State football champs trying to regain swagger | SierraSun.com

State football champs trying to regain swagger

Sylas Wright

Truckee HS Football Practice Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun

The consensus among the Truckee High football team is that there’s a lot of work to be done in order to reach the elite status of last year’s 3A state champions. But given time, the fresh crop is confident they will.”Right now we’re just getting out of the crawling stage,” Wolverines head coach Bob Shaffer said Wednesday, six days after the first day of practice. “There’s not really any consistency right now.”A lack of teamwork is to be expected on any team in the first week of practice. But it’s even more of a given on a squad returning only three starters – all of whom, fortunately for Truckee, are All-State defenders. Losing 27 senior players to graduation still hurts, though. “That’s a pretty big dent in experience,” Shaffer said.One of the three starters from a year ago, 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior defensive end Kyle Steverman, is not worried.”We lost a lot of our main players from last year,” Steverman said, naming All-State safety and Truckee’s defensive player of the year Randon Nunez as the most crucial loss defensively, “but I think we’ll be fine … We’ve got a good line this year and a good secondary.”Nunez, after leading the Wolverines with 127 tackles, 10 knockdowns, three interceptions and a strip last season, received a scholarship to play at Eastern Oregon University.

Another starting returnee, senior defensive tackle Jorge Vasquez, also has faith in his team, despite the sluggish pre-season practices. “We’re starting out kind of slow, but I think eventually we’ll pick up the intensity,” Vasquez said. “We have a lot of talent on the team. We just need to use it.” Senior defensive back John Hooper rounds off the list of defensive starters from the 2004 team. Robert Jones, a senior who played defensive back last year and reserve to All-State quarterback and Truckee’s offensive player of the year Paul Tierney, and Tommy Nichols, a junior who started at quarterback for the junior varsity before a knee injury sidelined him for the season, will be competing for the quarterback job. Both bring desirable traits to the table.”Jones has knowledge of the offense and his leadership characteristics are huge,” Shaffer said. “When he steps in the huddle players respect his ability. Like with any good quarterback, they shut up and listen.”About Nichols: “He’s a smart kid and has a lot of athletic ability,” Shaffer said.No longer will a Truckee quarterback have the luxury of throwing to 6-foot-4-inch target Jamie Maehler, who with 2,969 total yards owns the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association 3A receiving record, and is now playing on a full-ride scholarship for the U.S. Military Academy at West point, N.Y.Senior split end Brandon Peterson will be grabbing passes for the Wolverines this season, though, and he realizes the importance of regaining the form from a year ago.

“Last year we had a pretty focused team,” Peterson said. “This year we’re still working as individuals. We need to get our focus back … Coach (Shaffer) is being extra hard on us. His discipline level is high, and we need it. We’re out here to learn.”Repeating as state champs”As far as the season is concerned, the players’ goal is to be the first team to win back-to-back state championships,” Shaffer said. “It’s a page of history they’re eager to get.”Jones knows it will not be easy.”I think it’s going to take a big team effort,” the quarterback said as he tossed the ball around with Nichols. “It’s not going to be like last year. We’re going to have to work hard and come together.”With a heap of athletic players up from the junior varsity, which has compiled 27 wins in the last three years and only two losses, Shaffer is sure it’s just a matter of time before they find their groove.

“We know they have talent,” Shaffer said of his junior players. “They’ve showed a propensity to be successful. It’s just a matter of them proving themselves up here (at varsity).”It’s their turn to step up and show us, and the state, what they’re capable of.”Other Northern 3A teamsLeague play should be tough this season, Shaffer said. He looks for Spring Creek, Lowry, Fernley and Dayton to all be competitive.”It should be a dog fight every game, which is good,” he said. “If we can match or even come close to what we had last year, we’ll be looking pretty good.”A little early sloppiness does not concern Shaffer, as last year’s state champions lost their first game to Hug before shifting into high gear and powering through rest of the season in full throttle. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Shaffer said. “I always feel good about how our teams look at the end of the year. So if someone has a shot at us, it better be early.”