The Monte Vista Christian football team was on the road to perfection in league play and looking to secure sole possession of the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission title.
But the Mustangs took a wrong turn in a hard-fought, triple-overtime loss against Seaside High, 29-23, on Saturday at Watsonville High.
Senior Rusty Finona scored the game-winning touchdown for Seaside with a 10-yard run into the end zone.
“It’s unbelievable, we worked so hard for this,” Finona said.
With the loss, M.V.C. dropped to 5-1 in league play and will share the league title with Seaside (9-1, 5-1) and Alisal High (6-4, 5-1), which won its first league title in 16 years.
“This means everything to me. Not just me but my teammates,” Finona said. “We worked so hard in the spring, summer and then we knew from last year we had to work hard.”
M.V.C. junior Brendan Doyle said he knew it was going to come down to the trenches and in the end Seaside deserved the win.
“We had heart and we never gave up,” Doyle said. “We knew at halftime it was going to be a whole ‘nother battle.”
Doyle said now it’s time to go back to practice and work harder for the upcoming Central Coast Section playoffs.
The Mustangs earned the No. 7 seed in the Division IV bracket and will play at No. 2 Branham High (9-1, 6-1) on Friday at 7 p.m.
Seaside earned the No. 7 seed in the D-III bracket and will play at No. 2 Terra Nova on the same date and time.
Seaside coach Al Avila said there couldn’t have been a better way to win a league title, especially with a solid defense such as the Spartans going up against a powerful offense such as the Mustangs.
“How can you ask for more drama?” Avila said. “It was just a great game. It felt like I played.”
The Mustangs averaged 36 points per game in their seven wins this year, but the offense was held to 14 points through regulation on Saturday.
Doyle and senior Quinn Alexander scored rushing touchdowns for M.V.C., which trailed 14-6 at the break after a turnover-plagued first half.
Alexander’s 4-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter brought them within two, and Nate Renggli’s 65-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Mustangs a 20-14 lead late in the third.
Seaside tied it on senior Kefu Leander’s 1-yard touchdown and M.V.C. forced OT by blocking the extra point.
Each team got a stop in the first overtime period, and they exchanged field goals in the second.
The Mustangs had the first possession in the third period but Doyle fumbled the ball on second down, giving Seaside a chance to end it.
The Spartans wasted no time. Finona got the green light to run off tackle and wound up in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
“We were going to run one play and kick a field goal. I didn’t know we were going to score on the first play,” Avila said.
Seaside senior quarterback Jesse Gonzalez tossed touchdowns to Jacob Salinas and Tevita Kamitoni.
Doyle had 150 rushing yards and a touchdown for M.V.C., which fumbled the ball four times and lost three of them.
Their first giveaway ended up in Leandar’s mitts and turned into Gonzalez’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Salinas.
“They definitely punched us in the mouth but we knew how to take it,” Doyle said. “There were glimpses of a chance to win this game but they ended up coming out on top.”