Sierra Sun sports editor
In two seasons together, they have connected for 94 receptions, 17 touchdowns and more than 1,800 yards and are arguably the most prolific pass-catch combo in Nevada high school football history.
The statistics prove it.
In 2003, his first year as a varsity quarterback, Paul Tierney set the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) single-season yardage mark ” 2,450 ” and threw 18 touchdown passes in 11 games.
Jamie Maehler was Tierney’s prime target, catching 60 passes for an NIAA single-season record 1,223 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But there is one stat, the most important stat, that has evaded Tierney and Maehler in their varsity careers: A 3A state championship. Tierney and Maehler have already cemented their legacy in Truckee football history, but two more wins will provide the most fitting end to their stellar careers.
“Stats aren’t really that important when it gets down to it,” said Maehler, who is in his third year on varsity. “I’d rather have a state ring.”
The numbers they’ve compiled are amazing, but any intelligent sports fan knows statistics are only a small part of measuring a particular player’s value to a team. Having known each other since kindergarten, Tierney and Maehler are good friends, good teammates, and good sports. They’ve bought into the Truckee football tradition that emphasizes the team concept. Through their actions on the gridiron, one would hardly know by watching them play that they have made history over the past two seasons.
“(Coach Bob Shaffer) definitely always tells us to play for the name in front of our jerseys, not in the back,” Tierney said. “They always talk about being a family. You can’t play as an individual because it doesn’t happen in football.”
In fact, Maehler’s 2004 receiving numbers are down from a year ago, but he has embraced his coaches’ philosophy of maximizing a large talent pool on offense. Maehler even goes beyond the offense while endorsing the Truckee emphasis on team.
“We just have more offensive weapons (this season),” he said. “It’s really good not to have to rely on a few people on the team. Now we have everyone (contributing) ” the offensive line is doing well, and the defense is getting us the ball. This is the best defense I’ve played for during my three years on varsity.”
In other words, you won’t find the me, myself and I Terrell Owens complex in Maehler’s personality. But, with a hint of sarcasm, he isn’t about to deny that he loves having the ball in his hands.
“I’ll be guarded by three people, and I’ll say, ‘Paul, I was open. What are you doing out there?'” Maehler laughs. “The receiver position is naturally a greedy position.”
Truckee has answered defenses’ increased attention on Maehler by giving him 18 carries this season. Maehler has taken advantage of the extra touches, rushing for five touchdowns and averaging nearly 17 yards per rush.
At the conclusion of last season, Maehler already owned the career NIAA receiving record and now has 2,803 yards in his Truckee career. The most amazing part of his story is that his first year of organized football was, believe it or not, his sophomore year.
Maehler played soccer as a freshman, but he caught the eye of Truckee varsity football head coach and physical education teacher Bob Shaffer during a flag football game.
“Coach Shaffer said, ‘Have you ever played organized football?’ and I said, ‘No,'” Maehler said as he rehashed the events that led up to the beginning of his football career. “He said, ‘Well, you should try.’ I was tired of soccer, so I gave it a try. I just wanted to try something new, and it happened to work for me.”
It took about a month for Maehler to agree to the “career change,” but one might say that Maehler answered his true calling. In fact, the only reason Shaffer noticed Maehler was because he was subbing for another P.E. teacher that day. He liked what he saw.
“He was very athletic, and he did some things that seemed to come natural to him,” Shaffer said. “We needed an extra receiver because we knew (2002 quarterback) Kevin Schlesinger was going to throw quite a bit as a senior. And the rest is history from there.”
The sophomore’s natural ability took over. On his way to throwing for more than 2,000 yards that season, Schlesinger hooked up with Maehler for 979 yards receiving.
Maehler is always dangerous running routes or taking handoffs, but both Shaffer and Maehler admitted the most noticeable improvement in Maehler’s game is what he now does without the ball.
“Last year he came into his own, but this year he’s a much better blocker and also very unselfish,” Shaffer said.
“I used to be the little nail,” Maehler said, “and now I feel like I’m hitting people a lot more and getting some marks on the helmet. My helmet was clean my sophomore year.”
Tierney, on the other hand, has been playing quarterback for a Truckee football team every year since he played Pop Warner in fourth grade. As he rose up through the Truckee ranks, people took notice of how he casually handled arguably the most important position on the football field. One of the more anxious people in town was Shaffer.
“I’ve been able to see his development, and I couldn’t wait for him to get up here because I knew he had a good grasp of the quarterback position,” Shaffer said. “We just had to teach him our scheme. Once he got a handle on it, he became a very good quarterback.”
In two seasons, Tierney has thrown 37 touchdown passes, amassed 4,114 yards and needs 262 yards to finish second all-time in the NIAA record book. He will more than likely fall short of the quarterback he replaced ” Schlesinger ” but he had one less year to do it.
Again, the stats are incredible, but it’s Tierney’s almost flawless ability to make wise decisions and “thread the needle” with a precision unheard of at the high school level that baffles those that watch him. He has completed 70 percent of his passes and has thrown only two interceptions this season.
“Paul has an uncanny ability to put the ball where our guys can get it,” Shaffer said. “He does that on a regular basis, but the receivers do a good job of catching the ball. It also goes hand-in-hand with the protection up front.”
Ever since he threw his first pass in Pop Warner, Tierney has embraced the role of field general on offense.
“I like the leadership,” he said. “I like to be in charge out on the field, call audibles and communicate with coach Shaffer.”
Tierney and Maehler “have known each other forever and always have been friends,” Tierney said. Being good friends usually translates to being good teammates. The two agree they have always had good chemistry, not just on the gridiron, but also on the basketball court.
“We played middle school basketball together, and we used to always say that we could feel each other on the court,” Tierney said. “Most of my assists were to him. It’s the same way on the football field, especially in the games. We’ll get together and say, ‘Come on, we have to make this happen.'”
[Tierney and Maehler take on Virgin Valley on Saturday, Nov. 13, in the 3A state semifinals:
Tierney and Maehler both want to further their football careers in college.
Tentatively, Maehler is interested in three Division I colleges: University of Nevada, Reno, Brigham Young University, and California Berkeley.
“I’m still looking for scholarships, and I’ve been setting up appointments to visit colleges, so we’ll see where it goes,” he said. “I’m really looking for throwing offenses. It’s definitely an exciting process to see how it all works.”
Unfortunately, Tierney’s size (6’0″, 175 pounds) is not what Division I schools covet, but he is not ruling out playing for a small school.
“If I don’t go to Division I, I’ll play wherever,” Tierney said. “When I was younger, I always wanted to play baseball in college. But after last season, I really started to love football.”
Tierney said he will throw routes with next year’s slated Truckee quarterback ” current junior Robert Jones ” next summer. Tierney will work more with Truckee quarterbacks coach Nick Fertitta and lift weights, he said.
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.