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Bears begin second half of season with playoff hopes intact

File Photo Duluth's Nick Whitaker runs the ball during the Wildcats' game against Norcross earlier this season.

File Photo Duluth's Nick Whitaker runs the ball during the Wildcats' game against Norcross earlier this season.

Mountain View head coach Tim Hardy set the goal of reaching the playoffs for his program before the season started.

It seemed like a lofty goal for a third-year program playing in Region 7-AAAAA.

But as the second half of the season begins Friday, the Bears are in the thick of the playoff hunt. Mountain View is tied for the fourth and final playoff spot and needs to win three of the next five games to reach the postseason.

"That's our goal," Hardy said. "We're not worried about scenarios. We're just worried about the next game. That's been our goal since the season started. It's not an easy goal to get in our region."

Mountain View can take a step closer to the playoffs with a win over struggling Duluth. The Wildcats, who are not mathematically out of the playoffs, have lost their last three games.

"It's tough with them beating Mill Creek and it makes the next couple of ball games huge for us," Duluth coach Corey Jarvis said. "We are fighting for our lives."

Duluth quarterback Anfornee Stewart was injured three weeks ago and is not expected to play. Will Delorenzo, who started against Collins Hill in the last game, will make his second start. The junior threw for 118 yards in the loss to the Eagles.

"We're prepared for everything," Hardy said. "(Stewart) is a super tremendous player. The guy that started against Collins Hill is pretty good, too, so we are prepared for both."

Jarvis is hoping for another strong game out of his offensive line to take the pressure off Delorenzo. Tim Mettille, Mark Ruskell, Julian Williams, Devonta Johnson, Dewey Van Allen and Nick Wasylyk have played well the last few ball games.

The Wildcats have tweaked a few things on offense to cater to Delorenzo, who is more of a pocket passer.

"They are a talented football team," Hardy said. "They've got some athletes on both sides of the ball. There's a lot of purple flying to the ball on defense and a lot of speed on offense."

Mountain View has its own group of talented athletes. Marvin Elam and Eddie West have been the spark to the Bears' offense this season.

"We've got two very good running backs," Hardy said. "We try to keep them on the field all the time. They each bring a different flavor."

West is a senior and leads the team in rushing with 309 yards and one TD. Elam, who is a junior, has 279 yards and five TDs. The duo have opened up the passing game for quarterback Chris Bartlett.

"Their quarterback and two running backs are pretty special," Jarvis said. "Speed wise, they are some of the fastest we've played against."

Linebackers Tyler Bethune, Andrew Mozingo and Bryce McCloud have been the leaders on defense in recent weeks.

Duluth beat Mountain View 46-22 last season, but Jarvis has cautioned his team that this isn't the same young Bears program from a year ago.

"You can tell Coach Hardy has done a good job coaching them up and getting them ready," Jarvis said. "They are more physical than last year."