Truckee football | State champs prided on tradition
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Few prognosticators nailed the outcome of Saturday’s Division I-A state championship between perennial powerhouses Truckee and Moapa Valley.
Who would have thought the Wolverines, relatively evenly matched with their Southern counterpart on paper, would deliver the kind of thumping they did?
OK, so Keith Thomas, the play-by-play radio voice of Truckee football, might have.
Most others, however, expected a low-scoring war between two well-coached, physical football teams that traditionally pride themselves on defense. In Southern Nevada, prep analysts somehow figured the Pirates would run away with the win.
How wrong they were.
The “visiting” Wolverines ran away with the victory in convincing style, cementing the school’s fourth consecutive state championship and 12th all time with a 34-10 win at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.
The final clutch performance capped a season of adversity and challenges, as the Wolverines struggled with injuries from Day 1, all while carrying the burden of one of the nation’s longest winning streaks, and knowing they’d likely have to take down one of the new large schools that joined their division to achieve their goal.
Given their obstacles, every one of which they kicked out of their way, longtime Truckee coach Bob Shaffer was asked if the Wolverines overachieved this season.
“Boy, let’s see,” he said. “If that means that this team has no talent and ability, then I would say that’s not this team at all. But I think overachieving from our standpoint would be competing as the next-to-smallest (D-IA) school in the state, and playing schools two, three, sometimes four times bigger than us – even five times bigger than us. We overachieved from that standpoint.
“But I think the biggest way we overachieved was in how we dealt with our injuries right from the beginning.”
Regarding one particularly key injury, Truckee standout Graham Christian may never have felt so good and bad at the same time Saturday night.
The senior linebacker and Division IA North MVP took the field for his final high school game with a badly injured right shoulder, knowing full well the pain he would have to endure as a consequence.
After slinging a Moapa Valley ball carrier to the ground in the second half – one of his 10 solo tackles in the game, and 13 total – he walked gingerly off the field, slightly slumped over, with his arm tucked against his midsection.
Seemingly out for the count, he instead returned to the field again, and again and again. He had a state championship to help win.
“He was in a lot of pain,” Shaffer said. “He would come out for a play or two and then run right back in, then hang in there as long as he could before coming out for a few plays, then go right back in as soon as he could again. He’d just bite his mouthpiece, grin and keep on going.”
Amazing how a state title – or four in a row, in this case – can ease the pain.
“It’s gonna require some surgery to get back to normal,” Christian said after the game, adding when asked: “Oh, it was definitely worth it. This is such a great feeling.”
Truckee’s MVP was not the only Wolverine with aching body parts after doing battle with the Pirates. But you wouldn’t know it watching the excited bunch of teens celebrate their integral part in Truckee history.
As they embraced and reveled in their feat, the anguish of losing their winning streak at 41 games – a 7-0 shocker of a loss to Fernley back on Oct. 6 – melted away in the horde of cheering fans and teammates. The ultimate prize, after all, was and always will be state.
“I think I was most impressed with the way they handled the pressure of the streak all throughout the year,” Shaffer said. “The qualities of any team is not how they react after winning 41 games. It’s how they react to losing that one game and their streak is over. How do they bounce back from that?
“And I think our kids responded obviously very well because we went on another little streak, and redeemed ourselves so to speak against Fernley the second time around. We defeated a very formidable opponent in Fallon, and then of course the playoff run was very characteristic of a true team effort.”
Regarding the team-effort concept embraced by the Wolverines, several players said what they’ll miss most about playing for Truckee is not the big wins in front of their peers. It’s the daily routine and hard work that made it all possible, and being a part of the storied tradition that is Truckee football.
“I’m just gonna miss the whole journey – practice, working hard every day,” said senior linebacker Julian Aguirre. “That was the most fun part.”
“I’m going to miss the practices – the running, the conditioning, the hitting. Everything. I love it,” said senior running back Tyler Curtis.
“I’ll miss the tradition most,” senior Justin Carter concluded. “Going to practice every day with the coaches. Truckee football. You’re a part of a brotherhood, and being a part of that tradition is amazing.”
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