Truckee football | Wolverines to contend for third consecutive state title
Truckee football players had about two days to revel in what was likely the most exciting win of their young lives.
Then it was back to the gridiron, knowing full well they have bigger fish to fry in their state title defense.
and#8220;We’ve put that game to rest and moved on,and#8221; Truckee coach Bob Shaffer said of last Saturday’s state semifinal thriller, a 28-24 Truckee win in barn-burning fashion against visiting Fallon.
and#8220;For us, to win that game with it not being the state game, kind of put a little damper on the win. It’s something that happened, and we’re all proud of the way the kids fought and stayed resilient. But as soon as Monday came, we stopped talking about that game and started focusing on Moapa Valley and the state championship.and#8221;
For good reason.
Truckee faces its Southern 3A nemesis for a fourth consecutive year in the state championship this Saturday in Fernley, this time with a 35-game win streak on the line, which is tied for the seventh longest in the nation in 11-man football.
The Wolverines defeated the Pirates each of the past two years in the title game and#8212; 27-7 last season and 27-0 in 2009, both with freakishly talented teams and#8212; while a juggernaut Moapa Valley team handed Truckee its last loss in the 2008 championship, 35-16. Moapa Valley has played for the last six state titles.
Safe to say, the perennial powers of their respective leagues have developed a healthy rivalry the past half-decade.
and#8220;It’s one of those love-hate relationships,and#8221; said Moapa Valley head coach Brent Lewis. and#8220;Unfortunately we get to see Truckee every year. But we have a ton of respect for Truckee. It seems like coach Shaffer year after year gets the absolute most out of his kids, and there’s just not a weakness in their program.and#8221;
That regard is mutual, Shaffer said.
and#8220;Despite what you read on the blogs and stuff, I think there is a tremendous amount of respect between these two teams and coaching staffs. We look forward to playing each other one time a year,and#8221; he said.
Both coaches conceded that their programs mirror each other in many ways, particularly in their history of success. Moapa Valley enters with 15 state titles under its belt and#8212; three in the 3A, three in the 2A, six in the 1A and three in six-man. Truckee enters with 10, with seven in the 3A and three in the 2A.
and#8220;I think the success that both programs have had has carried over throughout the years,and#8221; Lewis said. and#8220;I know a lot of small town are similar. Our kids grow up idolizing the kids who are playing ball right now, and they dream about getting their opportunity, and I know it’s the same way with the Truckee kids. I think both programs expect to be there (in the state championship), because we always have been, and it’s no different this year.and#8221;
Lewis described this year’s Moapa Valley team as and#8220;blue collarand#8221; and and#8220;hard-nosed.and#8221; He said the Pirates have not fed off of the big play as much as previous seasons, and instead have used a tough running game to earn their 10-2 record, which included high-profile wins over Show Low (Ariz.), 28-26, in the Sollenberger Classic and 4A Del Sol, 49-40. The Pirates lost to Desert Hills of Utah, 24-0, and 4A Legacy, 33-30, during the regular season.
and#8220;We’ve kind of had to ground it out, and we’ve definitely relied on our defense keeping us in ball games,and#8221; Lewis said. and#8220;So I’d say we’re similar to Truckee, although they might have had a few more big plays than we had.and#8221;
Both teams pride themselves on defense, and both have plenty of capable playmakers.
Junior running back and Southern 3A MVP Conner Mortensen leads the Pirates offensively with 1,360 yards rushing on 223 carries, which ranks third in the state among the 3A ranks. He averaged a little more than 113 yards per game and scored 22 touchdowns. Sean McConnell is the Pirates’ second-leading rusher, gaining 658 yards on 81 carries.
Shane Terril, who’s caught 39 balls for 553 yards, has been the favorite receiver for starting quarterback Dakota Waters, who sat out Moapa Valley’s 19-6 semifinal win against Lowry with a bruised thigh. Lewis said there was and#8220;a chanceand#8221; Waters could play against Truckee, although they were preparing backup quarterbacks Lance Hilton and Josh Repp. Hilton was 7-of-10 for 71 yards with a touchdown and interception against Lowry.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Kasen Hughes has a team-high 96 tackles for the Pirates, while fellow linebacker Jake Rebman has 8 1/2 sacks, which is second in the 3A. Terril has four interceptions.
For the Wolverines, junior linebacker Erik Holmer leads the team in tackles, with 95 total. Junior linebacker Graham Christian has 71 tackles and Zak Pettit 62, and senior defensive back Trevor Auldridge has six interceptions, which is tied for the 3A lead. Truckee’s defense has recorded 19 sacks spread out among eight players, with Max Collinson leading the way with five.
and#8220;I see their defense again. They’re tough to move the ball against,and#8221; Lewis said. and#8220;They’re well disciplined and get to the football well, and they hit hard.and#8221;
On offense, despite losing standout quarterback Ben Bolton from last year’s team, Truckee’s passing game has remained strong thanks to senior quarterback Pat Shaffer. Shaffer has connected on 108 of his 182 passes for a 3A-leading 1,795 yards, with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 108.
His trustworthy receiving corps deserves some of the credit. Aside from the threat he poses as a returner on special teams, Auldridge has caught 32 passes for 508 yards, with five touchdowns, while tight end Braden Waters has 422 yards on just 15 grabs (a 28.13-yard average).
Like the Pirates, however, the Wolverines like to run the ball.
Fifteen players have combined for 2,648 yards on 367 carries, led by Jake Pettit’s 984 yards on 105 rushes. Tyler Curtis has rushed for 626 yards on 90 carries. Senior linebacker and fullback Cole Roberts, despite missing more than five games with a hamstring injury, still has 421 yards on 33 carries.
and#8220;Offensively they spread the ball around and show you a lot of different looks, so you can’t key on one kid,and#8221; Lewis said. and#8220;You have to play solid all-around defense. So we’ve got our work cut out for us, for sure.and#8221;
Truckee has several key players nursing injuries, including Roberts with his hamstring, Christian with a bad shoulder, and Collinson and Waters with knee ailments. Coach Shaffer said all of them are resting this week in hopes of being healthy come Saturday.
and#8220;They’re all going to play. State game, senior year and#8212; they would have to almost be an amputee to not play, and they’d probably still find a way to get on the field,and#8221; Shaffer said. and#8220;So they’re going to play. How effective they’re going to be remains to be seen.and#8221;
Lewis concluded with this: and#8220;You guys have had our number. Last year we felt like we were way more competitive than the year before. We had our chances, we just didn’t seem to capitalize. But I would expect a close game, coming down probably to those key little plays here and there. I’d say we’re pretty equal on a talent level, and I’m hoping for a good game.and#8221;
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.