Season recap: Wolverines surpass expectations despite semifinal loss
Since losing a talented group of senior players that reached last season’s state championship game, the members of Truckee’s football team have had to listen to talk from around the league of the Wolverines having a down year in 2019.
Those words put a chip on the shoulder of a relatively young team led by a sophomore quarterback, and by year’s end Truckee had developed into a squad that fought opponents tooth and nail, giving the players lined up across from them all they could handle, and then some.
The Wolverines got off to a tough start, going 1-3 in its first four games, but then things started clicking and the team ripped off six consecutive victories, including a dominant 48-7 win at home against Elko in the first round of the postseason to reach the semifinals of the Northern League playoffs.
“It started out so rough,” said Coach Josh Ivens. “I was just happy to see our guys respond and dig deep this year, and pull themselves out of a hole and really make something out of this season. They should be proud of everything.”
Truckee’s season came to an end Friday night in the semifinal matchup at Fernley, falling in a hard-fought 35-28 game against the Vaqueros.
“What you saw tonight was like our season in a nutshell,” said Ivens. “Just battling adversity, when things were hard and we were down, we kept going.”
Fernley took an early advantage in the game, capping off their opening drive with a 26-yard touchdown run by junior Anthony Thompson.
Truckee would recover a fumble on Fernley’s next possession, and then later scored on a play-action pass from sophomore quarterback Jackson Kahl to junior Jackson Ellermeyer.
Truckee senior Ethan Hatcher ended the next Fernley possession by intercepting a pass, and on the ensuing drive, Truckee senior Tyler Estabrook converted a third-and-long play by gashing the Fernley defense for 52 yards. Estabrook then scored on third and goal, catching a ball in the flats for an 8-yard touchdown reception. The extra-point attempt was blocked, leaving the score at 13-7.
Fernley regained the lead midway through the second quarter, scoring on a 33-yard touchdown run by junior Kyle Jones. The Vaqueros then recovered an onside kick, and turned it into points when senior quarterback Miles Steele got to the edge for a 28-yard touchdown run.
The Wolverines responded on the next possession, moving the ball down to the 1-yard line on a 43-yard reception by senior Isaac Cruz. Junior Finn Loper capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. Estabrook evened the game at 21-21 by converting the two-point attempt.
Fernley later moved into field goal range late in the first half, but Truckee senior Dayton Broad blocked the attempt. Broad led the Truckee defense with 15 tackles, including 10 solo tackles.
The Vaqueros retook the lead in the third quarter on a 52-yard option play to Thompson that went for a touchdown.
After going three and out on the next possession, the Truckee defense forced and recovered a fumble at the Fernley 49-yard line. The Wolverines drove down inside the 25, and then faced fourth and 4. Estabrook kept the drive going, picking up a first down on a 12-yard run, and then later outraced the Fernley defense on a 9-yard touchdown run. The game was tied at 28-28 after Truckee converted the extra-point attempt.
Early in the fourth quarter, Fernley looked to punch the ball in for another touchdown, but the Truckee defense came up with a goal line stand at the 1-yard line to force a turnover on downs. The Wolverines offense, however, wouldn’t be able to move the ball from deep in their territory, setting up Fernley’s next possession on the Truckee 37-yard line with 3:45 left.
“It was a great stop,” said Ivens. “But we just couldn’t get out enough (on offense).”
From there, the Vaqueros drove down to the goal line to set up a short touchdown run by junior Brandon Reyes. Truckee got the ball back with 1:37 remaining, but wasn’t able to move down field as Fernley held on for the win and a berth into the state tournament.
Estabrook finished the evening with 111 rushing yards and led Truckee on the season with 1,134 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns on 122 carries. Estabrook also led Truckee on the night with five catches for 84 yards.
Senior Deacon Mehler had 104 rushing yards against Fernley, and finished the season with 801 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
In the passing game, Kahl went 10 of 18 for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He finished his first season as Truckee’s quarterback with 1,227 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Defensively, junior Dillon Kane had 14 tackles, senior George Skaff had 12 tackles, Loper had 11 tackles, and senior Dylan Lewis had 10 tackles. Skaff led the defense on the season with 129 tackles, followed by Kane with 100 tackles.
Truckee concluded the 2019 campaign with a record of 7-4.
“We’re going to miss this senior group,” said Ivens. “They dug deep and I’m proud of them.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.