Northern 3A football: Truckee 35, Spring Creek 6
Sierra Sun sports editor
It had the makings to be one of Greater Nevada’s best regular season matchups, but the Truckee varsity football team thumped Northern 3A rivals Spring Creek, 35-6, in its home opener on Sept. 25.
“They deserved to win,” said Spring Creek head coach Joel Jund. “They out-coached us and outplayed us, and that was the difference.”
The difference was that the Wolverines were able to turn long, sustained drives into points, and the Spartans weren’t. Truckee never punted the ball, and four different Wolverines scored touchdowns.
In a game that featured three of Greater Nevada’s premier offensive players ” Truckee’s senior aerial show Paul Tierney and Jamie Maehler and Spring Creek’s endurable runner James Edwards ” Tierney threw to Maehler seven times for 122 yards and an early score on Truckee’s opening drive.
Edwards rushed for 164 yards, but a stingy Truckee defense made Greater Nevada’s leading rusher do it on 37 carries. More significantly, the Wolverines prevented the big play (Edwards’ longest run was a 40-yard scamper before half) and did not allow the junior running back into the end zone.
“That was kind of our concept,” said Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer, whose team improved to 2-1 and 2-0 Northern 3A. “That was the same thing we tried last year ” don’t give up the big play, just corral him. We were going to try to make someone else beat us.”
There was no one else the Spartans could turn to. With the exception of a Bryce Saddoris 36-yard touchdown off a screen pass that answered Truckee’s opening scoring drive and made the score 7-6, Spring Creek (3-2, 1-1 Northern 3A) could not match Truckee’s ability to spread the wealth on offense. The Spartans kept coming back to Edwards, who lost two fumbles in the second half and was clearly running out of gas.
Edwards was averaging 252 yards per game (119 carries for 1,008 yards) going in and a sensational 8.47 yards per rush. His numbers against Truckee were about half that ” he gained 4.43 yards every time he took a handoff.
“My hat’s off to the defense,” Shaffer said. “Going into the game, we figured they would have to step up to the challenge. Never have we done this well against them defensively from a points standpoint.”
Truckee “held” Edwards to 145 yards last year in a 27-21 regular season win, but he also scored two times. Shaffer praised Edwards after the game for his gutsy effort this time around.
“He’s such a good football player, and their line does such a good job creating little creases,” he said. “That’s all he needs. But he’s always going to have an ‘X’ on his chest. He’s a horse.”
Edwards was resilient, but Jund expected better results from his running attack.
“We have to make our living there, and they stepped up and stopped us pretty well,” he said.
Truckee’s middle linebacker Jimmy Williams forced Edwards’ first fumble with a jarring hit on a fourth-and-short from the Truckee 18-yard line. The fumble killed a 16-play, 62-yard drive that had Spring Creek in the red zone threatening to score with Truckee up, 21-6.
“Our defense came up in a couple key spots,” Tierney said. “(That) one to start the second half pretty much set the tempo.”
The Wolverines answered with their own 16-play drive that concluded with Nick Cabral’s second touchdown run of the game. With 11:57 left, Benji Islas kicked one of his three touchbacks to put the Spartans on their own 20, down 28-6. Three plays into the drive, Truckee’s Riley Allison sacked quarterback Daniel Stenovich and forced a fumble. The second of three Spartans turnovers in the second half set up Mike Lopez’s 3-yard touchdown to cap the scoring.
Truckee outnumbered Spring Creek nearly 5-to-3. Truckee’s 53-man roster allows players to focus on one side of the ball, rather than play both ways. Most of the Spartans skilled position players play both ways, including Edwards, an outside linebacker. But Jund wouldn’t use fatigue as an excuse, or anything else for that matter.
“We don’t have any excuses,” he said. “We ran into a better team today, and they beat us. I’ll hand it to them. They did a great job.”
Jund, a former college quarterback at Idaho State, sees some great attributes in Tierney, who said he hasn’t received much attention from college recruiters ” yet, anyway.
“He puts the ball where he needs to put it and makes good decisions,” Jund said. “He executes very well. A big part of (playing quarterback) is reading and leading, and he does both well.”
