Falcons drop heartbreaker to Mountain View on their Senior Night

October 19, 2016 — by Siva Sambasivam

Running back Robert Scott glides into the endzone during the Falcons' 42-41 loss to Mountain View on Oct. 14.

Coming into their Senior Night on Oct. 14 at Benny Pierce Field, the Falcon football team held a 4-3 overall record and their chances of securing a CCS playoff spot hung in the balance. The Falcons were coming off an 83-48 loss to Wilcox, but were expected to beat the Mountain View Spartans.

However, star  lineman Allie Liddle was sitting on the sidelines. As the younger brother of Falcons’ quarterback Will Liddle, Allie is a crucial part of the offensive line. Even so, mid way through the fourth quarter, the Falcons had secured a 13-point lead, and a victory seemed assured.

But after quarterback Will Liddle was rushed and took a hard hit late in the game, he was sidelined with a leg injury. That’s when momentum shifted and the Falcons’ sure win started to deteriorate into a loss.

The Spartans’ defense came up with two crucial stops and was able to put the ball in the endzone on two consecutive drives, leading  Mountain View to a 42-41 win.

Will Liddle led the Falcons going 21-31 with 319 yards and threw for four touchdowns, along with senior receiver Kian Gelickhani’s 168 yards on nine receptions with two touchdowns, and running back Robert Scott's 91 total yards and two touchdowns.

Mountain View head coach Shelley Smith, a Saratoga High graduate and former Falcon assistant coach, was proud of his players performance, saying, “This Saratoga team is unbelievable — our kids were persistent tonight and showed their strength. They learned to be resilient and tough."

Many anticipated the two teams would rack up many points on the scoreboard with Saratoga having one of the league’s best passing offenses, and Mountain View enjoying great success on the ground.

It seemed as though the anticipation would be accurate as Liddle drove the Falcons 72 yards to the 8-yard line on the Falcons’ first drive. However, the Spartans’ defense was able to come up with a crucial endzone interception on a pass intended for Ghelichkhani.

The teams exchanged drives, and it took until midway through first quarter for the first score, when Mountain View’s senior running back Elias Davidson reached the back of the endzone on a 63-yard run.

Coming into the game trying to establish a run game, coach Tim Lugo decided to switch his approach and put the ball in the air more often. After getting the go-ahead from Lugo, Liddle connected on three consecutive passes to junior wideout Will Turpin, Ghelichkhani and senior running back Nolan Chao.

Another pass to Ghelichkhani and a pass interference call against the Spartans set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Liddle to Ghelichkhani, getting the Falcons on the board. However, Falcon kicker Quinn Dozier missed the point after touchdown (PAT) attempt, making the score 7-6.

Following the touchdown, Lugo decided to try a surprise onside kick. The Falcons recovered the kick, eventually leading to a 16-yard touchdown pass from Liddle to Chao. After the made PAT from Dozier, the Falcons held a 13-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Seeing a 13-point swing, and a huge momentum shift in under a minute, Spartans quarterback Owen Mountford ran three consecutive quarterback sneaks, totaling 62 yards. The Spartans capped off the drive with a 24-yard touchdown run, and after the made PAT, the Spartans took back the lead 14-13.

Liddle wasted no time countering, driving the Falcons 77 yards and capping the quick 2-minute drive, with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Ghelichkhani. The Falcons went back on top 19-14 with 9:13 left in the first half.

Mountain View once again took advantage of the Falcons’ undermanned defensive line and constantly ran the ball, pounding their way into the redzone, hoping to go into the locker room with a halftime lead. However, Falcon senior linebacker Kurt Bench was able to force and recover a fumble, giving the ball back to Liddle with about 3 minutes left in the half.

But instead of running the clock out and going into halftime with the lead, Lugo put his trust in Liddle to drive the Falcons offense 87 yards back down the field. And as he has done many times this season, Liddle came through. He hit senior receiver Rajat Vora for two big plays on the drive, including the 29-yard touchdown pass that gave the Falcons a 26-14 lead.

With only a minute left in the half, the momentum in the Falcons’ favor, and the Falcons’ defense playing at the top of their game, it looked as though the victory was in the bag for the Falcons. However, Mountain View was done yet.

