By ALLIE COLOSKY
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Montgomery High School football team powered its way to a first-round North Coast Section playoff win Friday night, a 27-0 victory against the visiting American Eagles.
The Vikings scored on their first drive after R.J. Flores hit Etienne Ezeff with the pass, and he cashed in on a 45-yard play with the touchdown.
A fumble recovery by Montgomery’s Cole Larson gave the Vikings another chance to score, but Logan Francavilla was stopped at the 1 on a 21-yard run and the Vikings couldn’t convert from there. But the Montgomery defense kept American bottled up and forced a punt from deep in Eagles territory.
Vikings coach Dean Haskins said his team rallies around that kind of defensive play.
“We feed off our defense and what they do,” he said. “We wanted to put them in a position where they had to throw the ball to beat us, and push them out of their comfort zone.”
Flores found Elijah Higgs for a 25-yard touchdown catch and the Vikings extended their lead to 13-0 with 47 seconds left on the clock and headed to the locker room at halftime with the momentum.
Higgs, who was previously the Vikings’ quarterback before an injury, finished with four carries for 87 yards and the touchdown, and Haskins said the development of Higgs and Flores in their current roles has been huge.
“Elijah is a great athlete and when he came back healthy it gave us an extra threat on the outside,” he said. “R.J.’s development has just been great for us.”
Montgomery continued its dominance in the second half, as Ke’shawn Walker carried the ball for 19 yards and a touchdown. Walker finished with 13 carries for 67 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
“This is new for a lot of us,” Walker said, “and we stepped up and played hard.”
The junior running back said that his first time in a playoff game was a thrill, and scoring his first touchdown put him at another level of excitement.
“I just felt a rush through my body,” he said. “It was my first one on varsity and I was just feeling ecstatic about it.”
The Vikings capped off their night when Henry Stelzner scored the final touchdown on a 2-yard carry.
Flores finished 11-for-18 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns, but it was some of the underclassmen who deserved a nod, he said.
“I’m ecstatic. This is a great game that we played completely, both offense and defense,” Flores said. “We had some JV kids step up and really make things happen.”
Flores could only credit the practice and preparation from the previous week, as they look to the next step in their playoff quest.
“Practice wins games,” he said, “so we just have to stay up and practice hard.”
With the win, Montgomery improved its overall record to 9-2 and will host next weekend’s NCS Division 2 quarterfinal against the winner of today’s Newark Memorial-Concord game.
It’s back to the practice field, Haskins said.
“We’d like to get out and start a little faster on offense,” he said. “Hopefully the offense can carry the defense a little one of these nights.”