Tierney’s arm was a major reason Maehler never had to test his foot in the punting game. Tierney hit Maehler for a 38-yard touchdown on the Wolverines’ first drive, giving Truckee a 6-0 lead. The score came on a fourth-and-13 when Tierney lofted a pass that the 6-foot-4 Maehler leaped for, grabbed and sprinted to the end zone.
Maehler’s third touchdown reception of the year followed a 22-yard screen pass to receiver Brandon Peterson, which got the Wolverines out of a third-and-36 mess created by a Khris Torrise sack.
“We couldn’t get them off the field defensively,” Jund said. “We had them in some tough spots, and they made the plays and we didn’t.”
On Truckee’s second drive, Tierney threw a 20-yard completion to Maehler, a 13-yarder to Gordon Neelands and capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown loft to Tonon over the middle to give the Wolverines a 13-6 lead. Tierney finished 15 of 17 with 271 yards.
“Our O-line did a great job keeping them off me, and our receivers were getting open,” Tierney said. “Just like we practiced, everything was working.”
Actually, it wasn’t quite like Truckee had practiced. Tierney was able to exploit Spring Creek’s short cornerbacks Stenovich (5-foot-8) and David Neumann (5-foot-6) on a few plays, but Truckee also had to adjust to a different look from the Spartans defense. Instead of its usual 4-4, Spring Creek came out in what Shaffer described as a 5-5, routinely putting 10 players in the box (within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage).
Tierney responded by picking apart the Spartans defense with a mixture of slants, outs, screens and dump-offs. The biggest such play was a 77-yard screen pass to Micah Carbajal that changed field position in a pivotal part of the game. With Truckee backed up on its own 7-yard line, Carbajal found a lane and lumbered down the left sideline before he was caught at Spring Creek’s 16-yard line. Four plays later, Cabral scored from five yards out on third-and-goal. Cabral was Truckee’s leading rusher with 91 yards.
Carbajal’s momentum-changer was set up by a Randon Nunez interception that canceled out Truckee’s only turnover of the day when Garrett Hockett sacked Tierney and forced a fumble that the Spartans recovered.
Tierney has thrown for seven touchdowns and 624 yards on 38 completions this season. But last year’s Greater Nevada passing champion won’t be satisfied with the numbers if he doesn’t at least have a shot at an NIAA 3A state championship title.
“That’s all that matters,” he said. “I’m not worried about any stats. As long as we get to that last game.”
Spring Creek has not defeated Truckee since 2000 when they upended the Wolverines twice in the same season.
By Chuck Hildebrand
Courtesy of Nevadaprep.com
It was an emotional weekend for the Truckee junior varsity squad.
Truckee defeated visiting Spring Creek 17-0 Saturday despite being blindsided by crushing news the previous day. During the team’s spaghetti feed Friday night, Truckee police officers notified Sean Wilson, one of the Wolverines’ players, that his father had died during the day.
“Suddenly, all of our hard work and preparation for the Spring Creek game the next day seemed unimportant compared to what Sean and his family were going through,” Truckee JV coach Steve Ames said. “Sean showed incredible courage by even suiting up for Saturday’s game.”
Not only did Wilson suit up, he was one of the key elements in Truckee’s win. He had numerous tackles, carried the ball twice for 16 yards and stopped a Spring Creek drive with an interception.
“The interception seemed scripted for the movies,” Ames said. “All the players ran onto the field to congratulate and comfort Sean. The team had also devised a signal for Sean of their support; when they scored, they pointed to the sky, in memory of Sean’s father.
Wilson’s teammates also were there for him before the game.
“Most teams talk about being a football family, but the Truckee kids really confirmed what that means by rallying around Sean,” Ames said. “A tearful and moving pre-game prayer was given by one of our trainers, Gary Lewis. There weren’t many dry eyes in the room.
“I have never seen a team bond under such adverse conditions as what happened to Sean and his teammates. It makes me proud to be their coach.”
[Drew Stewart rushed for both Truckee touchdowns, a 5-yarder and a 60-yarder. Israel Serna kicked a 20-yard field goal to give Truckee a 3-0 lead just before half. Before being sidelined with a knee injury in the third quarter, quarterback Tommy Nichols was 8 of 14 with over 100 yards. Truckee is 4-0 (2-0) this season.]