Truckee football advances to next round
The first game of Truckee’s Northern 3A playoff ride was predictably reminiscent of the last game of the regular season ” only worse for the North Tahoe Lakers.
This time, one week after a 37-7 victory on Dollar Hill, the Wolverines laid it to the Lakers 55-0 in front of a spirited mob of supporters at Surprise Stadium Saturday afternoon.
With the Lakers’ football program dropping to independent status next year, then to 2A in 2007, the game marked the last league meeting between the two schools that have shared a healthy rivalry since North Tahoe opened in 1974.
“It was kind of sad,” Truckee fullback Shane Fuller said of playing the finale, “but it’s always fun beating up on an old team.”
Fuller pretty well summed up the entire game as the Wolverines ” both their first and second string ” simply beat up a depleted and disheartened-looking Lakers lineup, much of which played on both sides of the ball.
“Don’t you give up!” Lakers head coach Scott Everist hollered at his players repeatedly as they moped toward the sidelines, heads hanging after Truckee took a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Lakers followed Everist’s instruction, playing hard until the final whistle, but overmatched by a Truckee team still discovering all its weapons.
Following a sloppy start by both teams, the Wolverines got on the board with 3:24 remaining in the first quarter when senior halfback Mike Lopez took the hand-off and ran six yards into the corner of the end zone for an easy touchdown. The extra point missed to leave the score at 6-0.
The following possession for North Tahoe consisted of three plays ” one of which was a sack by defensive end Kyle Steverman for a 10-yard loss ” and a punt.
On the first play of the ensuing drive senior wingback Ben Tonon ran the ball up the gut from the Truckee 42-yard line, barged through a crowd of lineman and raced 58 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed and Truckee led 12-0 with 51 seconds left in the first.
Truckee’s kickoff bounced into the end zone and out of bounds. Taking over at their own 20, the Lakers gained three yards on two runs before quarterback Eric Rienstra threw an incomplete backwards pass, a live ball, which Truckee scooped up at the 18-yard line.
The Wolverines handed off to Lopez, who delivered for his second touchdown of the game. Tonon followed with a strong run on the two-point conversion, steam rolling over a Laker on his way and extending Truckee’s lead to 20-0.
North Tahoe went three and out, then held Truckee to a punt.
The Lakers fumbled the ball on the first play of their next possession and Steverman fell on it for a turnover deep in North Tahoe territory.
Returning the favor a couple plays later was Tonon, who banged his way to the goal line before coughing up the ball to the Lakers.
Pinned at the Truckee 1-yard line, a North Tahoe runner escaped out to the 14-yard line to give the Lakers some breathing room. But two plays later Rienstra threw a duck that Truckee cornerback Sam Silver stepped in front of and picked off at the North Tahoe 37-yard line.
With 4:40 remaining in the second quarter, Truckee quarterback Robert Jones connected with Alfredo Oropeza for a 31-yard gain down to the 7-yard line. Lopez ran to the 2, and Tonon punched the ball through from there. Matt Klesken made the extra point to give Truckee a 27-0 lead at the half.
Tonon dashed comeback hopes for the Lakers on the first play of the second half when he took the hand-off, rounded a corner and sped 70 yards for a touchdown, adjusting the scoreboard to 33-0.
Jones after a three-and-out by North Tahoe gunned a long pass down field to a wide-open Lopez, who caught the ball at about the 10-yard line and ran in to the end zone for his third touchdown of the game. Klesken made the extra point and the score swelled to 40-0, with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
By that point Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer had replaced most of the game’s starters with reserves and junior varsity call-ups, including sophomore quarterback BJ Carter, who also played much of the second half in the last game of the season.
Midway through the fourth quarter Kevin Sahlberg blocked a punt at the North Tahoe 8-yard line, and Nick Krasensky pounced on it in the end zone after Sahlberg overran it. The lead was 47-0, with 8 minutes to play.
But the Lakers were destined to give up one final touchdown, which came after a fumble to Truckee linebacker Brian Cordell at their own 7-yard line and an easy run by Brendan Driscoll from the 1. The score: 55-0.
With the final minutes clicking away, sophomore call-up Pablo Esquivel delivered a crunching hit to punctuate his team’s performance.