Davidson returned the Falcons’ kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown, bringing the Spartans to within 5 points going into halftime. The touchdown greatly contributed to the outcome of the game.

The Falcons were to receive the kickoff coming out of the half, and would have the chance to go up by three scores and take the Spartans away from their gameplan. However, the return allowed the Spartans to go into the break only down one score, with all the momentum, even though they were outplayed by the Falcons in the first two quarters.

In the locker room, Lugo made multiple defensive adjustments, trying to get his defensive players to do their job to the best of their ability, and not play someone else's assignment. On the offensive end, he shifted to heavily favoring the running game, as the Spartans began to  play a 5-man box at the end of the half.

With Lugo’s adjustments in place, the Falcons’ offense came out at their best, both pounding the rock and through the air. The drive was powered by a crucial 33-yard pass to Ghelichkhani, while running backs Nolan Chao and Scott also gained 50 of the 87 yards the Falcons chewed up. Scott capped the drive off with a 19-yard scamper run, giving the defense some breathing room with a 12-point (33-21) lead.

On the kickoff, Davidson once again gave the Spartans great field position to start their drive — near midfield at their own 47. The Spartans continued to run the ball, primarily to Davidson, but also to junior JT Vete, finishing the drive off with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Vete.

Just as the Falcons did in the first half, the Spartans bounced an onside kick and recovered it at the Saratoga 37 with a chance to take a their first lead since the first score of the game.

The SHS defense was able to stop the Spartans’ attack, and both teams exchanged down stops. With under a minute left in the quarter, the Allie Liddle-less offensive line allowed the Spartans’ pass rush to pounce on Will Liddle after an incomplete pass.

Liddle was removed with a leg injury and was replaced by junior quarterback Niko Rositano. On the next drive after being subbed in, Rositano calmed down the worried fans by proving that he too could lead the Falcon’s offense.

He hit junior tight end Tyler Torrens for 14 yards, to set up a 16-yard passing touchdown by Scott. Rositano connected with Turpin for a 2-point conversion, and gave the Falcons a two-score lead, 41-28, with just over 7 minutes remaining.

On the next drive, the Falcons defense was able to force a 4th and 7 around midfield. However, not wanting to punt and have the Falcons run the clock out, the Spartans faked the punt, and Davidson ran 24 yards for the first down. After a 20-yard Mountford QB sneak, Davidson ended the drive with a 25-yard running TD, making the score 41-35 with just under 6 minutes to play.

With the game up for grabs, the Spartans’ defense started to stop the Falcons attack. With their secondary holding off the Falcons’ receivers, the Spartans defensive line was able to force rushed passes from Rositano.

Mountford and the Spartans offense got the ball back with little under 4 minutes to play, and Davidson ran for 23 yards, 13 yards and a 20-yard touchdown, giving Mountain View their second lead of the game, 42-41.

Rositano got the ball back with 1:40 left and a last chance to win the game for the Falcons. However, the Spartans safeties were playing deep down the field which allowed Mountain View’s pass rush to sack him for an 8-yard loss.

On the next play, Rositano completed a huge 15-yard pass to Turpin, setting up a crucial 4th and 3 for the Falcons. With the success of the Falcon’s running game throughout the second half, Lugo decided to run it. Chao took the run, but on a controversial spot by the officials, gained only two yards.

The Spartans got the ball back and secured the win after three kneel downs. Davidson led the Spartans with 189 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and a 76-yard TD kickoff return. The Spartans, as expected, totaled 260 yards on the ground.

Even with the Falcons’ miscues, mainly not executing their assignments, they held strong together as a team — through the good and the bad.

"Niko did what he had to do — he was outstanding and made all the right reads ... he's a great QB and I'm glad he's on my team," said Will Liddle.

Both Liddles should be in good condition to play next game at Santa Clara (2-5)  on Oct. 28, after a bye week for the Falcons on Oct. 21.

Saratoga now stands at 4-4. Even with the Falcons’ loss, the advantage of an easy remaining schedule, and the De Anza division shuffle, gives them a great chance to clinch a playoff spot. If Saratoga can beat Santa Clara or Los Gatos in an away game, they will guarantee a spot in the CCS playoffs.

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