KEZAR STADIUM — With just over a minute to go against Galileo, a cheer spread throughout the Mission sideline.
With the game well in-hand, the Bears whooped and hollered as senior Mikzon Brown entered the game at defensive end. Having been on the team for the last three years, Brown had never gotten into a single game. On his second play, he came off the edge and pressured Lions quarterback Kidus Samson into an interception.
Despite losing starting quarterback Jamareia Burroughs on the first series, the Bears blasted the rebuilding Lions behind backup Matt Cohn, who ran for three touchdowns and rushed for two more in a 54-0 rout, enabling the softspoken Brown to make his varsity debut.
“It feels great,” Brown said. “That’s the big time. I try and work on it, try to keep it calm. That’s what Mission Bears do.”
“He cares for the program,” said Brown’s English teacher and the team’s volunteer coach Tadd Scott, as he dabbed tears from his cheeks. “He’s a kid that always cares about everybody else. One of the sweetest, biggest hearts you’ll ever meet. He’s overcome being bullied and all that stuff, never says a mean word, ever.”
Brown, who helps set up practice — doing everything from getting equipment ready and setting out water to helping prepare the offense — is universally beloved by his teammates.
“It means a lot to us,” Cohn said.
Brown was able to get into the game due to the fact that the Bears — despite losing dynamic dual-threat Burroughs on their opening drive of the game — got a virtuoso comprehensive from Cohn, normally a wide receiver who went 4-of-5 passing for 82 yards and rushed three times for 94 yards.
“I saw a young kid step up, who’s been with me, this is his third year, and I’ve had a lot of trust in him,” head coach Tobias Whitley said of Cohn. “We’ve been working on a few things, but I’ve seen growth today. I saw him manage that whole football game. Normally, he comes in at spurts at receiver, but he played the full game. I saw him step up to the plate and be a leader … He went out there and took control.”
The Bears got going early, marching down the field thanks to a long fumble recovery by Emare Sumpter, getting down into the red zone. At the Mission 20-yard line, Roland Herrera got thrown by a Galileo defender, with no call. Two plays later, another Lions defender came off the edge and pushed Burroughs, after he’d thrown the ball. Burroughs’ knee buckled, and he felt a pop. The initial diagnosis was a hyperextended left knee, likely knocking Burroughs out for some time.
“I knew I had to step in,” Cohn said. “I knew I had to step up and do what I do.”
Cohn came in and threw a 16-yard touchdown to Noah Lee with just over seven minutes left in the first quarter.
Cohn took matters into his own hands on the very next drive, angling right then cutting back for a 41-yard score with 10:45 to go in the second, before tossing the two-point conversion to Lee to make the score 14-0.
Lee dealt the Lions a tackle for loss on a screen to open up Galileo’s next drive, and then a host of Bears dropped the Lions punter for a loss inside the 20, setting up an eventual five-yard run by Cohn to the front right corner of the end zone. Once again, Cohn tossed the two-point conversion, this time to Will Delaney, who will back up Cohn with Burroughs on the shelf.
“I’ve been trying to hide him,” Whitley said. “He can do more than what you saw. He’s a big player for us.”
Another Bears tackle for loss — this time by Isayah Oson — set up a fourth-and-seven for Galileo, with Emare Sumpter halting the advance with 3:50 to go in the first half.
As Cohn rushed for his second score — a 48-yard run up the Lions sideline — a Galileo player shouted an expletive, while Cohn’s teammate Trevon Morgan mused, “We’ve got to keep doing this. It’s fun doing this.”
“Those plays he made with his legs, even I couldn’t have made those,” Burroughs said.
Cohn ran in for a two-point conversion, giving Mission a 30-0 lead, then added another scoring strike on a 53-yarder to Delaney to make it 38-0 with 57.1 seconds to go before the break. Heading into the start of league play last week — where the Bears dealt Lowell a 42-0 loss — Mission had been outscored 99-58.
The second half was played with a running clock, as Mission (2-3-1, 2-0 in Academic Athletic Association), armed with 23 honor roll students who returned to play just a week ago, continued to batter a Galileo team that’s now 0-6, having lost its five best playmakers to graduation.
Delaney added an eight-yard touchdown run with 6:15 to go in the third quarter, and Lee returned a punt 32 yards for the final score with 8:35 to go in regulation, with third-string quarterback Nigel DeRego hitting Howells for the two-point conversion for the final tally.
The game showed just how far the Lions have fallen since beating the Bears 50-28 in the 2017 San Francisco Section championship, and how far Mission has come since going 0-3-1 in the preseason. As the Bears walked off the field, the chatter was all about next week: A road clash with Lincoln on Oct. 19, which will pit two of the last three league champions against one another. The defending Division 6 state champion Mustangs (3-1, 1-0) were on a bye this week, but blasted Washington 50-0 a week ago.
As the Bears walked off the field, Brown held up a PVC pipe with the school logo.
“Our standards and our expectations, it is this,” Whitley said. “We know what kind of team we have. We know how we’ve been working. For what we’ve put in, this is not the finished product, but it’s close.”