It’s Truckee football |

It’s Truckee football

McWilliams Photography/ High quarterback Tucker Ballister throws under pressure during Saturday's 33-7 Truckee win over Piedmont.

Three plays into Saturday’s football game at Surprise Stadium, when Piedmont (Calif.) running back Peter Modera dashed 81 yards down the Highlander sideline for a touchdown, it looked as if it was going to be a long afternoon for the Wolverines.

Instead, the opposite was true as a hard-hitting and efficient Truckee team picked up its intensity en route to a 33-7 non-league victory.

“We still made a lot of mistakes, but it was good to get that first win. It was a much-needed win,” said Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer, whose team began the season 0-2 before Saturday’s victory. “I thought we started playing Truckee football. We were a little more physical and our offensive line did a better job than in the first two games.

“It was a start in the right direction.”

Indeed. And while Shaffer was not happy about the Wolverines committing 13 penalties, the team showed vast improvement from weeks one and two on both sides of the ball.

“We got a glimpse of the potential that this team could have,” Shaffer said. “We still have a long way to go, but it sure was nice to get the win.”

Piedmont head coach Kurt Bryan ” whose team matched Truckee’s 13 penalties ” was not in a good mood after the game. He cited home-field officiating as the reason for the rout.

“It was the worst officiating I’ve seen in 21 years coaching,” Bryan said. “The officials didn’t give us a chance to compete in the game. It was obscene.

“This is the first time in 21 years I’ve ever put blame on the officials. It was blatant manipulation. Our kids played hard and they played tough, but (the officials) just took the game away.

“Anybody who knows me knows I don’t whine.”

Shaffer acknowledged that the officials called a tight game. But he didn’t think they showed bias in doing so.

“It was just a penalty-marred game on both sides. The officials were calling everything, Shaffer said. “Both teams should have found out early that they were calling a close game …”

“But I will say this: I think we outplayed them. The kids carried out the game plan. … Not only did we beat them, but (the Highlanders) were beat up. I was very happy because their kids were a lot bigger than us.”

Shaffer’s common reference to playing “Truckee football” relates directly to the tough, physical style of play that helped lead the Wolverines to back-to-back Nevada 3A state titles.

That smashmouth style, which had been missing the first two weeks of the season, was present on Saturday as Wolverine players ” on offense and defense ” played with controlled abandon. The Highlanders, most of whom were larger than their Truckee opponents, felt the brunt of the home team’s transformation.

As the game wore on and the Truckee hits accumulated, Piedmont ball carriers, and even tacklers, became slower in getting to their feet after contact plays.

Truckee senior fullback Drew Stewart, who finished the game with 71 yards rushing and a touchdown on 10 carries, was a bruising force, often opting to put his head down to plow through a defender rather than go around. Stewart also picked up 39 yards after catching a short pass from junior quarterback Tucker Ballister on Truckee’s initial drive.

Senior wingback Andrew Mazzini, who had 61 rushing yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, also ran the ball hard, as did junior halfback Keven Sahlberg.

Sahlberg led Truckee’s balanced ground attack with 85 yards on 14 touches, and excited the home crowd with an 18-yard touchdown run during which he bounced off several would-be tackles.

Senior split end Frankie Scholz put Truckee on the board in the first quarter on a 2-yard touchdown reception from Ballister.

Starting in place of an injured B.J. Carter, Ballister completed five of six passes for 74 yards before a hit took him out of the game late in the second quarter. Carter, cleared to play on Thursday despite sore ribs, replaced his replacement and went on to complete four of his five passes for 38 yards. Neither quarterback threw an interception.

For Piedmont, junior quarterback Alexander Menke connected on six of 21 passes for 43 yards and two interceptions in place of regular starting senior Will Conn.

Truckee’s defense ” led by Paris Tenorio, Ryan Macken, Cole Hodges, Tommy Nichols, Kirk Haynes and others ” also clamped down on Piedmont’s running game, holding the Highlanders to 168 yards on 28 carries after Modera’s 81-yard TD run on the first drive of the game. Modera finished with 158 yards on 17 carries.

It was no coincidence that Piedmont had trouble moving the ball after its first drive, as Wolverine defenders swarmed the ball and allowed for little running room.

Leading 26-7 late in the fourth quarter, Truckee safety Pablo Esquivel added the finishing touch when he picked off a Menke pass at the Truckee 13-yard line and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown, bringing the score to 33-7 after Cruz Esquivel kicked through the extra point.

The Wolverines host Winters (Calif.) Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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