Truckee hangs on against Spring Creek in instant classic
The Truckee defense came up with one of its biggest plays of the season during Saturday’s homecoming game against Spring Creek.
After falling behind 28-21 late in the game, the Spartans scored on a quarterback keeper with 1:10 remaining. Spring Creek then looked to take the lead by going for two — a situation nearly identical to the junior varsity game two seasons ago against the Spartans that many of Truckee’s seniors played in.
“Two years ago we played them on (junior varsity), and we lost by one point in the same exact situation — 2-yard line, I hit the quarterback in the backfield and he gets the handoff, and they (score),” said senior George Skaff.
“I saw the hole open up on this play (on Saturday), and I thought about that and I just charged in. I felt my brothers coming over top of me and I felt (Spring Creek senior running back Reed Westwood) go down. I knew they didn’t get it and that we had the win.”
Skaff and junior Jameson Hogarth combined on the tackle, bringing down the Spring Creek ball carrier to preserve Truckee’s 28-27 lead.
“I saw George come in, and then I came in and wrapped up too and we stopped him on the goal line,” said Hogarth. “We rallied up as a defense and proved that we’re Wolverines. We don’t stop fighting.”
Truckee would recover the ensuing onside kick to take the win, which earned the team a home field game to begin the Class 3A Northern League playoffs.
Offensively, sophomore quarterback Jackson Kahl had his best game of the year, completing 13 of 15 passes for 225 yards, a touchdown, and a pair of interceptions.
“We’ve been working hard at it,” said Coach Josh Ivens on the passing game. “I felt like I got too conservative last week and wanted to make sure that we solidified our pass game. Today, (Kahl) made good reads, good throws, and good decisions.
“He played within himself today. He didn’t force things. He came in today at my meeting and said, ‘Coach I’m going to take what they give us.’”
Truckee fell behind to start the game as Spring Creek drove 61 yards on its opening possession, scoring on an 11-yard touchdown run by Westwood. The Wolverines responded on their first drive of the game on senior Tyler Estabrook’s 4-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked, leaving the score at 7-6.
Estabrook finished the afternoon with a team-high 112 rushing yards on 13 carries. He also hauled in a perfectly thrown pass down the sideline from Kahl for a 57-yard touchdown to cap off Truckee’s second possession. Junior Finn Loper ran in the two-point conversion to give Truckee a 14-7 lead going into the second quarter.
The Spartans responded on the next drive by relying on the legs of junior Q Boyd as the team drove downfield before Boyd punched the ball in from a yard out to tie the game.
Truckee would later drive the ball more than 90 yards at the end of the second quarter, but the possession was spoiled inside the 10-yard line when Kahl was intercepted.
“The pick in the red zone was just a mental error for me and we’re definitely going to go back next week and fix it,” said Kahl. “There’s a lot to improve on, but I’m happy how I played.”
The interception was Kahl’s second of the half. The first one went off the hands of a receiver.
The Wolverines opened the second half by driving the length of the field, but a fumble inside the red zone derailed another opportunity to put points on the board.
“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” said Ivens. “But this team’s gritty. They’ve got fight.”
Spring Creek took the lead on the subsequent possession, scoring on a short run by Westwood.
A good return on the ensuing kickoff gave Truckee the ball near midfield. The Wolverines would turn the short field into points, finding the end zone on a 2-yard run by junior Jackson Ellermeyer.
After forcing a three and out on the next possession, Truckee drove the ball 61 yards, converting on a fourth down along the way, before senior Deacon Mehler dove over the goal line from a yard out to give the Wolverines the lead. Mehler finished the game with 55 yards on 14 carries. He also caught three passes for 43 yards. Sophomore Jairo Zarate knocked through the extra point to give Truckee a 28-21 lead.
The Spartans took over with 4:36 remaining in the game and drove 65 yards to set up the game-winning two-point conversion attempt, but the Truckee defense stiffened to deny Spring Creek the lead.
“I’m just proud of this group,” said Ivens on a Truckee team that started the season 1-3. “We were the underdogs coming into season, and we’ve turned it into one hell of a season.”
Senior Isaac Cruz led the Truckee receivers with five catches for 87 yards. Defensively, senior Connor McMullen led the team with 11 tackles. Junior Dillon Kane and Skaff each posted nine tackles. Senior Ethan Hatcher caused a fumble.
Truckee (5-3, 5-2 Northern League) will close out the regular season at home on Saturday against South Tahoe (4-5, 2-5 Northern League). The Sierra Bowl is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. at Surprise Stadium. With a victory, Truckee can lock up the No. 3 seed ahead of next month’s playoffs.
“We’re going to have to improve on the mental errors,” said Kahl. “We need to win the turnover battle and just improve all week.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at email@example.com.