The Monte Vista Mustangs took home the North Coast Section Division I championship on Saturday, scoring 28 unanswered points during the second half en route to a 42-18 victory against the Antioch Panthers to claim their first NCS football title in more than a decade.
The Mustangs finished their championship season at 12-1, going undefeated in East Bay Athletic League play and winning their three NCS playoff games by a combined score of 150-46. Their only loss came at the end of the regular season, 45-17 at De La Salle on Nov. 14.
But Saturday's win marked the end of the road for the 2016 Mustangs, who did not advance to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division I state playoffs.
The nod, instead, was given to Freedom (Oakley), who was undefeated before getting trounced 42-7 by De La Salle in the NCS Open Division championship. NCS policy allows the Open Division runner-up to supplant the Division I champion as the NCS entry into the CIF Division I state playoffs.
Monte Vista posted a strong 2016 campaign before the NCS playoffs, finishing the regular season at 9-1, including 8-0 in EBAL. In those nine wins, the Mustangs outscored opponents by an average of 28.7 points, including two shutouts. Their closest victory was a three-point win at Cal High on Sept. 23.
That helped the Mustangs earn the No. 1 seed in the section playoffs. They opened with a blowout win at home over Irvington (Fremont) 52-0 in the quarterfinal.
Monte Vista hosted the semifinal too, defeating Heritage (Brentwood) 56-28 to set up a showdown with the second-seeded Antioch Panthers in the NCS Division I final on Saturday night at a neutral site, Dublin High School. The Panthers were led this year by running back Najee Harris, who has verbally committed to Alabama.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Mustangs grabbed a 7-0 lead in the second quarter on a touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Haener.
The Panthers moved ahead 8-7 on a rushing touchdown and two-point conversion before the teams traded touchdowns again to give the Panthers a 15-14 edge at halftime.
Antioch extended its lead with a field goal early in the third quarter, but that would be the final point Monte Vista would yield this season.
The Mustangs scored two touchdowns later in the third quarter, a 44-yard touchdown pass by Haener to Zane Cribb and a rushing score by Shane Perry.
The Mustangs added another pair of touchdowns in the fourth -- rushing TDs from Haener and Perry -- to close out the 42-18 win.
It was Monte Vista football's first NCS division title since 2002, when the Mustangs won their second of back-to-back championships.
As for the CIF playoffs, Freedom (11-1) plays St. Mary's of Stockton this Friday in the northern half of the four-team Division 1-AA state championship tournament. De La Salle plays St. John Bosco (Bellflower) at Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium Dec. 17 for the CIF Open Division state crown.