All the players, families and friends on both sides of the field witnessed an incredible defensive slugfest in the Truckee Mitey-Mite Whites’ final game against the Sparks Steelers on Saturday — which, according to the officials, the Steelers won by a 13-7 score.
However, only the Truckee half of the field admitted to being a witness to a fifth down that the Steelers took advantage of to rumble into the end zone from 39 yards out for the winning score in the fourth quarter.
Credit to the Steelers. They did string some plays together to move the ball against the stingy Wolverines defense. Sparks started the maligned drive late in the third quarter at their own 30-yard line and converted on fourth-and-2 with a 2-yard run to the right at the start of the fourth quarter to keep the same drive alive. After the next 11-yard run to the left, the Steelers threatened to add to their 6-0 lead at the time by setting themselves up first-and-10 at the Wolverines 26-yard line.
The Wolverines then dug in and thumped the run around the right for a 2-yard loss, setting up second-and-12. The down marker correctly showed second down. On the next play, linebacker Jackson Kahl dropped the Steelers’ leading rusher for an 11-yard loss on Kahl’s first play of the game on defense. The down marker incorrectly still showed second down. The Truckee defense bent a little and allowed a 1-yard run up the middle and set up fourth down and 22 yards from the Wolverines 38-yard line, despite the down marker incorrectly showing third down.
The left side of the defense then hammered the quarterback rolling right for a 1-yard loss that should have resulted in a turnover on downs. However, despite offering written proof of the play-by-play of the game and offering play-by-play video, the officials met and decided to side with the incorrect down marker and allow what was confirmed on video of the game as a fifth down.
In a worst-case scenario played out to the disappointment of all that sided with Truckee, the Steelers’ leading rusher broke numerous tackles on a sweep to the left and then streaked into the end zone to go up 13-0.
Truckee responded by scoring on the ensuing drive, courtesy of a 9-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Tavin Hamilton to Kahl. Hamilton also powered up the middle with a would-be-tackler clinging on to cross the goal line for the successful extra point that would stand as the final score, 13-7.
Whatever the take on the win or loss, the game was a defensive battle led by Matthew Seline for the Wolverines. The middle linebacker showed he was hungry to get 100 tackles on the year. He entered the game with 91 and played determine football to make sure he got his necessary tackles. He ended up doubling the amount of tackles he needed and dropped 18 Sparks runners to put his season total at 109. His personal-best 18 tackles also matched the Mitey-Mite Whites’ single-game record.
Hamilton followed Seline with 14 tackles in the game from his left defensive end position. Hamilton finished as the team’s leading tackler with 113.
Outside linebacker Jacob Moule finished the game with 11 tackles, including a sack. Moule finished the year with 90 tackles and was in the top five of almost every defensive category.
Behind Moule was Carson Jensen. The outside linebacker opposite of Moule finished with 10 tackles and 108 for the season. He also finished the year leading his team in sacks with nine and behind-the-line tackles with 30.
Middle linebacker Caige Maran finished the game with nine tackles and the season with 69. Linebacker Hunter Hansell returned after a one-game absence and pounded eight runners down to the ground. The hardest hitting defender on the team finished the year with 87 tackles.
Cornerback Brian Baker dropped seven Steelers in the game and finished the season with 59 tackles. The statistic was not kept but Baker edged out Moule as the team’s leader of tackles saving touchdowns.
Peter Reoutt finished the Steelers game with six tackles and 78 on the season. Reoutt finished in the top four of almost every defensive category, including runner up with four forced fumbles and fumbles recovered.
Sam Marr finished the season with his greatest number of tackles in a single game, six. Quinn Krommenhoek, who finished the game with three tackles, clogged the middle and made it the stingiest running lane this season for the Wolverines with a 4-yard average per run against them.
Kahl stepped into the game as a substitute at cornerback to try to bolster the left lane against the Steelers. He finished the game with five tackles.
Jesse Espinoza split time with Kahl and finished the game with three tackles. His season tackles topped out at 64 and he led the team with two passes defended in a run-dominated league. Both special teamers, Alex Roberts and Ryland Morrison, contributed big stops on kickoffs.
Offensively, the Wolverines did put together a scoring drive, but the Steelers defense was dominant.
Jensen led the team with 19 rushing yards on seven attempts. He also led the team with 6 yards receiving on a single catch. Jensen finished the season with 374 yards rushing and led the team with 103 yards receiving. He also co-led the team with five rushing touchdowns.
Hamilton led the team with 10 yards passing on three completions, despite a wind that affected his throws during the Steelers game. He finished the year with 165 yards rushing and 238 yards passing with four rushing touchdowns and three touchdown completions. He also led the team with nine successful point after touchdowns.
Behind Jensen in rushing, Kahl gained 15 yards on 12 carries. He had carries of 14 yards and 11 yards both in the fourth quarter but the Steelers relentless defense also dropped Kahl for losses on a couple of other plays. Kahl also caught two passes for 4 yards. On the season Kahl led the Wolverines with 524 yards rushing and 10 receptions. He co-led the team with Jensen with five rushing touchdowns and co-led Truckee with a touchdown catch.
Hamilton ran two quarterback sneaks for 10 yards and running back Morrison fought for three yards from five carries. Morrison finished the season with 113 yards rushing with two rushing touchdowns.
The Wolverines closed out the 2013 season 5-5 on the field and 6-4 to many of the players, coaches and families who disagreed with the fifth-down allowance.