Fernley’s late touchdown drive sinks Truckee
Fernley’s game-winning touchdown drive — that began with less than a minute left in regulation — spoiled the Truckee Wolverines’ comeback from a 20-0 deficit on Friday, Oct. 20, in a contest that decided the regular season Northern League championship.
After trailing all night against Fernley, the Wolverines took a 21-20 lead late in the game on senior Michael Doughty’s touchdown grab with 51.5 seconds left.
The touchdown completed Truckee’s comeback from down 20-0 in the first half, but Vaqueros senior quarterback Zach Burns responded by leading Fernley 68 yards in less than 45 seconds to retake a 26-21 lead on a game-winning touchdown pass with only a few seconds remaining on the clock. The Vaqueros were successful on the following two-point conversion for a 28-21 final score.
“Zach Burns, I think he’s the best quarterback in the league right now,” Fernley Head Coach Chris Ward said. “We put so much on his shoulders. He makes calls, he does all our audibles, he gets people lined up … the kid is so smart, and he is a competitor.”
The Wolverines struggled in the first quarter as Fernley’s biggest threat on offense, Aaron Proctor got loose on a 45-yard touchdown run to open the game.
The Wolverines went on to turn the ball over on their next two drives with a lost fumble deep in Fernley territory and an interception at midfield. Fernley capitalized on each turnover with scoring drives capped off each time by Burns taking a quarterback sneak into the end zone. Burns’ second touchdown made the score 20-0 with 9:50 left in the second quarter.
Truckee would start their next drive at their own 20-yard line, and used a variety of rushing plays as junior Marcus Trotter and senior Cole Eichele carried the Wolverines inside the 30-yard line. Senior Joel Estabrook then broke a tackle on a third-down play, and ran 23 yards for Truckee’s first touchdown. The extra point by junior Emmanuel Valenzuela-Jones made the score 20-7.
Fernley would then go on a 5-minute drive, converting on a fourth-and-three play, on their way inside the Truckee 10-yard line. A penalty would push the Vaqueros back, and the Truckee defense held on three straight plays to force a 30-yard field goal attempt, which missed the mark.
The Wolverines took over with 93 seconds left in the half and looked to put together a drive. But after Vaqueros senior Willy Pritchard picked up his second sack of the half, Truckee elected to head to the locker room.
The Wolverines took the ball to open the second half, but suffered a disheartening three-and-out. The Truckee defense, however, responded by forcing a punt near midfield. The snap on the play sailed over the punters head and the Wolverines took over at Fernley’s 16-yard line.
Eichele would then rush the ball to the 5-yard line, and after failing to score on first and second down, senior Jamie Parisi scored on a 6-yard touchdown reception to make the score 20-14.
Fernley would again go on a lengthy drive down to the Truckee 23-yard line, where they faced fourth and 8 yards to go. Burns would look to the end zone on the play, but Parisi made a diving deflection to give Truckee the ball.
After the Wolverines went three-and-out, the Truckee defense again forced a fourth-down play. This time junior Sean Kelly would make the play, deflecting the pass to force a turnover on downs.
Truckee took over near midfield with 4:48 left, and converted on a fourth-down play, before junior quarterback Marcus Bellon found Doughty for a touchdown reception with 51.5 seconds left in the contest. Valenzuela-Jones knocked in the extra point to give Truckee a 21-20 lead.
“I was sick to my stomach,” said Ward on the Truckee comeback. “I couldn’t believe we gave up all those points.”
The Vaqueros would get the ball at their own 32-yard line with 45.9 seconds left, and that’s where Burns took over, leading the Vaquero’s on a game-winning touchdown drive capped off with a play-action pass to junior AJ Kuha.
“I’m just happy to do it for the seniors,” Kuha said. “It’s what we do, just make plays.”
Because Churchill County (7-2, 6-2 Northern League) lost 42-25 to Spring Creek (6-3, 6-2 Northern League) on Friday night, the game between Truckee (7-2, 6-2 Northern League) and Fernley (8-1, 8-0 Northern League) decided the league title, with the Vaqueros taking the regular season honor.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t finish it — a little characteristic of a young team tonight,” said Truckee Head Coach Josh Ivens. “We didn’t start the way we wanted to and we didn’t finish, but I will tell you this, our guys played their butts off tonight … hats off to Fernley. They kept fighting too, and when they needed a drive, they got it done.”
Truckee will play in their regular season finale in a game that marks the yearly rivalry known as the Sierra Bowl between Truckee and South Tahoe. The Wolverines are 7-1 against the Vikings since 2010, but lost last year’s game 28-20.
The game will be at Truckee on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1:30 p.m.