Truckee football | State title hopes on the line |

Truckee football | State title hopes on the line

Courtesy Hans BaumannTruckee senior Javier Virrey, at 5 foot 8, stands next to 6-5 Cale Backinger of South Tahoe during their Oct. 26 meeting. Virrey and the Wolverines will be the decidedly smaller team when they square off against Cheyenne in a state semifinal Saturday at 1 p.m.

One might think the potentially nasty weather in Truckee on Saturday would bode well for the Wolverines in their state semifinal showdown against Cheyenne, which hails from north Las Vegas.

That might be a false assumption, said Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer.

“They’re much bigger than us, and so that’s why we’re hoping for a halfway decent field. Because when the field is slippery and muddy, mass oftentimes is the determining factor,” Shaffer said, adding that the cold-weather undergear that’s now available should offset the low temperature.

“So I’m not sure bad weather is going to help us or hurt us. But it’s not going to help us against those big linemen, that’s for sure.”

The National Weather Service calls for a 30 percent chance of snow showers Saturday, with a high near 28 degrees.

What’s more certain than the weather report is the threat Cheyenne poses to the Wolverines’ run at a fourth consecutive state championship. The large school, and first-year member of the Division I-A (formerly 3A), visits Truckee for an elimination state semifinal Saturday at 1 p.m.

“They are very big, very fast and very good,” Shaffer said of the Desert Shields, whom Truckee has never faced.

Cheyenne was one of 10 schools that dropped down from the Division I (formerly 4A) to the Division I-A during the offseason, because not all of its sports were competitive in the highest classification. Despite its new divisional status, the school dwarfs Truckee in enrollment, while the football team was a DI playoff contender last year at this time.

A quick look at the Desert Shields’ roster, and it’s clear why the Wolverines have their work cut out for them. The largest lineman weighs in at 326 pounds, while others tip the scale at 299 pounds, 286 pounds, 258, 245, 238, 231 and so on. They also boast a 6-foot-5 receiver, Darius Gantt, and a 6-4, 220-pound tight end, Dylan Power.

Truckee’s not without a bit of size of its own, as defensive end and tight end Zak Pettit is a beast at 6-4, 235, while lineman Blake Crosby is listed at 315 pounds. But Truckee’s large numbers quickly drop off compared to Cheyenne’s.

With their size on the line, the Desert Shields like to run the ball, particularly with senior running back Myloe Lewis. The compact, 5-8, 182-pound back is legit. He enters Saturday’s contest as the state’s Division I-A rushing and scoring leader, with 2,249 yards on 226 carries, and 38 total touchdowns.

“He has very good speed, he’s strong and hard to bring down, and he’s pretty elusive,” Shaffer said. “From that standpoint, we might want a slippery field.

“Other than that, they don’t throw a whole lot, but when they do they are effective because they run the ball so well. And they’re very good at play-action passes, so we just need to make sure we’re disciplined and read our keys and don’t get fooled. If we can do that, I think we’ll be in the heat of the battle with them.”

Cheyenne is 9-2 on the year, with an early loss to Ayala of Chino Hills, Calif., 56-32, and another loss to DI Canyon Springs of Las Vegas, 42-8. Led by the prolific running of Lewis, the Desert Shields have posted 72 points on two occasions – a 72-47 win over Western and a 72-0 rout against Clark. They’ve outscored their opponents 420-261, averaging 266.6 rushing yards per game and only 26.1 passing yards.

Truckee, meanwhile, at 9-1, has outscored its opposition 369-92, using its traditional, stout defense and a well-balanced offense led by senior quarterback Erik Holmer and an extensive corps of capable running backs and receivers. The Wolverines average 176.6 passing yards per game and 239.4 rushing yards.

The Wolverines are banged up, however, as their leading running back and linebacker, Graham Christian, is questionable for Saturday, as is linebacker Julian Aguirre. Backup quarterback Louden Smith missed practice all week with injured ribs and had yet to be cleared as of Thursday, Shaffer said. Holmer, who has struggled with injuries but has come on strong of late, looks healthy and ready to play, his coach said.

“They do seem pretty focused. They know what’s at stake,” Shaffer said of his team. “It’s one and done. If you lose you’re handing in your gear on Monday. But they’ve been here before. I’m pretty sure most of them know what it’s going to take to get past this hurdle. We’re not overlooking this team by any stretch of the imagination.”

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