MABTON - Down seven-zip at halftime, it could have been very easy for the class 'B' Mabton Vikings to admit the 1A Highland Scotties were too much for them to handle.
But last Friday night, the Vikes showed the grit they've exhibited all season, rallying for a 28-7 non-league victory to keep their 2006 record unblemished. The win upped Mabton's overall mark on the year to 8-0.
Mabton returns to Central Washington 'B' League play this coming Friday at Soap Lake. The Vikes, at 6-0, sit atop the conference standings. Only Soap Lake (1-5, 2-5) and Entiat (0-6, 0-7) stand in Mabton's way of completing the regular season with an undefeated record.
This past Friday, though, it appeared Highland was on its way to derailing the Mabton express. The Scotties' defensive unit shut down the Vikes the entire first half enroute to building a 7-0 lead at intermission.
"We knew Highland had a pretty good defense, and it showed for awhile," said Mabton Coach D.J. Search.
The first half, said Search, Mabton's players were trying to do too much individually, forgetting about the team concept that has been so successful for Mabton this season.
At halftime in the locker room, Search said, the coaching staff simply reaffirmed that football was a team game.
"We reminded them it was about doing their job and playing as a team," he said.
The Vikings were also reminded that they were in a battle against a bigger school, and that executing X's and O's sometimes isn't enough....that sometimes it's about who has the most heart.
Once the two teams came back on the field for the second half, there never was any real doubt as to which squad was willing to dig deep for the victory.
"Our defense came out ready to hit," said Search.
And hit, the Vikes did. Perhaps none more so than free safety Alex Zavala, who laid big pop after big pop on whoever carried the ball for the Scotties. The second half domination Mabton showed against the visiting Highland team resulted in the Scotties going scoreless the rest of the way.
Mabton wasted little time after intermission in squaring the contest up at 7-all. Zavala, who besides playing free safety doubles as the Viking QB, hit Lupe Campos with a 15-yard scoring strike. The extra point kick by Pablo Sanchez was successful and Mabton was off to the races.
The Vikes scored another third quarter TD to take the lead for good, on yet another touchdown toss from Zavala. The second score was a nifty 6-yard throw, this time to Moises Guiterrez. Despite the missed PAT, Mabton was ahead 13-7.
The Vikings added the first of two insurance scores early on in the fourth quarter. Zavala capped off a drive with a 3-yard burst into the end zone, one of his 13 carries on the night that totaled 29 yards. Mabton made up for the earlier missed PAT by handing the ball off to Sanchez for a successful two-point conversion, which increased the Vikes' lead to 21-7.
Mabton's final score of the night came on a 4-yard run by Sanchez, the leading rusher in the game with 153 yards on 24 totes.
Although they didn't score, Mabton's Ray Elizondo and Eli Perez also chewed up offensive yards for the Vikings Friday. Elizondo had 17 carries, rushing for 44 yards; and Perez gained 28 yards on three touches. Through the air, Zavala was 6-for-18 for 81 yards, with Gutierrez the leading receiver with three catches for 38 yards.
Highland's top two rushers netted just 33 yards apiece. One of them, QB Kevin Bowman, picked up the majority of his rushing yardage on uncalled scrambles, the result of Mabton's front five chasing him out of the pocket.