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It was an ideal homecoming night for the Montgomery High School Football team, as the Vikings won the North Bay League-Redwood Division title with a tough victory over El Molino by a 48-30 score Friday at Jason Franci Field in Santa Rosa.

The league title in the first year of the realigned NBL is not only the first championship for the Vikings (8-2, 4-0 in NBL-Redwood) since 2004, but their first winning season since 2013.

Montgomery quarterback Cole Hallin was the NBL-Redwood’s leading passer before a concussion sidelined him midway through the season. But his replacement Khameron Perkins has kept this team humming as the Vikings entered the night on a four-game win streak and in first place in their division. Make it five in a row and a championship banner for the Vikings.

El Molino (2-6, 1-3) on the other hand has fought to stay afloat in the competitive NBL-Redwood, and before its win over Piner two weeks ago the Lions had lost four in a row.

A game that could determine the title picture was essentially decided in the third quarter as Montgomery’s offense came up big to start the half.

Up 21-17 in a close game, the Vikings opened the second half with a bang, returning the kickoff to midfield, following that up with a 48-yard touchdown run from Gavin Lemos to increase their lead to 28-17.

“At halftime I said, ‘We’re running the ball. We haven’t run the ball well in the first half and they’ve been able to stop us. We’re going to come out and run the ball because we passed so well in the first half they’re not going to expect it,” said Montgomery head coach Vertis Patton, who is in his first head coaching gig.

On the following kickoff, the Montgomery coaches went all in, attempting an onside kick that the Vikings recovered in Lions territory. Perkins made quick work of the drive, throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kaih Johnson to extend their lead to 35-17.

But as they’ve done all year, the Lions kept fighting. On their first possession in the second half, Wyatt Stringfellow hit Finnegan Ransme for a big gain and Sam Wilson-Mietz capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to shorten the lead to 35-14.

The running game truly opened up for the Vikings in the third quarter as they rode Lemos down the field to finish another successful drive, this time resulting in a 30-yard touchdown throw to BJ Johnson that put Montgomery up 41-24.

The Lions were able to get back into the end zone with a little trickery, as their running back Wilson-Mietz threw to a wide-open Ryan Palmer for a 51-yard score reducing the lead even more now down to 41-30.

A few drives later, early in the fourth quarter, Montgomery’s Devin Ramirez intercepted Stringfellow, and Perkins extended the lead to three scores on a 4-yard touchdown run for the final tally.

“Like I told the kids I knew this was going to be a tough one,” Patton said. “I said ‘They’re going to come out and fight. They’re trying to knock us out of that No. 1 spot and we have to be ready no matter what.’”

El Molino opened the game strong as Stringfellow and Wilson-Meitz ran the read option effectively to put their offense in the red zone on the opening drive. But the Vikings’ defense stood tall and held them to an 18-yard field goal to open the game up 3-0.

Montgomery struggled to run the ball but had success through the air as Perkins threw two touchdowns to wide receiver Kaih Johnson, one on 32-yard pass and another on a screen that Johnson took for 61 yards. Perkins also scored on a 10-yard touchdown run.

In the first half, the Lions mostly relied on Wilson-Meitz, who scored on a 6-yard touchdown run.

But El Molino had its own big play as Stringfellow found Ransme wide open down the field, due to the Vikings’ busted coverage, and he ran 58 yards untouched to score.

El Molino’s next game is at home against Elsie Allen at 7:30 p.m. next Friday. Montgomery waits for its first-round playoff matchup and can celebrate a hard-fought league title.

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