Lakers blowout Bobcats in first ever Friday night home game
The North Tahoe football team made history Friday night, and did so in winning fashion, taking a 51-14 blowout win against White Pine in the school’s first ever Friday night football game.
The game between the teams served as the Lakers homecoming and fans showed up in force, filling the stands in what Head Coach Scott Everist said was the biggest attendance at a Lakers football game in more than a decade.
“It was terrific. It was packed,” said Everist. “It’s been at least 15 years since we’ve had a crowd like that.
“Five years ago when we didn’t have the team, no one would’ve ever though a night like this would take place. It’s a testament to the community and the kids and their hard work. I couldn’t be happier, and we’re in the hunt.”
The Lakers fell behind 6-0 early on against the Bobcats after a losing fumble, but from that point on North Tahoe dominated the evening. Quarterback Thomas Mercogliano turned in a career night on the biggest stage of the season, thus far, scoring four rushing touchdowns and another three through the air.
“He made some big plays with his speed, and then he can throw too,” said Everist. “He’s our all-purpose guy, and he’s playing awesome.”
Mercogliano put the Lakers out front midway through the second quarter, improvising on a mishandled snap to score on an 8-yard keeper.
The Bobcats mishandled a handoff on the next series, which would be recovered by senior Eli Snyder for the Lakers second fumble recovery. Junior Guthrie Goss recovered a fumble earlier in the game.
After failing to move the ball on three straight plays, the Lakers faced fourth and long from the White Pine 26-yard line. Mercogliano would find junior receiver Stephen Lopez in man coverage, and throw up a jump ball along the right sideline that Lopez came down with for another North Tahoe touchdown. The missed extra point left the score at 13-6.
“We’ve got an incredible receiving corps,” said Mercogliano. “And I’m not afraid to put it up and let them make plays for me.”
Mercogliano would try again to connect on a deep ball in the next series, but had it intercepted. Fortunately, senior captain Dalton Lamberth got the ball right back for the Lakers, intercepting a pass at midfield.
North Tahoe moved into Bobcats territory on a roughing the passer call, and then Mercogliano found junior Cooper Kohnen on a comeback route inside the 20. Kohnen made a defender miss after catching the pass, and then wove his way into the end zone for a 19-6 lead going into halftime.
Mercogliano continued to pour it on in the second half, breaking off a 55-yard touchdown run around the left edge on the first series of the third quarter.
In the final minute of the period, the Lakers struck again on a long catch and run by sophomore Ben Trujillo. The failed two-point conversion left the score at 31-6.
After forcing a turnover on downs, Mercogliano scored again, taking a 10-yard keeper around the left edge. Mercogliano later capped off a tremendous evening by gashing the Bobcats a final time, breaking off on an 88-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to make the score 44-6.
“It’s incredible. Our team came out here, and we knew what was at stake. It’s the first ever, under the lights North Tahoe football game, and we just wanted to make our school happy,” said Mercogliano. “We played for each other and we came out with a win.”
The Bobcats would score a late touchdown on a quarterback sneak, and then add another two points on the conversion to make it 44-14.
Senior Wyatt Johannsson tacked on the final points of the evening, scooping up a fumble and rumbling 35 yards for a Lakers touchdown. Trujillo recovered a fumble on the next possession to end the game.
The one negative for the Lakers on the evening was ball security. North Tahoe lost three fumbles and threw two interceptions.
“We know we can’t do that against Battle Mountain,” said Everist. “That’s one of those things as a coach, I’ll enjoy this for about five minutes, and then here we go to the next thing.”
North Tahoe (4-3, 4-2 Northern League) will remain home next week for a Saturday afternoon game against Battle Mountain (5-1, 4-0 Northern League). Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
“The kids keep plugging away and they want to win,” said Everist on the Lakers winning three of their last four games. “The biggest thing we’ve done as coaches is, we’ve taught them how to compete.”
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