Highlanders football wins season finale
The Highlanders football team got off to another slow start on Friday, Oct. 20, against a hungry Coral Academy of Science — Reno team, but 26 unanswered points in the second half led to an Incline homecoming victory in the team’s season finale.
Both offenses were able to move the ball on the ground to start the game, but mistakes killed drives for both teams.
The Falcons’ second possession was much more rewarding as they marched down the field and scored, putting Incline in a 7-0 hole.
The Highlanders then recovered an attempted onside kick by the Falcons and had the ball on the 50-yard line. On the first play of the drive, freshman quarterback Dylan Cleary handed the ball off to fellow freshman, Brad Rye, who bounced outside and ran almost untouched into the end zone. Freshman kicker Marco Barraza’s extra point was good and the score was tied 7-7.
The Falcons next drive was all on the ground and they were threatening to score again when junior Eleazar Santiago recovered a fumble.
Coral Academy went to the air on their next drive, with a successful 40-yard pass play followed by a series of running plays that resulted in a touchdown. The extra point was no good so the Falcons led 13-7 at halftime.
The Highlanders opened the second half with a balanced attack of runs and passes, finished by a 45-yard pass from Cleary to sophomore Zach Pexa. The extra point failed, leaving the score at 13-13.
The Highlanders defense rose to the occasion and forced a quick three-and-out on the next possession.
The Incline offense took advantage of the opportunity. Cleary completed a pass to Pexa, and on the next play junior Eleazar Santiago ran up the middle for a 20-yard Highlanders touchdown. The extra point once again failed, leaving the score at 19-13.
The Incline defense continue to dominate the third quarter, stopping the next drive with a quarterback sack by senior defensive end, Max Wilderman. Santiago then got the call on back-to-back plays, scoring easily. Cleary threw the ball to Pexa for the two-point conversion and the Highlanders lead was extended to 27-13.
The Falcons next drive was stopped by an interception by sophomore linebacker, Jorge Cardiel,
After a pass interference penalty extended the Incline drive, Cleary found sophomore wide receiver Gage Peirce for a Highlanders touchdown to make the score 33-13.
The Falcons started the fourth quarter with the ball and took full advantage. They ran down the field and scored when quarterback Bernard Rongcal kept the option and ran for a touchdown. The extra point attempt failed, leaving the score at 33-19.
Cleary then went right back to work. After his first pass was dropped, he threw a quick pass to Rye who did the rest himself on a 70-yard Highlanders touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, making the score 39-19.
The Falcons following drive ended in a fumble., but on the team’s ensuing possession the Falcons ran down the field for two first downs. Rongcal then kept an option and found the end zone. The two-point conversion was good for the final points of the night to make the score 39-27.
The win caps off a season in which the Highlanders played independently of their usual Class 2A Northern League schedule due to the team’s inexperience on the varsity level and the amount of underclassmen on the team’s roster. The Highlanders’ schedule included several rivals from years past, and also a pair of junior varsity opponents. The Highlanders finish the year with a 4-3 record, including a forfeit win over Valley Christian.