Lakers top Basin foe
The sweetly pungent taste of rivalry was in the air on Dollar Hill Saturday afternoon. The lively crowd knew it, the riled up players knew it, and above all, Laker head coach Scott Everist knew it.
North Tahoe had not beaten a rival team since 1987, said Everist, who then was in his senior year at the high school. That streak ended with a 20-16 win over visiting Incline.
From the beginning it was North Tahoe, which scored first at the opening of the second quarter.
And within the Laker squad it was senior captain Joe Erman who began his show with two consecutive carries to put North Tahoe up 6-0.
While things looked good from the North Tahoe side of the field, the Highlanders would not give up easily.
As they did all afternoon, Highlander senior quarterback Nick Francis connected with senior receiver Eric Pasillas to tie things up.
Pasillas then made good on the extra point, putting Incline up by a point halfway through the second quarter.
But the North Tahoe seniors ” most notably Erman ” would not go quietly on their home field.
Erman powered another inspired run over the line before fellow senior captain Brent Marple made good on the two-point conversion to put the Lakers up 14-7 with four minutes left in the half.
As the half wore to a close, Incline’s seniors made it clear that they would not give this early-season rival game up easily, as Francis once again found Pasillas in the corner of the end zone for another six points on the Highlander side of the board.
But it was North Tahoe’s Marple who would have the half’s last laugh, throwing down a huge block on the extra point to preserve the Laker lead at 14-13 heading into the locker room.
To start the second half, the Highlanders threw down an impressive drive that took them to the Laker 12-yard line.
It was North Tahoe senior Dusty Peters, however, with a key sack that slowed down Incline’s advance and forced a field goal ” one that put the Highlanders up by two points to start the fourth quarter.
North Tahoe’s play looked inspired, and from the kickoff the drive looked promising for Laker fans. But a midfield fumble recovered by the Highlanders dashed those dreams in an instant.
With four minutes remaining in the game, Incline was looking good with possession, half a field to drive through and a two-point lead.
But Erman was still not finished. With the help of a rock-solid defensive line, the senior Laker captain recovered his third fumble of the day to give North Tahoe one last chance.
As Incline’s Daniel Hershkowitz was being carted off the field with a knee injury, Everist could be heard telling his players what to do.
“Drive the ball down this field, perfectly, score a touchdown and win this football game.”
What followed was a 25-yard pass from senior quarterback Ryan Blount to Andrew Auerbach, and then a sneak by Blount that put North Tahoe within range of the Incline end zone.
And in a performance worthy of a senior captain protecting his home field from a rival, Erman punched his third touchdown of the day over the line to put North Tahoe up 20-16 with 1:30 on the clock.
But amidst the Laker celebration, the Highlanders’ senior quarterback had his own ideas about a rival-worthy performance.
The boys in green drove down the field with a passion. Francis completed passes to Riley Warren, Pasillas and then ran the ball himself to put Incline within 25 yards of a game-winning touchdown.
But led by Blount and Marple, the Laker D put up a blue and white wall on the goal line. Two end zone pass attempts to Pasillas were shut down by Marple and Leroy Valadez before a blitz on Francis forced a flubby pass on the fourth down.
As the Laker players and fans celebrated, and their Incline counterparts slumped about and congratulated a valiant effort, it was clear that both teams’ performances were worthy of a rival match-up. And it was the seniors who stole the show, both in green and in blue.
But for football fans lucky enough to be on Dollar Hill that sunny afternoon, only one question remained: Why can’t every game be a rival game?
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