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Maverick junior running back E.J. Broussard runs for five TDs; Mountainside controls second half to win

PMG PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Mountainside junior running back E.J. Broussard ran for a career-high five touchdowns to help the Mavericks beat Southridge 42-21 on Friday, Oct. 4.You can't call Mountainside the little brother of the Metro League anymore.

When it comes to settling scores with a crosstown rival that bodied them a year ago, the Mavericks proved they can get even by turning back the clock.

Behind the bruising rushing style of junior running back E.J. Broussard, his blue-collar offensive line and an opportunistic defense, Mountainside beat Southridge 42-21 at Mountainside High School on Friday, Oct. 4. A season after getting manhandled by a faster, stronger, older Skyhawk team, the Mavs got their vengeance and tied the unofficial Scholls Ferry Feud at a game apiece.

"We remembered what they did to us last year ... and we worked all summer to get to this point," Mountainside junior quarterback Justin Hughes said. "This year we came out with a dog mentality. We wanted to win from the start. We kept fighting. We can't let that we're good get to our heads. We have to keep pounding and keeping working hard."

"I'm glad we could show Southridge who we really are," Broussard said. "We have the confidence now and know we can make things happen."

Broussard was a beast from the jump, scoring five touchdowns to match his jersey number, along with more than 150 yards on the ground en route to a career day. While the junior was the star, the player everybody sought out for pictures and adulation after the game, the standout quickly turned the spotlight away from himself. Hughes made sure things ran smoothly and playmakers such as Andrew Simpson and Carlos Montero ensured Southridge couldn't stack the box against Broussard. Center Will Verdine, right guard Logan Chase, right tackle Marlon Sawhill-Barrios, left guard Jonah Amaya and left tackle Shane Gerber were as responsible for the ground-game success, getting off the ball quickly, shoving the Skyhawks off the line of scrimmage and giving Broussard creases to cut through.

"I can't take credit for that, it's all up front and our coaches for making the calls," Broussard said. "Our line has grown so much over this offseason and these first few games. They know what they need to do now. They're coming out here and getting a great push on all of these defensive lines. It's nothing but our line. They've been exceptional."

The Mavericks put in the work Friday, not so much flash and dash, but more ground and pound, specifically in the second half. Nursing a 21-14 lead to begin the third quarter, Mountainside marched 71 yards on 12 plays, a drive that soaked up almost six minutes of the period. The trip ended with a 1-yard Broussard touchdown plunge that gave Mountainside a 28-14 lead with 6 minutes, 11 seconds to go in the quarter.

Southridge answered in the fourth when Darik Salinas connected on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Eric Brown, who came off the line of scrimmage and snuck downfield toward the end zone to bring Southridge within 28-21 with 10:48 left in the game. Salinas hit the big man between the numbers and let him rumble.

But again, Mountainside looked to Broussard, and he delivered. The burly junior carried the ball on 10 of the Mavericks' next 15 plays from scrimmage, picking up steam, strength and handfuls of yards with each tote. Hughes sprinkled in a few timely passes to Andrew Simpson that kept the chains moving as well. By the time Broussard bashed in a 4-yard score, Mountainside had milked 7:17 off the fourth-quarter clock and taken a 35-21 lead with just 3:34 to go.

"If nothing's there, I lower my shoulder and blow somebody up," Broussard said. "If there are no yards, there's gonna be contact and we're going forward. I get pumped up more and more as I get hit. My adrenaline starts pumping. It's just about getting the yards and helping the team."

Two plays after Broussard's fourth score, Hughes picked off Salinas with a diving interception down the left seam. The two South Beaverton area signal callers go way back as friends, and now competitors for their respective schools. Each started at quarterback and safety and there was a lot of woofing between the white lines. Salinas, on one play, was able to range over and knock down a deep Hughes attempt in front of the Maverick sideline. Trash talk, hand-clapping and yapping between the two sides were commonplace for the neighborhood rivals who grew up playing youth sports with and against each other. The Skyhawk field general threw for three touchdowns, two to star Josh Calo. Ultimately, though, Hughes had the last laugh.

"There was a lot of chipping going on, I'm not gonna lie," Hughes said with a smile. "Darik's been one of my best friends since birth. We were going at it all night. I was fortunate enough to get that pick to seal it."

Then, Broussard broke through an all-out Southridge blitz to put a stake in the Skyhawks' heart on a 35-yard touchdown with just over two minutes to go in the game to extend the Maverick lead to 42-21.

In the second half, as the clock drained and the Mavericks kept running the ball inside, Mountainside was able to impose its will on the rival that toyed with them just a season ago. Of the Mavericks' four second-half possessions, three culminated in touchdowns.

"We're going to go in, slam them to the ground and just pound the ball," Hughes said. "Last week, we threw the ball a lot and I think Southridge wanted to key in on that. This week, we just pounded the ball up the middle and they couldn't stop it. If it's not broke, don't fix it."

The Mavericks are hornet-mean defensively, man movers along the offensive line and boast one of the more physical backs in Class 6A in Broussard. While Salinas had success at times, Mountainside's defense made big plays and got off the field quickly. In the second quarter, Salinas was flushed to his right and rushed into a throw that Montero read, jumped and reeled in like a wide receiver near the 40-yard line. The ball-hawking safety swiveled past a Skyhawk, found Salinas as the last man to beat and did so with speed and one right-handed stiff arm that fended off the Southridge field general's tackle attempt and helped him roll to the pylon for the pick-six to give Mountainside a 21-7 lead. Defenders including Jontae Allen, Yule Schrock, Nick Calhoun, Logan Verplanke, Manny Ruiz, Will Verdine and Sawhill-Barrios engulfed the pocket and tried to take away Southridge's short passing game throughout, but Southridge stayed in the fight.

A 10-play 78-yard drive piloted by Salinas' quick decisions, the after-the-catch abilities of Calo, Romeo Moreland and Katsuo Steward, put Southridge inside the red zone. And as the clock dropped within three seconds of the half, the Skyhawks rolled the dice with Salinas flicking a three-yard out to a wide-open Calo just before the buzzer. The PAT brought the Skyhawks within a score at the break.

This Maverick team, under the direction of John Mannion, is coming of age perhaps quicker than most anticipated. Mountainside is now winner of its last four games, is 4-1 overall and 1-1 in Metro.

While everything about Mountainside as a school and athletic program is still sparkling new and state of the art, the football is pure vintage. After every play, Hughes runs over to Mannion, who verbalizes the play to his signal-caller and sends him back to the awaiting Maverick huddle. Hughes calmly relays the call to his teammates and the Mavericks walk to the line of scrimmage, where sometimes two tight ends flank the offensive line. Then, the junior signal-caller crouches under his center and readies for the snap. Often, the play clock dips under five seconds before Mountainside hikes the pigskin. When the action flies, it's hat-on-hat, physical football. In this day and age where nobody huddles, spread and shotgun offenses are the rage, and everybody seems to be in a hurry to get plays off as fast as possible, Mountainside is measured and methodical. They have the athletes to compete and the system to frustrate programs that aren't used to playing or practicing against such a pace.

"It's very old school, but it works," Hughes said. "I love this offense. It's one of a kind. You don't see many teams go under center and pound the ball like we do. It's effective. (Mannion) has multiple state championships and it's worked for him. He knows what to do. We trust him and he trusts us."

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