Truckee football season preview: Wolverines eager to restore ‘Truckee tradition’
2016 Truckee football schedule
Aug. 26 vs. Wooster, 7 p.m.
Sept. 3 vs. Churchill County, 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Lowry, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 vs. Elko, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 1 vs. Sparks, 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Spring Creek, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 vs. Fernley, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 at South Tahoe, 7 p.m.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — For years, it was practically a foregone conclusion the Truckee football team would not only make the playoffs, but also be in contention for a state title.
For a program with 12 collective state championships and — at one time — a nation-leading 41-game winning streak amid its four-peat, rolling over opponents as the weeks flipped toward Thanksgiving had become tradition.
But the past three years, Truckee’s scarlet-and-silver jerseys have been stored away before the playoffs even kick off — in other words, that tradition has been broken.
The Wolverines, however, are chomping at the bit to change that this season.
“The topic of the offseason in a lot of our meetings was to restore the tradition — get back in the playoffs,” said Josh Ivens, who’s entering his fourth year as head coach. “The tradition’s always been there, we’ve been able to uphold it, but the wins haven’t been there like they’ve been in the past.”
In fact, during their three-year playoff drought, Truckee has tallied just 13 wins — a severe swoon for a program that went 41-1 and captured four straight state titles the previous four seasons (2009-12).
This fall, Truckee will rely heavily on a stacked senior class, which accounts for 24 of its 34 players, to steer the Wolverines back to the playoffs.
“We have a lot of playing experience back from last year,” Ivens said. “Obviously, it gives the coaching staff more confidence, and it should give the players more confidence.”
‘WE DEFINITELY KNOW WHAT IT TAKES’
Indeed it does, said Wulfe Retzlaff, a senior linebacker and fullback.
“Instead of bringing it up slowly, going through all our plays and each position, we have the experience and know what everyone else is doing on the field,” said Retzlaff, who led the team in rushing touchdowns (seven) and tackles (124) last season. “Just to have that experience is really helpful because we work as a well-oiled machine instead of having a bunch of chinks in it.”
Senior running back Cole Harrity, the team’s leading rusher (605 yards, six TDs) in 2015, agreed.
“It helps a ton,” said Harrity of the experience. “Last year we were really young and inexperienced on the varsity level. But we’re going to get it this year. We’re ready. We definitely know what it takes.”
Simply put, the Wolverines have never been more eager for a season to start.
“We realize us as seniors, there’s some of us that have been playing varsity for three years and we haven’t gotten over that hump yet,” said senior defensive end Orlander Sims, who stands a towering 6-3, 285 pounds. “So that just made us that much more hungry. We’re really trying to get back to the glory of playoffs and all that good stuff.
“We’re trying to get the community back together, trying to pack out the stands,” he continued. “Because we learned when the community is behind us, that’s when we do great things.”
Added Retzlaff: “We’re so hungry. What we really want to do is set the standard and bring the Truckee tradition back.”
Breaking it down
Offensively, the Wolverines’ biggest strength will be running the football, said Ivens, whose team operates a run-heavy Wing-T offense.
Leading the charge will be senior ball carriers Harrity (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) and Retzlaff (6-1, 210 pounds). They’ll move the chains behind a stout offensive line composed of Riley Welch (6-2, 190 pounds), Jayme Nelson (5-10, 185), Jorge Bravo (6-1, 235), Chuy Diaz (5-10, 205) and Aaron Bokinskie (5-11, 195).
“We feel like we have a really strong group of guys coming back that started or played quite a bit on the offensive line last year,” Ivens said.
Who the offensive line will be protecting under center, however, is yet to be determined.
During preseason practices, seniors Tyler Davis (6-3, 190) and Jayden Commendatore (6-0, 165) have been sharing snaps at quarterback, and Ivens has yet to decide who will be handed the starting job.
As the starter last season, Davis passed for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns with a complete rate of 58 percent.
“That’s probably the biggest challenge for us this year: Who’s going to start at quarterback?” said Ivens, noting that this year he also plans to utilize Davis’ athletic ability at wide receiver and defensive back.
“I just try to be an all-around team player,” Davis said. “If coach asks me to do something, I do it, and just try to do it at the best of my ability.”
Defensively, Sims will anchor the Wolverines up front, Ivens said. Adding juice to the defense will be players like linebackers Retzlaff and Dominic Acevedo as well as Harrity at free safety.
All told, this year’s senior-laden squad is arguably the most talented Ivens has had under his watch since he took over in 2013.
“We feel like this team is a team that can make the playoffs and push late into the season,” Ivens said. “And hopefully close to Thanksgiving, we’re still playing.”
Truckee opens the season at home, under the lights at Surprise Stadium, at 7 p.m. Friday against Wooster.
Look for a live social feed coverage Friday night at SierraSun.com; be sure to use the hashtag #TruckeeFootball to contribute.
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As seniors from North Tahoe collected diplomas this week, a group of Lakers continued another local tradition — capturing first place at the boys’ regional golf championship.