Truckee football wins big in 3A opener
WINNEMUCCA – Forty-three of the 48 minutes in Truckee’s 43-6 win over Lowry here Friday night were more competitive than could have been realistically anticipated.
As might be expected, that somewhat bothered Truckee coach Bob Shaffer, whose team is out to become only the fourth Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association squad in the past 20 years to win three straight state football titles.
At the same time, it didn’t deceive Lowry coach Chris Ward, even though he was pleased with what he called the Buckaroos’ best overall effort of a heretofore – and probably hereafter – dreary season.
In both teams’ Northern 3A opener, junior Kevin Sahlberg rushed for three touchdowns and senior Andrew Mazzini two in the first half as Truckee built a 36-0 intermission lead, scoring 23 points (on three touchdowns and a safety) in a 2 minute, 46-second span late in the second quarter.
Led by junior defensive back Nick Tennant, who had two interceptions, and junior linebacker Paris Tenorio, the Wolverines (3-2) held Lowry (1-4) to 105 yards ” 66 on back-to-back plays early in the fourth quarter that resulted in the Buckaroos’ only score.
Truckee wound up with 487 yards, even though the Wolverines played reserves and didn’t throw a pass in the second half.
Mazzini rushed for 99 yards on just five carries and Sahlberg added 87 yards on five tries, all in the first half.
Truckee now has beaten Lowry in all eight of the teams’ meetings since Lowry joined the Northern 3A for the 2000 season, including a 54-0 win last year. But the question of whether Truckee can conquer a league in which five of the six teams are potential title contenders remained unanswered in Shaffer’s mind.
“We’re just not real good at any (particular aspect) of the game right now,” said Shaffer, whose team played all four of its non-league games against teams that reached the postseason in their California Interscholastic Federation sections last year. “I wish I could say we were in midseason form, but we’re not yet.”
Tennant’s first interception ended that threat at the Truckee 20, and although Truckee fumbled the ball away on the next play, the Wolverines forced a three-and-out. Truckee quarterback B.J. Carter, who played the second and fourth quarters while Tucker Ballister steered during the first and third, completed a 20-yard pass to senior tight end Izzy Serna to move the ball to the Lowry 35, and Mazzini scored untouched on the next play on one of Truckee’s staple plays ” the wingback reverse ” to extend the lead to 20-0 with 4:11 left in the first half.
At that point, the Buckaroos ” who had stopped Truckee deep in their own territory on the Wolverines’ first two possessions ” came unraveled.
Lowry punter Scott Aguilar couldn’t reach an off-target snap from center ” the second such mishap of the game by the Buckaroos ” and had to kick the loose ball out of the end zone to salvage a safety. On the second play after Lowry’s free kick, Mazzini again caught the Lowry defense in overpursuit on a wingback-around play and went 51 yards to make the score 29-0 with 2:04 left in the half.
Tennant’s second interception then gave Truckee the ball at the Lowry 44, and one play later Sahlberg evaded a backfield tackle on a sweep and sprinted to the end zone with 1:35 left in the half.
“I think we have the potential to be a pretty good team when we start hitting on all cylinders,” Shaffer said, “but we’re a step behind. All three of our starting running backs were hurt in our scrimmage (against South Tahoe, Quincy and Lassen in mid-August) and so was (Carter) and we’re still playing catch-up.
“We’re young and inexperienced (by the standards of a program that has won seven state titles since 1990) and we didn’t take advantage of a couple of opportunities early.”
Truckee turned the ball over on downs at the Lowry 10 on its first possession as Zamudio broke up a fourth-down pass, and after Lowry’s first misdirected punt snap gave Truckee the ball at the Buckaroos’ 6, the Wolverines stalled after incurring a holding penalty, and a field-goal try hit the upright.
Truckee wasn’t waylaid on its next two possessions, which ended with scoring runs of 21 and 14 yards by Sahlberg, but Lowry ” which suited up only 23 players while Truckee lists 42 on its roster ” had a chance to get back into the game before Tennant’s first interception.
And although his team never relinquished control after that, Shaffer didn’t change his mind about his squad being a work in progress, especially considering the strength of a league that went 5-0 against Northern 4A opposition and had three teams ” Spring Creek, Dayton and Sparks ” unbeaten going into league play.
(Dayton beat Spring Creek 17-10 on a touchdown pass on the last play of the game, and Sparks was upset 37-34 by Fernley in the other two league openers Friday night.)
“There’s going to be no easy route for us this year,” Shaffer said. “I’m sure a lot of teams are looking at us and saying ‘this is the year we’re going to beat Truckee.’ And it will be if we don’t get some things straightened out.”
Although Shaffer is satisfied with his backfield rotation, he says he still has not yet decided on a quarterback starter, and may continue to use both Ballister and Carter behind center. Carter, though, directed Truckee during its 29-point second quarter breakout, and completed 3 of 5 passes for 106 yards (including a 62-yarder to Sahlberg) while Ballister was 2 for 4 for 17 yards.