SUNNYVALE — It was a new beginning for Mountain View and The King’s Academy on the football field Thursday night.
After a long run as Saratoga’s head coach, Tim Lugo traded in Falcons red for Mountain View black.
“It’s strange looking in the mirror,” Lugo said. “But I’m rejuvenated.”
Dante Perez, a former standout quarterback at Valley Christian in the 2000s, has taken over from Pete Lavorato at The King’s Academy.
With new leaders on the sidelines, the teams played to a scoreless draw for more than a quarter on opening night at TKA before Mountain View began to take charge.
The Spartans scored two touchdowns before halftime, the second on a 48-yard strike from Kevin Conway to Lex Silver with three seconds to spare, and went on to a season-opening 35-20 victory.
Conway, a 5-foot-11, 154-pound junior, threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 44 yards.
Mountain View also got 90 yards and two TDs in seven carries from junior Arturo Hernandez and 75 yards in 16 attempts from sophomore Diego Ortega-Gerow. They carried a heavy load after starting running back Dillon Daniels was dinged up in the first half.
“I was just thinking I have to step up,” Hernandez said. “Our running back was out, and I just have to do it for my team.”
Hernandez nearly moved out of the area in the off-season. The Spartans are thankful he did not, especially after watching him dash 45 yards to the end zone on his first carry. The third-quarter touchdown widened Mountain View’s lead to 21-0.
After The King’s Academy cut the margin to 21-6, Hernandez crossed the goal line again, a 13-yard run that made it 28-6 early in the fourth quarter.
“We almost lost him,” Lugo said. “Beginning of the year, he quit coming around. We come back for the August workouts and he walks into the weight room. It was like, What are you doing? I’m not moving. It was huge for us. He plays great defense, he’s hard to block. When Dillon went down, he ran like a No. 1 tonight.”
Drake Wilkening scored Mountain View’s final touchdown, catching a 28-yard pass from Conway on fourth-and-13.
Jeaden Underwood reached the end zone twice for TKA, on a 1-yard run in the third quarter and a 7-yard run in the fourth. He finished with 70 yards in 16 carries.
But most of the home team’s offense came courtesy of 6-3, 185-pound senior receiver Tylek Barnett, who caught eight of Reid Black’s passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. Their 72-yard connection for a TD completed the scoring.
“First year, it’s all about building our culture,” Perez said. “What I wanted to see out of my guys, which I saw, is they fought all four quarters. We’re going to get back to the drawing board. We’re going to make our adjustments, and we keep fighting.”
Lugo liked that his quarterback didn’t make the same mistake twice. After missing a potential big pass play, Conway threw the deep TD to Silver on the next snap.
“I kind of read the play wrong on the previous play,” Conway said. “Then scoring right before going into halftime, that just boosted our morale “
Before he exited, Daniels carried 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
“Always want to get (win) No. 1 out of the way, but opening on a Thursday is really tough,” Lugo said. “Short week of practice, coming off a scrimmage. We don’t have a ton of film to get ready. We felt like we’d be able to run the ball tonight. That was kind of the point coming in. There were a lot of positives coming out of tonight.”
Lugo spent 14 seasons as Saratoga’s head coach. He’d like to last a decade at Mountain View.
“I’ve got 10 years left before I retire,” Lugo said. “This is where I am going to end it. I have a great group of kids here. The program is on the rise. It gave me the lift I needed at the end of my career to have some fun — and we’re going to have some fun.”