Millard’s return to Pleasanton ‘surreal’ as Monte Vista dominates: ‘It was bittersweet’

High school football: Monte Vista routs Foothill as Julian McMahan and Brayden Turner carve up Falcons defense

PLEASANTON — Johnny Millard was both happy and sad after Monte Vista’s 41-14 victory over Foothill.

The Monte Vista coach was overjoyed to see his team physically dominate the Falcons at the line of scrimmage, as his team needed to break a two-game losing streak and did so thanks to Julian McMahan’s 169 yards and three touchdowns.

But the Pleasanton native, who played at Foothill in the late 2000s and later coached under Greg Haubner, took little joy in annihilating old foes on homecoming night.

“It was bittersweet,” Millard said after his first game at Foothill since taking over as coach at Monte Vista in 2022. “These are my boys, and I adore them.” But it’s surreal when you look across the field.”

“Those guys are my family,” Millard said of the Foothill coaching staff, with whom he spent several years.

Early on, it appeared that his alma mater would ruin Millard’s return to the stadium where he and his father, 1989 NFL defensive player of the year Keith Millard, had dominated.

Foothill started the game strong, fueled by several generations of alumni in the stands, including the 1988 East Bay Athletic League championship team, with a surprise onside kick recovery.

The Falcons were expected to struggle this season after losing two of their top players during the offseason. Leading receiver Chris Lawson and his 16 touchdowns transferred to Archbishop Riordan, while leading rusher Samear Lattier transferred to Tracy.

The Falcons, on the other hand, had been more competitive than their 1-4 record indicated. Three of their four losses were by a total of seven points, and their lone win came against crosstown rival and Valley Division favorite Amador Valley.

Following an 11-yard touchdown pass from Erik Olsen to Michael O’Donoghue to start the game, the Falcons appeared poised to compete with one of the Mountain Division’s better teams.

However, the offense stalled when the junior receiver left the game in the second quarter with a leg injury. Against a dominant MV front, the rushing game was non-existent, gaining only five yards. Talan Jones and Carson Brown of Monte Vista had big nights on defense.

“It was exciting on the front end, but we just ran out of gas really quickly,” said Haubner. “Our kids are trying, and I really appreciate that about them.”

On offense, Monte Vista did whatever it wanted, clawing its way out of a 7-0 hole and taking control by the middle of the fourth quarter. Brayden Turner completed nine of his first nine passes and finished the night 16 of 19 for 280 yards and two touchdowns.

His accurate passes aided the Mustangs on an eight-play scoring drive that ended with McMahan finding plenty of room to operate on a draw play for an 11-yard touchdown with 7:28 left in the first half.

“These practices (during the bye week) were all about consistency,” he said. “We were having issues up front, but we fought through that.”

Following another failed Foothill drive, Turner connected with Jacob Shehata for a 76-yard touchdown bomb down the right sideline, giving the Mustangs a 17-7 lead with 2:17 remaining in the half.

Shehata had 95 yards on four catches, which was only surpassed by teammate Brayden Breedlove’s 113 yards. Both benefited from a passing game that had all the time in the world to operate thanks to great blocking by linemen like Dakota Dickson.

“We came in with the mindset that we are a great line, and we needed to show people that,” Dickson told the media. “I knew Foothill was going to come out and try to punch us in the mouth…. I was just trying to get some yards for my boy Julian.”

Monte Vista led 20-7 at halftime after Carter Junge hit his second field goal of the night as time expired.

The Mustangs dominated the second half, with McMahan scoring on a 19-yard reception and a three-yard run.

Foothill got a brief glimmer of hope when Olsen found Nathan Bodensteiner in the flat after passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns. With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the 6-3 receiver eluded tacklers up the right sideline for a 42-yard touchdown.

After cutting its lead to 27-14, Monte Vista scored the game’s final 14 points to seal the EBAL victory. It appeared to be the team that started the season 3-0, not the one that lost 41-34 to Amador Valley and 38-14 to Campolindo before going on bye.

Next Friday, Foothill (1-5, 0-1) will travel to Clayton Valley Charter, while Monte Vista (4-2, 1-0) will host a California team coming off a bye.

“It’s good to have some momentum, but we’ve also just got to take it one game at a time,” said Millard. “We’ve got to focus on beating Cal.”

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