Teary-eyed Truckee coach after 28-20 playoff loss: ‘We went out fighting’
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Truckee football coach Josh Ivens’ voice catches as tears well up in his eyes.
Ivens, a fourth-year head coach, is overcome with emotion Saturday afternoon as he talks about his players following their heartbreaking 28-20 loss to rival South Tahoe in the 3A Northern semifinals at Surprise Stadium.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” said Ivens, whose team snapped Truckee’s three-year playoff drought this season. “Unfortunately, our goal wasn’t just to turn around the program, it was to get to state.”
The loss comes on the heels of the Wolverines’ one-point win over the Vikings in the annual Sierra Bowl on Oct. 21, a victory that earned Truckee a first round bye in the 3A playoffs.
On Saturday, however, South Tahoe — fueled by quarterback Tommy Cefalu’s four passing touchdowns and 200-plus yards — got its revenge to knock Truckee out of the playoffs.
“They’re certainly efficient with the way they move the ball,” Ivens said. “And we knew that completely stopping them is a struggle; it was a struggle last game.”
The Wolverines were no slouches on offense, either. In fact, on its opening possession, Truckee orchestrated a methodic 80-yard scoring drive, polished off by Wulfe Retzlaff, who barreled in a 4-yard touchdown.
Highlighting the possession, Jayden Commendatore, scrambling from the pass rush, feathered an off-balanced throw to Jamie Parisi for a 33-yard gain.
The Vikings weren’t fazed, though, shutting down the Wolverines the rest of the first half.
“The biggest difference was early in the game they slowed our offense down a little bit when we were trying to figure out the adjustments,” Ivens said. “Ultimately, we didn’t figure it out in time.”
SOUTH TAHOE BEARS DOWN
In the second quarter, South Tahoe figured out its offense and then some, as Cefalu picked apart Truckee’s secondary to the tune of 10-yard TD tosses to McCallan Castles and Noah Jackson.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines struggled to move the chains the rest of the half, making for a 14-7 Vikings lead at the break.
“(I told them) they were basically in the same (defensive) front they were in last game and we can move the ball on them,” Ivens said he told his squad at halftime. “I told them to go out and drive down the field and get back in the game.”
Truckee did just that. Initiating the second half, the Wolverines put the Vikings on their heels, leading to Cole Harrity diving in a 3-yard touchdown to level the count at 14-14. Retlzaff set up the score with a tackle-shedding 35-yard rush up the gut.
Staying in rhythm, South Tahoe struck right back, as Cefalu and Castles hooked up once again, this time on a 3-yard TD strike with 3:23 left in the third.
Undeterred, Truckee was back in the end zone on Commendatore’s 1-yard sneak across the goal line seconds into the fourth quarter. Igniting the drive, Jack Englert made a show-stopping grab as he outleapt a Vikings defender to snare a 30-yard pass from Commendatore.
Truckee, however, missed the point-after to remain in South Tahoe’s rear-view at 21-20.
KEEPING ‘TRUCKEE FOOTBALL ALIVE’
The Vikings remained in front from there. South Tahoe widened the gap to 28-20 midway through the fourth when Cefalu needled a 3-yard touchdown pass to Castles.
Truckee appeared on its way to countering late in the fourth, keeping South Tahoe off-balanced as it moved near the red zone. But, three straight penalties and a sack halted the Wolverines’ drive, and they were forced to punt with two minutes left.
Truckee never got the ball back.
“It’s tough to go out the way we did,” Ivens said. “But we went out fighting. And I’m proud of them. I love every single one of them — not only are they great football players, they’re great kids.”
Ivens went on to make special mention of his seniors, who were freshman when he first took over as head coach.
“I love these guys,” Ivens said. “This is my first group. Anytime you lose a group, it’s tough. We’ve been through a lot. Trying to uphold the tradition has been tough; this group helped me get it back to where it needed to be, and I’m forever indebted to them.
“I’m just proud of them for all they’ve done for not just themselves, but the young kids in town to keep Truckee football alive.”