Incline football | Highlanders eke out close win at ROP
Incline 24, ROP 22
Incline 14 7 0 3 — 24
ROP 0 14 0 8 — 22
RUSHING — I, 37-165: Clouthier 13-65; Graffis 3-53; Sunseri 19-48; Zissis 2-(-1). R, 37-402: Flores 10-132; Hawkins 10-96; Ingram 4-71; Duff 2-31; Gerdin 2-31; Stanley 4-28; Magallanez 4-11; Scott 1-2.
PASSING — I: Clouthier 8-20-107-0. R: Magallanez 3-15-78-1.
RECEIVING — I: Snyder 4-40; Zissis 1-30; Zendner 1-25; Sunseri 2-12. R: Duff 3-78.
It may not have been pretty, but the Highlanders will take a 1-0 league start any way they can get it.
“Even when you win ugly, it’s still a ‘W,’” Incline coach Scott Conn said after his team’s 24-22, league-opening win at Rite of Passage (ROP) on Saturday.
Incline seemed on its way to a lopsided victory after scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the first five minutes of the game. But after junior running back Owen Graffis, who scored both first-quarter TDs, went down with a hip injury, the Rams began chipping away at the visitors’ lead.
“They slowly but surely crawled back in the game,” Conn said.
The Rams scored two touchdowns of their own in the second quarter and entered the half trailing 21-14.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Incline junior kicker Jerry Sanchez booted a 30-yard field goal after a Joe Sunseri touchdown run was called back on a motion penalty. The field goal proved crucial, as ROP answered with a touchdown and 2-point conversion to close the gap to 2.
Using eight different ball carriers, the athletic Rams rushed for 402 yards on 37 carries, and may well have found the end zone more than three times had they not lost four of the seven fumbles that Incline caused.
Sanchez and Jessie Segoviano recovered two fumbles each to help keep the Highlanders in front.
“They are very athletic. When they get in the open field they are very tough to tackle,” Conn said of the Rams. “But our defense has gotten better and better as they’ve settle into our new scheme. They were popping them.”
Conn said Sanchez, whom he named his Defensive Player of the Game, was all over the place on the defensive side of the ball. He recorded eight tackles in the contest, including five solo. Ben Snyder had a team-high nine tackles, plus an interception, and Michael Guymon had eight tackles.
Senior quarterback Jack Clouthier — Incline’s overall Player of the Game — helped preserve the Highlanders’ lead with his legs. He returned a kickoff 80 yards to the house in the second quarter and finished with 65 yards rushing.
Graffis had 53 rushing yards on just three carries, while Sunseri, who was named Offensive Player of the Game, rushed for 48 yards. Snyder caught four passes for 40 yards.
Juan Flores led ROP with 132 yards rushing on just 10 carries, with one touchdown. Marlon Hawkins added 96 yards on 10 carries.
The Highlanders (4-1 overall) should receive their toughest test of the young season when they travel to face defending Division III state champion Yerington on Friday. Yerington is 1-0 in league after defeating West Wendover 51-6. The Lions are 1-2 overall, with a 14-0 loss to Division I-A Truckee and a forfeit loss to Division I Hug.
“Playing the defending state champs is both an honor and a very scary thing,” Conn said. ‘They really beat us up last year. They lost a lot of seniors, but I think with the JV program they have, they aren’t rebuilding; they just reloaded. They are bigger than we are. It’s going to take a lot of focused effort on our part to get a win.”