Truckee football | Wolverines to face biggest test against first-place Fallon |

Truckee football | Wolverines to face biggest test against first-place Fallon

Steve Puterski
Sylas Wright / Sierra SunTruckee is led by its vaunted defense, which has allowed only 31 points in seven games and has recorded three shutouts. The defense will be tested against Fallon's potent offense Friday.

This was supposed to be the game of the year.

It was supposed to be two undefeated teams playing for much more than a league championship.

It was supposed to be the upstart Fallon Greenwave ending a record winning streak owned by powerhouse Truckee.

Instead, it’s one of the two biggest games on the slate this week, although a league crown is on the line. Not bad, but still a bit disappointing for many who figured this would be the biggest game in Fallon history since the Greenwave’s 1978 state championship win.

Truckee’s Nevada record-tying streak was snapped two weeks ago with a 7-0 home loss to Fernley. Nevertheless, today’s battle of titans will determine playoff seeding for both clubs.

Fallon, meanwhile, continued its unbeaten streak with a 12-0 win at Fernley last week.

“They were able to focus on Fernley … and we took care of business,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “The seniors that were on the team last year remember those two losses against Truckee. There’s not a whole lot of needing to motivate them right now.”

The Wolverines’ offense was stymied by a fast and aggressive Fernley defense, which held Fallon to its lowest offensive output of the season (12 points) last week. Wolverines quarterback Erik Holmer battled through an injured finger to open the season and separated his shoulder last week in a 56-0 win over Wooster. He is expected to play.

Holmer has completed 36 of 72 passes for 627 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. Louden Smith rotates under center with Holmer and the junior has completed 24 of 37 attempts for 469 yards, six TDs and one pick.

Truckee’s best player, though, Graham Christian, injured his shoulder against Fernley and is expected to sit out against Fallon. Christian, a linebacker and running back, has accounted for 554 rushing yards and nine TDs to lead the team. In addition, he leads Truckee with 72 tackles and two interceptions. He did not play against Wooster.

“They have a core of their skill returning,” Hill said. “They pose a threat offensively. They really haven’t found their rhythm yet. Hopefully they don’t this week.”

A Truckee tradition through the years has been its defense. That trend continues this season as the Wolverines own the league’s best scoring defense. Truckee has allowed 31 points (4.4 average per game) and recorded three shutouts.

The pass rush is led by Zak Pettit, who has seven sacks and 59 tackles as Truckee’s best defensive end.

“We have the opportunity to go in there and still potentially win league, and that’s what’s in front of us,” Truckee coach Bob Shaffer said. “It’s an awhile since we’ve been the underdog.”

But while the Wolverines may be the underdogs on paper, Truckee players aren’t necessarily conceding to that notion.

“I don’t know if they consider themselves the underdogs,” Shaffer said. “They’ve been pretty successful. I think they feel like they have an opportunity and they have to go take advantage of it.”

Fallon, meanwhile, owns the best offense in the league and averages 39.1 points per game. Last week, though, the Wave managed only 12 points against a stingy Fernley defense, and another tough battle awaits with the Wolverines.

Fallon is led by quarterback Morgan Dirickson, who has completed 74 of 127 passes for 1,319 yards, 16 TDs and three interceptions. Dirickson, though, will be without one of his best receivers, Micah Manning, who suffered a knee injury against the Vaqueros and will likely miss the rest of the season.

Manning hauled in 16 passes for 278 yards and six TDs. Defensively, Manning, a defensive back, recorded 25 tackles and one interception.

Nevertheless, Dylan Tedford and Skye Barton have been consistent targets of Dirickson as the duo has combined for 51 receptions, 955 yards and 10 TDs. Stepping in in place of Manning will be Beau Marshall, who missed several games with a shoulder injury.

The 6-foot-5-inch Marshall caught one pass for 17 yards against Fernley and will take over the No. 3 receiver position.

On the ground, Fallon features the speedy duo of Tyson Ernst and Trent Tarner. Ernst has racked up 876 yards and 13 TDs, while Tarner has amassed 618 yards and eight TDs.

The two backs bring different skill sets as Ernst is a one-cut and go runner, while Tarner’s agility stops defenders in their tracks. Both will be needed to slow the tenacious Wolverines defense.

Defensively, Fallon is coming off its best performance of the season. The Wave, who introduced eight new starters this season, held Fernley to 147 total yards – 91 rushing – to secure their second shutout of the season.

A ball-hawking unit has forced 17 turnovers – nine interceptions and eight fumbles – and recorded 20 sacks led by Justin Hatfield (seven), Tyler Bagby (four) and Orrin Smith (three).

Speed is the anchor of the unit, which boasts Ian Fitzpatrick (second in the 3A 100-meter dash last year), Bagby, Smith, Trent Cole and Barton. In addition, Dalton Johnson, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last winter, provides the thunder at linebacker with vicious hits on opposing backs.

“This is going to be an even more physical game than last week,” Hill said. “Fernley was a good game and it was a good game to have right before you face them (Truckee). The kids are starting to dial in on that side of the ball.

“We start two sophomores. We are getting the concepts in and playing the base defense really well, which allows us to tweak a few things and scheme a little bit.”

After shutting down the Vaqueros last week, Fallon took command of sole possession of first place in the Northern Division I-A at 7-0. Chasing the Greenwave for tops in the league are Truckee (6-1), Fernley (6-1) and Lowry (6-1). Also in the mix is South Tahoe (4-3), which must beat Spring Creek this week and Truckee next week to capture the No. 4 seed.

Two losses by the Wolverines and the three-time defending state champions would miss the postseason. Two more wins, however, and the Wolverines could potentially win league, and with it earn homefield advantage as they seek a fourth consecutive state championship.

– Sierra Sun sports editor Sylas Wright contributed to this report.

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