MOUNTAIN VIEW — For a moment at least, sorrow was replaced by joy at Mountain View High on Friday night.
Nine days after the death of football parent Lucinda Daniels, it was clear the Spartans were able to focus more and the result was a rout over visiting Leigh, 40-21, in a non-league contest.
A horrific turn of events that began with a traumatic leg injury suffered by Mountain View’s Dillon Daniels during the season-opener at The King’s Academy on Aug. 25 and ended with a pair of strokes and ruptured brain aneurysm that took the life of his mother will remain on the minds and hearts of the team, staff, and school community.
But Friday provided some reasons to smile.
“Especially after that King’s game after everything that happened, we feel like we’re a lot closer and more of a family than we were before,” quarterback Kevin Conway said. “Before, sometimes we would break on ‘family,’ and I’m not sure if everyone meant it. But after that game, I know that everyone means it.”
Conway was the star of this one, completing 17 of 26 passes for 283 yards – 261 in the first half. Conway passed for four touchdowns, ran for another, and passed for a two-point conversion.
Conway’s football cohort since the second grade, receiver Lex Silver, caught eight passes for 162 yards and scored three touchdowns, including a medium-deep fade that Silver turned into an 85-yard touchdown.
“I don’t know what kind of quarterback I’d be if I didn’t have him as a receiver,” Conway said.
Mountain Views quarterback Kevin Conway (9) throws the ball against Leigh in the second half of a High School football game at Mountain View, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)
Silver’s final TD, a three-yarder on a crossing route in the back of the end zone, gave Mountain View a 40-7 lead late in the third quarter and both coaches agreed to a running clock throughout the fourth, even as Leigh QB Tyler Donaldson connected on two touchdown passes.
For Dillon Daniels, who had a plate and seven screws inserted into his leg this week, a carefree game meant taking pictures of his teammates from the sidelines, offering encouragement, and yelling to whoever could hear, “Tape me up! I’m ready! Put me on the field!”
“It means a lot to come out here, have a win, watching everyone fight throughout the game and do their thing,” he said. “It feels really good to be out here.”
Even in the face of tragedy, Daniels was the one who helped turn the team’s mood after a 20-14 loss to Live Oak last week in Mountain View’s first game since Lucinda’s death.
Daniels didn’t want to be the reason Mountain View wasn’t at its best. On a group chat this week, he told the team he didn’t want them to feel bad for him, that it was time to move on.
Mountain Views’ Dillion Daniels (5) is photographed on the sidelines against Leigh Longhorns at Mountain View, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)
Coach Tim Lugo said he felt the difference after watching film of the Live Oak loss and feeling OK about correcting mistakes and providing tough coaching.
“It was really nice to have a regular week of practice where we could get on guys and push them hard,” Lugo said. “We just didn’t feel comfortable doing that the week before. It felt good to get back to football.”
Mr. Daniels holds an envelope he received from Leigh Longhorns before the High School football game as he is hugged by the principal Kip Glazer, center, in Mountain View, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)
Mr. Daniels wipes his eyes before the High School football game against Leigh High, who made a sign in support of the family in Mountain View, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)
At the coin toss, Leigh players carried out a banner that read, “The Longhorns support the Daniels family.” And the school provided a gift to Dillon’s father, Dale, in an envelope.
For Dale, just being there was a win and a thank-you.
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“It’s hard to put into words … the overwhelming support,” Dale said. “(Lucinda) was given such a beautiful soul. To see all this for her … I can’t put into words how grateful we are. To see all this makes us really proud. Obviously, we’re devastated, but we’re also very proud.
“I love this community. Honestly, everywhere. So many people have reached out. All football communities across the entire Bay Area, they can relate to a story like this. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s beautiful.”
It’s only one night. But it was special for the Daniels family, and for Mountain View High.
“Oh my God, every day has been constant ups and downs,” Dale said. “Just to be out here and smile and have everything going good … it’s been a great night. We’ve kind of needed it.”