Sierra Sun sports editor
True, the North Tahoe Lakers varsity football team hasn’t defeated the Truckee Wolverines in 17 years.
True, Truckee leads the all-time regular season series 20-9.
True, Truckee has outscored Northern 3A opponents 230-49 in five league wins this season, while North Tahoe has lost three times to those same five opponents.
True, Truckee boasts a roster of more than 50 players, while North Tahoe has hovered around the 20 mark all season.
These specifics would lead the impartial football fan to question the significance of the North Tahoe-Truckee rivalry, but in the psyche of high school football players separated by just a short stretch of road on Highway 89, past results tend to be irrelevant.
“You don’t have to jack the kids up for this game,” said second-year North Tahoe head coach Scott Everist. “It’s Truckee week; it’s your rival week. These kids understand the significance of it.”
In the same vain that the Boston Red Sox “reversed the curse” in their storied rivalry with the New York Yankees when Boston overcame a 3-0 series deficit to win the recent American League Championship Series, the Lakers are waiting for the hands of time to eventually turn in their favor. That same anxiousness stirs the minds of those affiliated with both teams when the two prepare to play each other each October.
“Truckee’s won for a number of years now,” Everist said. “Our kids will be ready, and they want to be the guys to take them down. I’m sure they’re talking to their guys and saying, ‘You don’t want to be the first ones to lose (in such a long time).'”
It turns out Everist is right. The Truckee Wolverines coaching staff is led by head coach Bob Shaffer, who hasn’t experienced a loss to North Tahoe since he became a coach at Truckee in 1993. Usually, it’s the pressure to win that concerns a sports team, but in Shaffer’s case it’s the pressure not to lose that makes the rivalry game that much more nerve-wracking.
“I think it’s kind of like De La Salle going into their games when they had such a long winning streak (from 1992 to 2003, De La Salle won 151 straight contests) going,” Shaffer said. “You always have it in the back of your mind, ‘What senior class is going to be the first to lose?'”
That’s precisely what makes the past results in this matchup less relevant in high school. Players typically have two years to leave their mark on the varsity level ” and none of this year’s Truckee players want to say they lost to the team just down the road on Highway 89.
Shaffer, also the Truckee High School athletic director, said, “I think it’s a healthy rivalry in all of our sports, whether it be soccer, or skiing, or anything we do. Any time you play a rivalry game it doesn’t matter what the records are. The team that plays mistake-free football, plays the hardest and is most prepared will win.”
Neither team will be fighting for their playoff lives ” Truckee has already clinched the Northern 3A title, and North Tahoe’s playoff prospect is not dependent on conquering Truckee ” but the teams may be using Saturday’s game as a measuring stick for a first-round Northern 3A playoff game against one another on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Truckee.
It’s the Lakers’ freedom to experiment that has Shaffer slightly concerned.
“In these kinds of games, the underdogs tend to have the advantage because they can play a little less by the book and be a little more chancier, figuring, ‘What do they have to lose?'” Shaffer said. “At times, you have to be ready for the trick stuff like fake punts, reverses and double passes.”
Whether or not the Lakers evoke some trickery on offense will be demonstrated on Saturday. As far as a strategic game plan, Everist said the Lakers will try to “get the ball in the hands of its best guys” on offense, which naturally starts with quarterback Gavin Lofstedt.
Lofstedt will not hurt you with his arm as much as his legs, but he did complete a 72-yard pass to teammate Brandon Pfennig in North Tahoe’s most recent loss to Spring Creek.
In that game against Spring Creek, running back James Edwards rushed for 340 yards on 48 carries and ran right through the strength of the Lakers’ defense.
“We were pretty good at stopping the run until that game versus Spring Creek,” Everist said. “That guy ran all over us.”
In fairness to North Tahoe, Edwards, only a junior, has ran through most of his opponents in the same fashion. He is on pace to break the career Greater Nevada rushing record in Spring Creek’s first postseason game. The difference between Truckee and Spring creek, however, is that Truckee will attack defenses from a number of angles with a number of different people.
Ten different players have scored touchdowns for the Wolverines this season, and eight of those players have crossed the goal line at least twice.
“It’s pretty rare to see that (at the high school level), but it’s not like we haven’t seen that before (from Truckee)” Everist said. “We’re trying to work out some things defensively to slow them down, but it will be pretty tough to stop their passing game. Most of the season, the pass has hurt us. If you try to take away (Jamie) Maehler, they just go to the other guys.”
Maehler has touched the ball 40 times ” 26 catches and 14 carries ” and has seen the end zone nine times, but he’s not even Truckee’s leading scorer. Running back Nick Cabral has 10 touchdowns and running backs Mike Lopez and Micah Carbajal each have five.
Everist said North Tahoe could suit up as few as 18 players against Truckee after LB/FB Randy Jansen (quad) and starting linebacker Evan Thomas (concussion) were hurt in the Spring Creek game. Senior running back Julio Terrazas has carried the load this season and will get even more touches if Jansen can’t go.
Shaffer has been on the winning sideline every time against North Tahoe, but he hasn’t ever lost respect for his crosstown rivals. And it’s no different this season, even if the Lakers are hampered by injuries.
“They have a resilience to bounce back from adversity,” Shaffer said. “Everist and those guys take a lot of pride in what they do. They know they could see us in two weeks in a row, so they’ll want to make a good showing.”
For North Tahoe, they’re hoping the ghosts of football’s past will be just a bit kinder on the 30th anniversary.
“It’s been hit and miss all year, and hopefully we can get a hit against Truckee,” Everist said.
– Truckee: 6-1 overall (5-0 Northern 3A)
Day Date Opponent Result All N.3A
Fri. Sept. 3 @ Hug L, 34-21 0-1 0-0
Fri. Sept. 17 @ Sparks W, 52-0 1-1 1-0
Sat. Sept. 25 vs. Spring Creek W, 35-6 2-1 2-0
Sat. Oct. 2 vs. Damonte Ranch W, 40-6 3-1 2-0
Fri. Oct. 8 @ Fernley W, 47-0 4-1 3-0
Sat. Oct. 16 vs. Dayton W, 48-21 5-1 4-0
Fri. Oct. 22 @ Lowry W, 48-22 6-1 5-0
Sat. Oct. 30 vs. North Tahoe 1:30 p.m.
– North Tahoe: 3-4 overall (2-3 Northern 3A)
Day Date Opponent Result All N.3A
Fri. Sept. 3 @ Quincy L, 31-26 0-1 0-0
Fri. Sept. 10 @ Damonte Ranch W, 37-0 1-1 0-0
Sat. Sept. 25 vs. Lowry L, 14-7 1-2 0-1
Fri. Oct. 1 @ Sparks W, 24-21 2-2 1-1
Sat. Oct. 9 vs. Dayton L, 20-14 2-3 1-2
Sat. Oct. 16 vs. Fernley W, 51-0 3-3 2-2
Fri. Oct. 22 @ Spring Creek L, 31-3 3-4 2-3
Sat. Oct. 30 @ Truckee 1:30 p.m.
* North Tahoe/Truckee rivalry turns 30 years old:
* Personal account of first-ever North Tahoe/Truckee game:
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Students from North Tahoe and Truckee recently made the trip to Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley to compete in the annual Kays Ostrom Invitational.