SCOTTS VALLEY — The Monte Vista Christian Mustangs did not have much adversity during their first two games.
They're heading into their bye week with their first dose of it.
The Mustangs suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday afternoon, falling 21-19 to Scotts Valley High in both teams' preseason finale. It is M.V.C.'s (2-1) first preseason loss since the 2014 season.
Head coach Bruce Dini, the former Stevenson head coach who took the reigns at M.V.C. during the summer after longtime leader David Reese resigned, said he’s looking forward to see how his team bounces back during its bye week before the start of the Monterey Bay League Gabilan division season.
The Mustangs start MBL-G play against North Salinas High at Rabobank Stadium on Sept. 22.
“We’re looking forward to the bye week next week so we can digest this and learn from it,” said Dini, who added that the Mustangs were dealing with some minor injuries. “Sometimes you win a close game like this and you’re so busy high-fiving each other that you don’t really look closely at how you can get better. I think coming out on this side in this game really allows us to look and see how we get better as a team.”
After looking as good as ever during the first two weeks en route to a 2-0 start, M.V.C. could not consistently find the same rhythm against tough-nosed Scotts Valley (2-1), which was missing a pair of key players to injury but still rebounded from a tough 63-21 loss to Terra Nova High.
M.V.C. senior running back Cody Paresa ran for 168 yards on 13 carries and found the end zone twice, including on a 98-yard dash in the first quarter. His second score, a 46-yard sprint through the heart of the defense capped off with a dive to the pylon, gave M.V.C. a one-point lead with 6:07 left. But Scotts Valley junior quarterback Kyle Rajala nailed a 26-yard, go-ahead field goal three minutes later and senior linebacker Will Schwartz made a game-sealing pick with 1:12 remaining.
"This loss shouldn't have happened," said M.V.C. junior receiver Daniel Brierley. "We should've came out stronger and we didn't. We should've put the pedal to the metal in the first quarter and destroyed their will to start out with. We're going to take this loss hard because I don't want there to be another one."
Brierley made four grabs for 117 yards and a touchdown and bailed out senior quarterback Sean White by winning a pair of jump balls over Scotts Valley defenders.
His 64-yard scoring reception late in the second quarter gave M.V.C. a 13-12 lead at the half but Scotts Valley pulled the momentum back to its side on its opening drive of the third quarter.
Scotts Valley senior running back Ryan Conte sprinted around the right side of the Mustangs' defense for a 34-yard touchdown to put the Falcons up 18-13, a lead which they hung on to until Paresa’s score in the fourth.
Conte, a powerful 187-pounder, finished with 213 yards rushing on 32 touches and also had a 3-yard score late in the first quarter to tie the game up at 6-all.
Scotts Valley grabbed the lead in the second quarter on a 28-yard scoring connection from Rajala to 6-foot-6 senior tight end Carson Spence, who was targeted often and made four receptions for 67 yards and the one touchdown.
Brierley’s impressive catch and run gave the Mustangs a one-point advantage at the intermission but it wouldn’t last long.
Both teams were called for 10 penalties and went over the century mark in yardage. Scotts Valley had a player ejected for throwing a punch after a punt. The scuffle was one of a handful of chippy moments in what felt like a rivalry game despite the fact that the two squads had not played since 2004.
“Our coaches were telling us that this was going to be a tough game for us and I think we doubted that a little too much,” Paresa said. “It’s just a lesson for us to never doubt our opponent and always fight.”
Scotts Valley fumbled the ball away twice. The Falcons’ second lost fumble gave M.V.C. the ball near midfield with 1:27 left to play but two plays later Schwartz intercepted White to put an end to the Mustangs’ comeback plans.
Following Paresa’s second touchdown run, M.V.C. had the choice to go for two and possibly build a three-point lead but instead decided to kick the extra point, which bounced off the goal post and out. Dini said he liked his chances of holding on to the lead with his defense playing so well in the second half.
“There was no second doubt there,” Dini said. “You want to just take the point.”
White finished 15 of 27 for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
M.V.C. senior defensive linemen Michael Chu and Alex Moran each recorded a sack.