All they needed was a win, but the HRV Eagles decided to add an exclamation point Friday when they pitched a 35-0 shutout over Mountain View.
Guided by Jacobe Krizman’s five touchdowns and a mammoth defensive effort, the Eagles won their fifth straight Intermountain Conference game and claimed the No. 2 playoff seed with a sparkling 6-1 record (8-1 overall).
“I’m so proud of our ‘D’,” said senior running back/linebacker Chris Searles, who recorded one of the Eagles’ five sacks while rushing for a season-high 132 yards.
“We worked so hard all week to correct the mental mistakes, and this was exactly the effort we needed.”
Searles and the revived HRV defense held a beleaguered Cougar attack to just 155 total yards — less than half of the Eagles’ season average of 372 yards allowed per game.
“The key for us this game was communication,” said senior tight end/defensive end Jared Gidley. “For the first time all year, the entire ‘D’ seemed to be on the same page for all four quarters.”
The battle for the two-seed appeared to be a toss up for the first two frames, as the Eagles and Cougars duked it out for field position. The only two scores of the half were on sustained drives, both of which ended with Krizman TD’s.
But the youthful Cougars gave into the pressure early in the third quarter when junior quarterback Sean Hynes fumbled the ball on his own 30 yardline. That set up another Krizman score and put HRV in total command with eight minutes left to go in the third.
Mountain View tried to mount a game-saving drive, but were stuffed on the Eagles 10 yardline — the second of three fourth-down stops by the HRV defense.
That shift in momentum set up the clincher: a 91-yard ramble by Krizman on the very next play.
The senior wing back, who was named the Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday, raised his season total to 2,366 yards with a tidy 218-yard performance. He also added another score late in the fourth quarter to raise his nine-game TD total to 37 (33 rushing).
More importantly, the Eagles built up some much-needed momentum heading into Friday’s first round playoff matchup with Lakeridge, the No. 3 seed from the Three Rivers League.
“It felt pretty good to stop them on those fourth downs, but we still feel like there’s work to be done,” said sophomore linebacker Bryan Williams, who led the team with nine tackles. “I’m sure coach (Mitch) Sanders is going to get after us hard in practice this week.”
But the players don’t appear to need much extra motivation. Playing their best game of the year when home-field was on the line was all the incentive the Eagles will need this Friday.
“Getting the home game for the first round was huge,” said Gidley, “but going 8-1 is even bigger for us. Who knows? Maybe we can go 10-1 or 11-1.”
Win or lose, nothing made Sanders more happy than seeing his defense respond when it needed to most.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” he said. “Our defense found itself in the right place just in time for playoffs. Now the real fun begins.”
The Eagles had two players named to the IMC first team: running back Jacobe Krizman and guard Matt Cody. Offensive second-teamers were running back Chris Searles, center Danny Phelps, guard Nate Dethman, tackle Tommy Owyen and tight end Dominic Buttaccio. Tackle Zach Royall and tight end Jared Gidley received honorable mention.
Defensively, the Eagles had four second-teamers: Krizman at outside linebacker, Luke McCarthy at defensive end, Jorge Lujano at defensive tackle and Ryan Flory at cornerback. Gidley received honorable mention at defensive end.
One notable omission was junior kicker Nolan Johnson, who converted 47 of 53 extra points and kicked a game-winning field goal.