Truckee football triumphs in clash of league leaders
In a battle between the league’s leading passer and the league’s leading rusher, the run appeared mightier than the pass, but it was the pass that sealed the deal.
Unfortunately for Spring Creek High School, it was neither their running nor passing game that succeeded. In the end, it was Truckee High School’s offense that came out on top.
The Wolverines overcame a rough first half of play to beat the Spring Creek Spartans 27-21 on Saturday at Surprise Stadium and ensure home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Starting out on their own 20-yard line after a touchback on the opening kick off, the Wolverine offense took the field.
After a few small gains, quarterback Paul Tierney, the league’s leading passer, completed an 8-yard pass to J.R. Murphy for the first down.
The Wolverines’ second series began the same way – small gains that ended with a Tierney pass to Jamie Maehler for the first down.
The stage was set for another game highlighted by Tierney’s passing.
After a Nik Smith run, and another first down, the Wolverines began to stumble.
A holding call left Truckee with a first-and-22 situation they did not bounce back from, and they were forced to punt. Murphy’s punt left the Spartans with the ball on their own 26-yard line.
On second down, Spring Creek’s James Edwards, the league’s leading rusher, ran 8 yards for the first down. Edwards carried the ball three more times for limited yardage, and Spring Creek was forced to punt.
On defense for the Wolverines, Tom Hill and Jimmy Williams came up with big stops to prevent Edwards from breaking into the open field.
The Wolverines began their offensive possession on their 45-yard line. Smith and Mike Hackley combined efforts to carry the ball for a first down. Smith carried the ball for another first down out to the Spring Creek 21-yard line.
After a procedure penalty against the Wolverines, they started with a first-and-15 situation. On the next play, Tierney dropped back to pass with defenders closing in. As he scrambled to the right side of the field, he was hit and fumbled the ball, Spring Creek recovered and took over on their 26-yard line.
On first down, Edwards ran for a gain of 9 yards. On second down, Daniel Stenovich caught a pass and carried it out to the other 26-yard line.
The Spartans struggled to get to the end zone. On fourth down Spring Creek’s quarterback scrambled left around the end for the first down. Edwards carried the ball 13 yards up to the 1-yard line, and scored on the next play.
Spring Creek’s quarterback ran the ball in for a two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
On the kick off, Smith returned the ball out to the 33-yard line. He carried the ball on first and second down for a total of 12 yards and the first down.
Tierney threw only two passes in the Wolverines’ drive from their own 47-yard line to the end zone. The first pass was completed to Gordon Neelands for 7 yards, and the second to Shane Wright for 19 yards.
The rest of the drive belonged to Smith and Neelands, who pounded their way through the tough Spring Creek defense down to the goal line. Smith ran the ball in for a touchdown, but the two-point conversion pass from Tierney to Murphy was picked off, and the Wolverines trailed 8-6.
Murphy’s kickoff left the Spartans to piece together a drive from their 25-yard line.
The Spartans stuck with their running game, but mixed it up with runs from Brandon Lofftus. On his first carry, Lofftus ran 10 yards for the first down. Lofftus and Edwards took turns running the ball straight at the Truckee defense, but it was a pass to Stenovich that earned them a first down.
Lofftus ran for 9 yards on first down, but he was forced to pick up the first on fourth-and-one.
Edwards was it for the rest of the drive. Edwards carried the ball over and over again, pounding away at the Truckee defense until he scored with two minutes left in the second quarter. The point after was good to put the Spartans up 15-6.
On defense, Williams did a good job stopping Edwards from breaking through the defense.
The Truckee offense took the field with enough time to run three plays and punt. The second quarter ended with Spring Creek running the ball steadily down the field.
The Wolverines were losing at the half for the first time all year.
“I told them at half time, ‘We’re going to find out what we’re made of and what kind of character we have in the second half,'” said Head Coach Bob Shaffer.
In the Spartan’s opening drive in the second quarter, Edwards continued to run the ball straight at the Wolverine defense. On fourth down, they were forced to punt.
The Wolverines started out on their 39-yard line. On first down Smith ran for 6 yards. The following play resulted in a first down when Maehler caught a Tierney pass and took it to the Spartan 43-yard line.
Truckee continued to drive, until a pass to Smith on fourth down fell incomplete and the Spartans took over on their own 15-yard line.
Spring Creek’s offense took the field for three plays and then punted. The punt was short, and it left the Wolverines with great field position at the Spartan 40-yard line.
On first down, Hackley broke a run up the middle to take the ball to the 11-yard line. Tonon took the ball to the 2-yard line on second down, and Smith punched it into the end zone on the next play. With the extra point from Murphy, the Wolverines trailed 15-13.
Murphy’s kick off left the Spartans with a touchback. The Spartan offense was again unsuccessful, and they were forced to punt the ball away.
The Wolverines took over on their own 34-yard line. On first down, Tierney connected with Maehler for a gain of 24 yards.
On fourth-and-one, Hackley charged through the center of the defense for the first down. The Wolverines continued to stick with the run and drive down to the goal where Hackley scored on a second and inches play. Murphy’s extra point was no good, but the Wolverines lead for the first time all game, 19-15.
On the kick off, Edwards broke through the Wolverines special teams and across midfield where Smith took him down.
Lofftus and Edwards continued to chip away at the Truckee defense, who helped them out with a personal foul and roughing the passer penalty on key downs.
Edwards scored on a 13-yard run around the end. The extra point was blocked by Nathan Wrenn, but the Spartans led again, 21-19.
After another first down from Smith and Hackley’s running game, Truckee turned to the air. On first down, Tierney connected with Maehler, who took the ball 61 yards for the score. On the two-point conversion, Tierney again found Maehler in the back corner of the end zone to put the Wolverines ahead 27-21 with seven minutes left to play.
The Spartans marched down the field with Edwards leading the way. After an entire game of running up the middle, Edwards turned to the ends and found plenty of room to run around the corners. But in the end it was Randon Nunez who intercepted a pass on the 11-yard line to crush the Spartans hope of victory.
“We came out the second half and made some minor adjustments. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t,” Shaffer said. “They’re a hard team to defend.”
With the Spring Creek defense prepared to protect against the pass, the Wolverines stuck with a strict running game.
“There were certain things they were giving and certain things they were taking away,” Shaffer said. “We got them thinking, run, run, run and then we’d throw it out to the flats.”
Smith led the running game with 18 carries for 108 yards, while Hackley followed close behind with 17 carries for 111 yards.
Tierney contributed 14 complete passes for 210 yards and one touchdown. Maehler caught eight passes for 156 yards.
Shaffer attributes much of the team’s offense success to the offensive line.
“It all depends on how successful they are up front in their individual battles, and it’s obvious they’ve been successful,” he added.
The offensive line is made up of: Shane Wright, Ian Casey, Logan Hunt, Cory Arth, Marcus Waters and Kendal Burton.
The unbeaten Wolverines face unbeaten Manogue this Saturday at Surprise Stadium.
“Nobodies given them a game all year,” Shaffer said. “Hopefully we’ll be the first team that can do that. We’ll see if they can last all four quarters.”
“Our defense has struggled at times in the first half and come out and played better in the second half. But if we want to win Saturday, they need to play all four quarters.”
Williams, Knez, Ballou, Islas and the rest of the Truckee defense came up with big hits.
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