Shaffer prepares team for state title game | SierraSun.com

Shaffer prepares team for state title game

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunSenior wingback Ben Tonon breaks away for a touchdown against North Tahoe in the first round of the Nevada 3A playoffs Nov. 5.

Bob Shaffer’s Truckee High football team has improved by “leaps and bounds” this season. But the Wolverines’ most recent, and most important, victory ” a 31-13 thumping of No. 1 seeded Spring Creek in the state semifinal last Saturday ” has the veteran coach concerned that complacency could hinder preparation for the final challenge.

“You always worry about that when a team wins a game of such importance,” Shaffer said. “But we’ve got to move on. In reality, [Spring Creek] was just a stumbling block on the way to a state championship.

“Now that we’re here we have to focus on the next game.”

Next up is southern Nevada representative Virgin Valley, which, like Truckee, started slowly but is on a roll. If the Wolverines win in Saturday’s championship game at Mackay Stadium, they will become the first Truckee team to nab back-to-back state titles.

The Virgin Valley Bulldogs, from Mesquite, Nev. northeast of Las Vegas, reached the .500 mark (6-6) for the first time this season in a 26-14 victory over visiting Dayton last Saturday. The team got off to a 1-5 start before winning five of its last six games.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” Virgin Valley head coach Kirk Hafen said of the season. “The last few weeks we’ve been playing much better ball, not making the mistakes we were early on.”

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Hafen, now in his 14th year as coach of the Bulldogs, knows a bit about Truckee football. Two years ago his team eliminated Truckee from the playoffs 28-21. Last year the Wolverines skunked his team 42-0 in the state semifinal. And those weren’t the only meetings.

“We’ve probably played Truckee eight of the last 10 years [in the 3A playoffs],” Hafen said. “They’re always a physical, well-coached team. It’s going to be a tough game for us.

“We know they’re big and physical up front and have a couple good [running] backs.”

The Wolverines are also aware of these things, now more than ever coming off a seven-game win streak.

“As a coaching staff we gave them the speech,” Shaffer said, the essence of the talk being a warning against feeling too smug. “They have to forget about [the Spring Creek game] and go out and accomplish what we set out to do. And that’s win back-to-back state championships.”