Truckee defense shuts down Elko in 31-0 win (GALLERY)
The Truckee defense put together its best performance of the season on Saturday afternoon, forcing three turnovers and constantly putting Elko’s offense in third-and-long situations en route to a 31-0 victory at a packed Surprise Stadium.
“The goal was to get on and off the field quick and create turnovers,” said Defensive Coordinator Jackson Weed. “Today we had two interceptions and a forced fumble. I was really proud of the team, and it came during the week — preparation, watching film, and practicing.”
The Truckee defense shut down the Indians’ rushing attack early on in the game on the way to forcing six, three-and-outs during the afternoon.
“Our ends (Marcus Trotter and Brennen Conklin) did a great job setting edges. With them setting the edge, it allows other guys to get to the football,” said Weed.
“(Elko) loves the perimeter … we did a good job of recognizing formations, adjusting to them, and overall, just playing fast, physical and smart.”
The Indians had ample chances to score during the first half with three possessions that started inside the Wolverines 40-yard line, including one that began at the 11, but each time Truckee’s defense managed to keep Elko off the board.
Senior linebacker Drew Wingard wreaked havoc all game and was constantly in the Indians backfield with well-timed blitzes to blow up a number of plays.
“It’s all just reading the quarterback’s lips,” said Wingard. “It’s all mental. This game is 30 percent physical, 70 percent mental.”
Wingard and fellow linebacker, senior Jackson Skaff, combined to deny one of the Indians’ best scoring chances of the afternoon, bringing down an Elko ball carrier on a fourth-and-3 play on the 13-yard line to force a turnover on downs.
“We knew it was going to be a defensive game,” said Wingard. “And we just came in with the mindset that the defense had to shut them down.”
Skaff would also intercept a pass on the day.
Senior running back Sean Kelly scored the first points of the afternoon, capping Truckee’s first drive with a 17-yard touchdown run.
The Wolverines struck again midway through the second quarter on a third-and-long play. Senior running back Marcus Trotter motioned out of the backfield on the play and Elko failed to pick him up. Senior quarterback Marcus Bellon would hit Trotter in stride for a 93-yard touchdown, and a 14-0 lead after senior kicker Emmanuel Valenzuela-Jones’ extra point.
In the second half, Bellon made the Indians pay for leaving a receiver in man coverage, throwing up a jump ball along the sideline to senior Derek Laferriere, who outfought his defender to make a great catch at the 1-yard line. Laferriere would then take an end around for the score and a 21-0 lead.
Valenzuela-Jones ended Elko’s next drive and denied another chance for the Indians to score points, intercepting a pass at the 10-yard line and returning it 31 yards.
Valenzuela-Jones capped off a stellar quarter by catching a slant from Bellon for a touchdown.
“I knew it was probably coming to me,” he said. “And right when I turned, I look inside and the ball was there.”
Valenzuela-Jones later tacked on the final points of the evening on a 21-yard field goal. The kick came after officials ruled a previous try from 36 yards out was wide left.
“The first field goal was good,” said Valenzuela-Jones on the call. “And then I kicked the second field goal, which they called good, and it was wide right, easy.
“We got the dub, we got the goose egg, it’s all good.”
Much of the game came down to third down conversions. Elko struggled to keep drives going all afternoon, while Bellon and the Truckee offense converted 7 of 9 third downs in the first half to keep the Elko defense on the field and off the score board.
“It was just stopping (Elko’s) offense, because we knew we could score on their defense,” said Bellon on getting the win.
Bellon, a two-year starter, has shown confidence in the Truckee receiving corps; something Valenzuela-Jones said has been key to the team’s offense this year.
“We’re all brothers, we’re all friends, and we all hang out every weekend,” he said. “So it’s kind of just something where you get a special connection with each other. We trust each other.”
In handing Elko (5-1, 5-1 Northern League) its first loss of the year, Truckee (6-1, 5-1 Northern League) is now in the driver’s seat in terms of locking up a first-round postseason bye. The Wolverines have also won three straight games, and have topped Elko in each of the last three meetings between the teams.
“It was pretty much what we expected other than I thought we’d do a little better job of moving the football,” said Head Coach Josh Ivens. “That was a little bit frustrating. Though we got it done, I feel like we could’ve done more offensively.”
Truckee will next host Sparks (2-5, 2-4 Northern League) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The contest will also serve as Truckee’s senior game.
“Sparks is one of those teams where they don’t have a lot of wins, but they play aggressive and have a lot of athletes on their team,” said Ivens. “Defensively, if we can do what we did today, we’ll be in good shape.”