Sparks fly in Truckee win
The sweep is complete.
Truckee set a season high in points and fended off an explosive Sparks Railroader offense enough to capture the Northern 3A league title with an action-packed 35-27 win on senior farewell Saturday.
“Here we are. League champs,” said Truckee coach Bob Shaffer, wearing a look of joy and relief after his team capped a flawless 5-0 season in the 3A. “Especially after last year, this feels good. I think the kids overachieved.”
Senior Keven Sahlberg and junior Ryan Roberts fit that bill, as the quarterback-wingback tandem hooked up for three touchdown plays of more than 20 yards and together accounted for 334 of the Wolverines’ 463 total yards.
Juniors Ryan Macken and Justin Vosburgh, who played with a cast on his broken right hand, also got in on the scoring action with touchdown runs of 1 and 2 yards, respectively.
“It was too close for comfort, but I’m definitely happy about how the offense rallied,” said Roberts, who finished with six catches for 149 yards and three TDs to go along with his 58 rushing yards. “But we can’t get too excited or satisfied because we’re just getting started.”
Indeed. While the Wolverines wrapped up the league title with a five-game sweep (finishing 8-1 overall), they host the fourth-seeded Fernley Vaqueros on Saturday.
Roberts and company know the Vaqueros can play, as Truckee edged Fernley by only a touchdown in a tightly contested battle on Oct. 6. The Wolverines are also aware of the postseason’s single-elimination format, leaving no margin for error against the dangerous lower seeds.
Sparks, which clinched the No. 2 seed in the Northern 3A with a 4-1 league mark (6-2 overall), hosts third-seeded Spring Creek in the opening round.
Before getting serious about playoffs, however, the Wolverines had a chance to soak in the moment of their accomplishment after the big game.
“We stepped up when we needed to,” said Paris Tenorio, a senior all-league linebacker. “We manned up to what we needed to do. Everyone did their responsibilities and got the job done.”
Shaffer predicted a defensive battle between the league’s leaders. For the most part, it wasn’t ” although the scrappy Wolverine defense limited Sparks for much of the first half while Truckee’s offense went to work.
On their opening possession, the Wolverines marched from their own 44-yard line to the Sparks 26 in six plays before Sahlberg delivered a perfectly placed pass over the shoulder of Roberts, who cradled the ball into the end zone for the first score. A Cruz Esquivel PAT gave Truckee a 7-0 lead with 5:49 left in the first quarter.
After Sahlberg threw the first of his two interceptions, Truckee got the ball back at its own 18. Eight plays later, Sahlberg again connected with Roberts, who spun around to haul in the pass, then turned and beat one man to the end zone for another Truckee score in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Esquivel’s extra point pushed the lead to 14-0.
On Truckee’s next drive, Esquivel, a senior halfback who rushed for 20 yards in the first half, was carried off the field and onto a stretcher after injuring his leg on a 3-yard gain. Hobbling on crutches with his leg wrapped, Esquivel returned from the hospital in the fourth quarter to cheer on his team, and quell already spreading rumors about broken bones.
“They just gave me some Ibuprofen and crutches, and I’m good,” Esquivel said after the game, explaining that he suffered torn ligaments in his calf and may be able to play in two weeks, according to what he was told.
The Railroaders, who were held to minus 6 yards and one first down on their first four possessions, got on the board with 3:33 remaining in the half. On the second play of the drive, Bo Worley burst through Truckee’s line, broke loose of a shoestring tackle and outran the Wolverine secondary 79 yards for a touchdown.
Truckee answered, driving 80 yards in six plays, the last of which was a 2-yard TD run by Vosburgh with 44 seconds in the half to give the Wolverines a 21-7 lead.
Sparks struck on its opening possession when Zack Quilici found a streaking Angel Guillen, who pulled the ball in with outstretched fingertips and tumbled past the goal line. The extra point brought the score to 21-14, Truckee.
After Sahlberg threw his second interception, Sparks took over at the Truckee 33-yard line. Six plays later, Albert Claypool fired a 20-yard TD pass to Zach Quilici, tying the score with 6:38 left in the third.
With the score knotted up, Truckee responded on its ensuing possession with the third Sahlberg-to-Roberts touchdown connection, this time for 55 yards. And this one was most dazzling, as Roberts broke a handful of open-field tackles, doggedly chugging forward as blockers caught up to clear space, and rumbled into the end zone.
Holding onto a 28-21 lead early in the fourth, the Wolverines added a fifth TD with a Macken rush from about the half-yard line. Roberts’ extra point ” he kicked in the absence of Esquivel ” adjusted the score to 35-21 with 4:17 remaining in the contest.
The Railroaders still had plenty of fight.
Facing fourth-and-goal from the 17, Zach Quilici lobbed a pass for a well covered Aaron Quilici, who, despite double coverage, jumped up in the end zone and snatched the ball from the air. Guillen’s extra point attempt missed, leaving the score 35-27 with 2:22 on the clock.
After a Truckee punt, Sparks’ final-chance drive petered out.
“Truckee outplayed us and outhit us, and in the first half it showed,” said a disappointed Rob Kittrell, Sparks’ head coach. “But I thought our kids did a good job of coming back in the second half.
“In the 3A, year in and year out the championship comes through Surprise Stadium. They have a great program up here ” great coaches, great kids.”
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The Truckee Town Council has unanimously approved of a pilot program to remove snow on privately maintained paved trails in the area.