Montgomery awakens just in time

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
In the locker room prior to its 18-7 win against Santa Rosa on Friday, Montgomery safety Austin Shull and Max Heller, a pair of team leaders, sensed something was wrong.
The Vikings were a week removed from an emotional 9-0 win against rival Cardinal Newman. And now they were minutes away from a meeting with the Panthers, a 1-6 team coming off a loss to previously winless Piner.
Maybe the Vikings didn’t know Santa Rosa had lost 18 straight games to Montgomery. But their body language suggested they thought No. 19 was inevitable.
“Before every game, Loren (Brumfield), Jay (Luchetti), Max and I will say something,” Shull said. “We’ll have a talk before the game and we all noticed right then that people weren’t taking it as seriously as they normally do.”
Said Heller, “We took them too lightly. You could tell we were confident in the locker room. But we were too confident and too calm.”
The Vikings (6-2, 5-0 in NBL) may not have officially awoken from their slumber until it was almost too late.
The Panthers, who have handed Maria Carrillo its only North Bay League loss and put a scare into Newman, took a 7-6 lead with 4:30 left on Kalen Rosselli’s 5-yard pass to Ethan Rosselli.
But with the upset of the season looming, Heller led the Vikings on an eight-play, 68-yard drive capped by Alex Ciudad-Real’s one-yard run with 2:16 left. Ciudad-Real’s run was set up by Heller’s 27-yard pass to Brannon Asche.
Heller completed 6 of 7 passes for 67 yards on the drive, including a 4th-and-3 pass near midfield. It was similar to a last-gasp drive he engineered in the fourth quarter of Montgomery’s 9-6 overtime win against Rancho Cotate earlier this season. On that match, Heller completed 3 of 3 passes for 57 yards, but a potential game-winning 36-yard field goal was missed.
“When we are in a tough position like overtime or down in the fourth quarter, something just clicks,” Heller said. “I get in that zone when it’s do or die and you have to make a fourth-down conversion or the game is lost. I’ve always always responded pretty well to pressure.”
Shull, who sealed the win with a 62-yard interception return, said Montgomery shouldn’t have needed such heroics. They escaped this time. And Shull hopes next time never comes.
“Things are going to be a lot different this week,” Shull said. “We can’t play down to other teams’ level. We have to play to the level of Montgomery football every week.”