Truckee football | Wolverines take down Fernley in snowy playoff opener

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sylas Wright / Sierra SunTrevor Auldridge returns a punt during the Wolverines' 34-14 playoff win against Fernley on Saturday.

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8211; By the second half of Saturday’s playoff opener, Truckee fans were trained to contain their excitement during what appeared to be a big play by their team.

They knew too well that, in all likelihood, a yellow flag or two had been tossed in the frigid air, and the play was coming back.

Despite shooting themselves in the feet repeatedly with penalties, several of which negated huge gains or touchdowns, the Wolverines still provided their hardy fans reason to cheer as they defeated visiting Fernley, 34-14, in the opening round of the 3A state playoffs.

The win marked the Wolverine’s 34th straight.

But it was not pretty. And Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer was not pleased about it.

and#8220;Every time it seemed like we moved forward, the yellow came out and we moved back. That’s all I can say,and#8221; said Shaffer, his frustration evident in his voice. and#8220;It’s pretty hard to have any kind of consistency or continuity in your offense when they’re throwing the hankies every other play.

and#8220;I’m not blaming the officials. I’m just saying between them and our kids making mistakes, we had no continuity today on offense.and#8221;

Truckee was penalized 16 times in the game, with 10 of those calls coming in the first half. Two crucial holding penalties in the first quarter alone brought back long gains by Trevor Auldridge deep into Fernley territory, while Auldridge then had a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown wiped off the board on another holding call in the second quarter.

Not every play by Auldridge was ruined, though. The senior return specialist, defensive back and wingback ignited Truckee early in the third quarter with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown and#8211; with no flags. He then caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Pat Shaffer on Truckee’s next possession to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 28-0.

Auldridge also had an interception and a couple of other nice returns that did not come back.

Playing in a steady, light snow, the game got off to a slow start as Truckee punted on its first four possessions and#8211; all of which were hampered by penalties and#8211; and Fernley turned the ball over on downs its first two drives.

After a scoreless opening quarter, Truckee’s special teams put the Wolverines on the board early in the second quarter when Kai Goodpaster blocked a punt at the Fernley 10-yard line and Max Collinson jumped on it in the end zone. Austin Ferreira kicked through the extra point to give Truckee a 7-0 lead with 10:01 remaining in the half.

and#8220;That’s one of the things we work pretty hard on is our special teams, and I think we have a pretty good reputation for it. It pays off in the big games, and it was definitely good today,and#8221; said coach Shaffer.

Truckee punted on its next possession before holding the Vaqueros to a 54-yard field goal attempt, which fell well short. But a 5-yard Truckee penalty gave Fernley another fourth-down play, this time a fourth-and-6 from the Truckee 32-yard line. The Vaqueros decided to go for it, and Auldridge made them pay when he stepped in front of a pass by Fernley quarterback Kenny Bradley near the goal line and returned it all the way to midfield.

After a 38-yard hookup from Shaffer to Ty Englert, Shaffer hit Erik Holmer with a 17-yard touchdown pass to give Truckee a 14-0 lead with 42 seconds left before the midway point.

Fernley received the kickoff to start the third quarter and went three-and-out, which set up Auldridge’s 70-yard punt return for a TD down the Truckee sideline, pushing the lead to 21-0.

On the first play of the Vaqueros’ next drive, Truckee senior defensive back Luke Theis picked off a Bradley pass near the Fernley 40-yard line and returned it to the 5.

and#8220;The first receiver on the outside went in, and so I was expecting a wheel from the inside, and that’s what I got,and#8221; Theis explained. and#8220;Bradley just under-threw it, and so I went up for it and brought it down. I should have got in the end zone, though.and#8221;

Despite a holding penalty that erased a Jake Pettit touchdown and instead placed the ball back at the 19, Truckee scored on fourth-and-goal at the 14 when Shaffer connected with Auldridge over the middle for the touchdown strike.

Truckee’s defense continued to hold the Vaqueros in check as it forced another punt, giving the ball to the Wolverines at the Fernley 40-yard line. After runs of 8 and 30 yards by junior running back Tyler Curtis, Pettit rushed for a 2-yard TD to extend the lead to its largest of the game, at 34-0, with 4:51 remaining in the third quarter.

Asked about how the Wolverines managed to move the ball at times in the second and third quarters, as opposed to their scoreless first quarter, coach Shaffer said after a pause, and#8220;No yellow flags.and#8221;

and#8220;I don’t know what else to say,and#8221; the coach continued in an irritated tone. and#8220;We were moving the ball before. Every time we gained 10 yards, or 8 or 12 or 25, it would come back, and then it was second-and-25. It’s pretty hard to come away with anything good to say about that.and#8221;

The Vaqueros received a break when the Wolverines completely whiffed on a punt attempt late in the quarter and Fernley big man Conner Bowen picked up the loose ball at the Truckee 10-yard line. Two plays later Bradley ran it in from the 12, adjusting the score to 34-7 after the PAT by Dominic Villa.

With its reserves in the game most of the fourth quarter, Truckee allowed a final touchdown with 1:39 left when Bradley lofted a pass over a Truckee defender to Erik Wilson in the back of the end zone.

and#8220;I think we could have played better up front,and#8221; said Fernley head coach Chris Ward. and#8220;It didn’t seem like we were getting the push we needed to.and#8221;

The coach also addressed the many penalties against Truckee. and#8220;Yeah, the flag was flying on Truckee quite a bit,and#8221; he said. and#8220;I told the guys, and#8216;Shoot, we’ve never been in this position. We’ve got to take advantage of it.’ But we didn’t.and#8221;

Fernley, which entered the postseason as the sixth seed from the Northern 3A, finished 5-6 overall while Truckee improved to 10-0 overall.

Shaffer acknowledged that the Wolverines need to clean up their game in the semifinal round against Fallon, a team that provided Truckee its biggest test of the year in a 20-14 Truckee win back on Oct. 15.

and#8220;We need to play a lot better than this week,and#8221; Shaffer said. and#8220;If we do what we did today, we’re going to be in trouble. We just can’t have so many penalties.and#8221;

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.