhardt 4 run (Jude Mullette kick)
K—Riley Noah blocked punt return (
MV—Garrett Moen 15 run (Mullette kick)
MV—Alec Cann interception return (Mullette kick)
MV—Earnhardt 7 run (Mullette kick)
MV—Jack Mertens interception return (Mullette kick)
MV—Earnhardt 68 pass from Moen (Mullette kick)
MV—Mertens 14 run (Mullette kick)
RUSHING — Mountain View: Jack Mertens 16-139, Garrett Moen 5-33, Philip Earnhardt 4-16, Bobby Shepard 3-10, Malikiah Batties 3-2. Kelso: Josh Webb 19-65, Marshall Coleman 11-22, Nate Lonner 1-1, Riley Noah 1-(-1), Jayden Hardeman 1-9, Gage Bloomfeldt 3-20.
PASSING — Mountain View: Garrett Moen 6-13-0-129. Kelso: Marshall Coleman 6-14-3-49.
RECEIVING — Mountain View: Michael Bolds 2-24, Makai Anderson 3-37, Philip Earnhardt 1-68. Kelso: Riley Noah 3-23, Josh Webb 1-22, Jayden Hardeman 2-4.