Incline football | Highlanders skunk West Wendover on homecoming | SierraSun.com

Incline football | Highlanders skunk West Wendover on homecoming

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com

The Highlanders punched their ticket to the postseason in convincing fashion Friday night.

Led by another monster game from junior running back Owen Graffis, Incline ran over visiting West Wendover, 47-0, with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball.

"It was a good homecoming game," said Incline coach Scott Conn. "It was great for the seniors to win like that in their final home game. Another good thing about a game like that is that everybody gets in."

With the win the Highlanders secured the No. 4 seed in the Division III postseason while improving to 3-2 in league and 5-3 overall. The Wolverines, meanwhile, fell to 0-5 in league and 1-7 overall.

Incline inflicted damage early and often, building a 27-0 lead in the first quarter and extending it to 41-0 by the half. The Highlanders pumped the brakes in the second half, scoring only one touchdown on a fumble recovery.

Graffis needed just one half to pile up 204 yards on 11 rushes and three touchdowns. He played quarterback the entire second half, when Incline emptied its bench to get every player in the game.

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"Owen is the real deal," Conn said of his Offensive Player of the Game. "The more work he gets, the better he gets."

While Graffis gave the West Wendover defense fits, senior Ben Snyder and junior Michael Guymon caused havoc defensively with a combined 20 tackles — Guymon with 11 and Snyder with nine. Guymon was Incline's Defensive Player of the Game, and Snyder was the overall Player of the Game.

Snyder also caught two passes for 33 yards and scored a touchdown. His quarterback, senior Jack Clouthier, completed three of his six pass attempts for 38 yards, and returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown.

Graffis set the tone early. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound running back opened the scoring on the Highlanders' first offensive play when he took the handoff and raced 70 yards to the end zone. Graffis then scored again on a 5-yard reception from Clouthier to adjust the score to 12-0 after a failed conversion.

Snyder scored Incline's next touchdown on a 10-yard pass play. Graffis ran in the conversion for a 20-0 lead. Clouthier's interception and return extended the lead to 27-0 after Jerry Sanchez kicked through the PAT.

The Highlanders tacked on two more touchdowns in the second quarter — on a 28-yard run by Graffis and a 2-yard run by senior Joe Sunseri. Krista Conn kicked both PATs.

In the second half, Incline coaches told the offense to run out of bounds at the 10-yard line if given an opportunity to score. The defense did not have the same instructions, however, and when the Wolverines fumbled a punt attempt in the third quarter, junior linebacker Charlie Zendner scooped up the loose ball and ran it into the end zone from 12 yards out.

The remainder of Incline's schedule is not as easy. The Highlanders end the regular season at seven-time state champion Pershing County (4-1 league, 6-2 overall) on Thursday and have a date with eight-time state champion Yerington (6-0, 6-2) in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 7 or 8.

"We're approaching Pershing County as just another game. It should be a good contest," Conn said. "That will be a good measuring stick to see how far we've come."

Conn is also looking forward to the Highlanders' playoff test against the Lions, who are seeking back-to-back Division III state titles. Yerington won the first meeting against Incline, 46-20, in Yerington on Sept. 26.

"We've grown quite a bit since then," Conn said. "If we can be competitive against Pershing County, then I think we have a good chance."

As was the case against West Wendover, the Highlanders will be without one of their biggest playmakers, as senior receiver, kick returner and defensive back Alex Zissis quit the team after Incline's loss at Battle Mountain on Oct. 17.

West Wendover 0, Incline 47

W. Wendover 0 0 0 0 — 0

Incline 27 14 6 0 — 47

First Quarter

I — Graffis 70-yard run (kick failed)

I — Graffis 5-yard pass from Clouthier (conversion failed)

I — Snyder 10-yard pass from Clouthier (Graffis run)

I — Clouthier 28-yard interception return (Sanchez kick)

Second Quarter

I — Graffis 28-yard run (Conn kick)

I — Sunseri 2-yard run (Con kick)

Third Quarter

I — Zendner 12-yard fumble return (kick failed)

Individual stats (Incline only)

RUSHING — Incline, 30-287: Graffis 11-204; Guymon 3-35; Sanchez 1-17; Clouthier 4-14; Zendner 5-10; Sunseri 5-7; Cory 1-0.

PASSING — Incline: Clouthier 3-6-38-2-1.

RECEIVING — Incline: Snyder 2-33; Graffis 1-5.