North Tahoe defense keys 26-6 win over Valley Christian
With a 26-6 victory over Valley Christian, North Tahoe is off to the program’s first 3-0 start in more than a decade.
The Lakers’ home win on Saturday, Sept. 9, wasn’t pretty, but North Tahoe managed to hold off the Lions to take the win behind a solid defensive effort.
The small Valley Christian roster played heavy minutes with a bench of two players to rotate. Eventually fatigue would show up along the Lions offensive line, as the unit struggled with the constant pressure of North Tahoe’s 6-2 defense and what Head Coach Scott Everist called North Tahoe’s 12th man — the school’s altitude of more than 6,225 feet.
The Lakers set the tone from the onset against Valley Christian’s pass-heavy offense, bringing extra rushers and punishing Lions quarterback Brady Bowen.
The North Tahoe offense would struggle early on as well, but after a pair of stalled drives to start the game, Lakers junior Thomas Mercogliano fielded a punt off the bounce and returned it to the Lions 3-yard line.
From there, Mercogliano finished off the drive with a rushing touchdown. Sophomore Guthrie Goss’ extra point gave the Lakers a 7-0 lead.
The score remained the same until the first play of the second quarter when Junior Tony Frankenberg intercepted a pass near the Lions 30-yard line, and then took it back for a touchdown. Goss’ kick gave the Lakers a 14-0 lead.
The Lions would then drive the ball down to the Lakers 33-yard line, but an incomplete pass on fourth and 10 gave North Tahoe the ball back.
The Lakers would take nearly 5 minutes off the clock on the ensuing drive, which was capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mercogliano to junior Kobe Robbins. Goss would misfire on the extra point, leaving the score 20-0.
After penalties and North Tahoe’s defensive pressure stymied another drive, the Lions went to work late in the half from their own 28-yard line. As Valley Christian’s quarterback looked to connect on a pass near midfield, Frankenberg stepped in front for another interception, and then returned the ball to the end zone for his second defensive touchdown of the game.
“Really, I’ve got to thank my team, the coaches, and the blocking” said Frankenberg on the play.
The Lakers would attempt a two-point conversion after the touchdown, but were stopped on a run, leaving the score 26-0 at halftime.
After an unsuccessful half for the Valley Christian offense, the Lions opened the third quarter by finally connecting on some passes. During the drive, the Lakers would lose some of their push along the defensive line with junior captain Ethan Everist going down with an injury on the opening drive. Everist would sit out the remainder of the game.
The Lakers then forced a fourth and long from inside their own 20, but Valley Christian sophomore receiver Pavel Miller popped open in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown reception. The Lakers would block the extra point attempt to keep the score at 26-6.
The score would remain the same over the remainder of the game with the rest of the second half highlighted by the number of penalties called on each side, as the teams struggled with mental mistakes and over-aggressive play.
“Once our captain went down, we got caught up in the hype trying to hit someone,” said Frankenberg on Everist’s injury. “It’s about staying humble and just keeping your cool out there.”
Statistically, Mercogliano was again the team’s offensive leader, going 13 for 16 through the air for 242 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Junior receivers Dalton Lamberth and Eli Snyder had solid games with three catches apiece. Lamberth led the team with 139 receiving yards.
Junior Joe Pierce led the team with seven solo tackles.
The Lakers will open play in the Class 2A Northern League, when the team plays host to West Wendover (1-1, 0-0 Northern League) on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m.
“Every game has been a win so far,” Frankenberg said. “We just have to keep our heads up, and play every game like we’re 0-0.”
Statistics provided by MaxPreps.com.