Similar squads, one goal for Saints, Lynx

Both teams have multiple weapons in the running game, and passing attacks good enough to keep opposing defenses honest.

Both have defenses that have dominated Division III Southern League competition.

And when Mountain View (7-1, 6-0) visits Lincoln County (7-1, 6-0) at 7 p.m. Friday, both will have a common objective: first place in the league along with higher playoff seeding.

“Everybody knows what this game means and how important it is for playoff position,” Lincoln County coach Rich Ottley said. “Our kids, they’ve been real serious this week, probably the most focused they’ve been all year.”

Lincoln County is enjoying its best season since 2008, when the Lynx earned the No. 1 seed from the old Class 2A Southern League. Friday’s game could determine this year’s top seed.

Derek Cheeney, Colton Johnson and Preston Avery have given Lincoln County a multifaceted rushing attack that has spearheaded a seven-game winning streak.

“We have balance,” Ottley said. “They can’t focus on one running back; we have four or five guys who are tough runners. And (quarterback Ryan) Rippetoe’s given us a lot more depth being able to throw the ball effectively.”

Mountain View coach Mike Valenzuela said the Lynx offense has been impressive on film.

“They don’t punt the ball very much,” Valenzuela said. “They’ve got many weapons they get your eyes on, they run some misdirection and it’s a physical team.”

The Lynx defense also has been flexing its muscle. Lincoln County’s past three league opponents have scored a total of 18 points.

“Very pleased,” Ottley said of his defense. “We’ve done a real good job of being a bend but don’t break defense. We’ve made a lot of goal-line stands during the year, too.”

Ottley said that defense will be crucial against a Mountain View team that has outscored its past seven opponents by a combined score of 299-46.

“It’s a typical Mountain View team,” Ottley said. “They’re well coached, they’re disciplined and they don’t give you just one thing to stop. They do a lot of things well. We’re going to have to play some really good defense.”

Mountain View racked up 469 rushing yards in a 49-13 win at Needles last week.

The Saints have relied on the powerful Matthew Larson (1,087 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) and the shiftier Jacob Duldulao (550 rushing yards, nine TDs) to form a potent attack.

“They’re definitely a change of pace,” Valenzuela said. “With Matt, kids fall over as they’re trying to make arm tackles, and Jacob, he’s a hard guy to find.”

Junior linebacker Noah Van Kempen has emerged as a leader of Mountain View’s defense with a team-high 60 tackles, and defensive backs Adonis Morris and Nick Jenkins have combined to make seven interceptions.

“Our defensive coaches are putting in hours of film and teaching our kids to stay disciplined,” Valenzuela said.