Truckee ready to rumble |

Truckee ready to rumble

Chuck Smith/Smithandsons.photoreflect.comTruckee High junior Ryan Roberts follows a gang of blockers into the end zone for one of his three touchdowns during the Wolverines' 35-27 win over Sparks on Saturday. Roberts and his Truckee team, which secured the No. 1 seed in the Northern 3A, take on fourth-seeded Fernley in the opening game of the postseason Saturday at 1 p.m. at Truckee's Surprise Stadium.

Truckee beat Fernley to the punch in Round 1, landing the first blow and the decisive knockout in the waning minutes of a 21-14 slugfest at Surprise Stadium.

That was Oct. 6, a pivotal point in the young season when Northern 3A supremacy had yet to be established.

Fast-forward to Saturday ” a week after the Wolverines (5-0) staked their claim to the league title and the Vaqueros salvaged a 2-3 season ” and the Round 2 scenario remains much the same.

The key difference: The loser of the opening playoff game hangs up its pads, while the winner struts one step closer to a state championship.

Despite Fernley’s three league losses, which relegated it to the fourth playoff seed, Truckee coach Bob Shaffer has been around long enough to know that past results mean nothing once the opening kickoff sails into the sky. Especially against the 3A foe that put up the strongest fight.

“They’re probably the toughest opponent we’ve faced all year,” Shaffer said. “They have very good athletes.”

Mark Hodges, head coach of the Vaqueros, reciprocated Shaffer’s respect for his opponent.

“Especially when you’re playing a program of Truckee’s tradition and history, it’s always a big game,” Hodges said. “We’re pleased to be playing Truckee. We wouldn’t want to be playing anybody else. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best. And you usually have to go through Truckee.”

Knowing this, Hodges made the one-hour drive to Surprise Stadium last weekend to scout the Truckee-Sparks contest. He said people have been asking for his assessment ever since the Wolverines secured the No. 1 seed with a 35-27 win.

“I think the best team won,” the coach said. “There’s no doubt about it. Truckee was the best team in every aspect. And I think Sparks is a good team, too.”

Asked if he thought Hodges gained an advantage scouting the game, Shaffer brushed off the notion.

“No, because we’re pretty much doing the same thing now as we were back then (on Oct. 6),” Shaffer said. “We’ve been doing the same thing since 1995. We might tweak a few things here and there, but for the most part, we haven’t changed anything since I got here.”

Another constant since Shaffer took the reigns is Truckee football’s hometown support. It hasn’t wavered.

“We hope we have a packed crowd on Saturday,” Shaffer said, adding that some fans in the community will be in the gym watching Truckee volleyball host the Northern 3A’s regional tournament. “There’s nothing better than to hear that noise behind you. And we’ve always said we have the best fans in the 3A. We hope that people who do show up are loud and proud of their team out on the field.”

As opposed to early in the season, when injuries plagued the Wolverines, the Truckee squad is as close as it comes to a complete unit. The only missing piece is senior Cruz Esquivel, who suffered a leg injury last week and will not see action on Saturday, Shaffer said. Esquivel will be missed, as he “filled in all over the place,” playing halfback and defensive end and handling place-kicking, field goals and point-after attempts.

“Losing Cruz last week throws a monkey wrench into things,” Shaffer said. “Cruz did so many things for us. … Now we’re involving three or four other guys (in his place). Hopefully they’ll be game-ready by Saturday.”

Junior halfback and defensive back Justin Vosburgh will play dinged up, as he still is nursing a broken right hand.

Hodges called for another smashmouth football game reminiscent of the first meeting ” yet he held off on predicting the outcome.

“I expect an even tougher, harder-hitting game than we saw last time,” he said. “I think it will be a real physical game between two teams that want it real bad.”

The Truckee High football team was awarded the NIAA 3A State Academic Team Championship with a collective GPA of 3.42.

The Wolverines host the Northern 3A Volleyball Championship in the Truckee High gym on Saturday. Truckee, the No. 1 seed, has a first-round bye and is scheduled to play at 1:20 p.m. The championship match is scheduled for 5 p.m., just in time for football fans to pile into the gym to support their team.

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