Three yards separated Battle Mountain and a trip to the state championship game.
Noah Van Kempen made sure the Longhorns came up just short.
Van Kempen met Battle Mountain’s Keegan Quintana at the 1-yard-line on a 2-point conversion attempt and the rest of the Mountain View defense converged and drove Quintana back to help the Saints hang onto a 7-6 victory in a Division III state semifinal at Mountain View.
“All year he’s been the heart and soul of this defense,” Mountain View coach Mike Valenzuela said of Van Kempen. “The kid weighs 160 pounds, but he plays like he’s 190. He loves his teammates and he’s always wanting to be there for them.”
Battle Mountain (7-4) scored when Daniel Itza found a wide-open Jesse Jones for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 7:52 to play to cut the lead to 7-6.
The Longhorns elected to go for two, and Van Kempen and company made sure the lead held.
“After our worst play on defense, we come back with just a fantastic job of lining up and playing the next play,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela’s defense was strong all day, forcing five turnovers and making the Longhorns go away from their passing game.
“Typically, we’re not good against passing teams,” Valenzuela said. “And our whole emphasis was limiting their passing game. We forced them into a run situation, we made them play left-handed, and the kids followed the directions.
“The defense carried the offense today. And that’s why this is a good team.”
Ian Locke intercepted a pass on Battle Mountain’s second offensive play, and it looked like it was going to start a good offensive day for the Saints.
Mountain View (11-1) marched 90 yard on 13 plays, capped by a 1-yard TD run by Elijah Armstrong, and Matt Larson’s extra point made it 7-0 with 5:46 to go in the first quarter.
But Battle Mountain’s defense stiffened from there, limiting the Saints to an average of 3.8 yards per carry.
“We’ve been on the other end of those fights in this program’s history,” Valenzuela said. “It was nice to see a resolve in these kids. They wouldn’t hang their heads on the last play. They played every play like it was their last.”
Jacob Duldulao rushed for 91 yards on 21 carries, including a 2-yard burst on third-and-2 to give the Saints a first down and allow them to run out the clock.
Mountain View plays Pershing County (10-1) in the state final at 3 p.m. next Saturday at Bishop Gorman. The Saints lost 14-12 to the Mustangs in the 2010 final.
“It’s the most amazing feeling now that we’re going for a second year,” Van Kempen said. “We’re going to win it this time. I can feel it.”
Pershing County 38, Lincoln County 14 — At Lovelock, the Mustangs raced to a 22-0 lead early in the second quarter and cruised past the Lynx (9-3).
Lincoln County finally got on the board on a Derrick Samson touchdown with 5:30 to go in the second quarter, but Pershing County ran its lead to 38-6 before the end of the third quarter and coasted to the win.
Spring Mountain 38, Virginia City 13 — At Virginia City, Marcus Thomas ran for two touchdowns and threw a pair of scoring passes to Dwayne James as the Golden Eagles (9-1) overcame a pair of first-quarter deficits to earn a berth in the state final by downing the Muckers (9-2).
Thomas ran for TDs of 45 and 6 yards in the first quarter. His second TD run put the Golden Eagles ahead for good at 16-13 with 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
Bruce Travis-Collins added a 13-yard scoring run early in the third quarter before Thomas found James on passes of 15 and 10 yards to close the scoring.
Josh Banasiak led the Spring Mountain defense with 3½ sacks.
Spring Mountain will face Pahranagat Valley (10-0) in the final at noon on Nov. 17 at Bishop Gorman.