Truckee overcomes slow start; 3A playoffs begin Saturday
One day after Halloween, Tahoe-Truckee High School varsity football players were still feeling a little scared.
Instead of being afraid of tardy trick-or-treaters, however, the Wolverine players were starting to fear the last place Rite of Passage football team, which was suddenly masquerading as a decent football team in the first half of Saturday’s game before falling apart in the second half and losing to TTHS, 40-0.
“I was scared – I was starting to have visions of the Battle Mountain game,” said linebacker Dan DeCoite, referring to Truckee’s only loss last season. “I was thinking that unless we got the momentum of the game changed around, we’d have an upset.”
DeCoite’s fear wasn’t unfounded for much of the first half, as ROP stayed within one big play of taking over the lead for much of the first half, trailing only 3-0 with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
The Rams stayed close during the half mainly because of Truckee’s own mistakes, as the Wolverines turned the ball over three times deep in ROP territory.
“I don’t think it got to the point where I was scared of losing the game, but it was frustrating,” said Wolverine coach Bob Shaffer. “We kept shooting ourselves in the foot during the half; we had several opportunities to score, but didn’t take advantage of them.”
As has happened often this season, it was the defense which provided the spark necessary for Truckee to finally pull away from the Rams.
With only 40 seconds remaining in the first half and Truckee leading 3-0 on a first-quarter Spencer Archer field goal, Brad Noel and Jeff Andrs tackled the ROP quarterback in his own end zone for a safety.
On the subsequent free kick, Nick Candler returned the ball to midfield, setting up one final attempt for a Truckee touchdown with just 19 seconds remaining in the half.
Quarterback Chris Gerdin then hit Mike Detwiler with a pass as Detwiler streaked across the center of the field. Archer, playing wideout, threw a block which opened up the right side of the field for Detwiler, who shrugged off a Ram defender inside the 10-yard line to score.
“That play worked real good, but it was the block by Spencer which opened it up big,” Detwiler said.
As if scoring on the reception wasn’t enough, Detwiler then threw to wideout Mike Avilla on the two-point conversion, giving Truckee its 10th point in the final minute and a 13-0 lead.
The momentum change was evident at the start of the second half, as Candler made another nice return to the 46-yard line and running back Rudy Cross then took the ball 54 yards for a score on the first play from scrimmage of the half.
“In about five plays, the whole momentum of the game changed,” Shaffer said.
From that point of the game, Truckee was in control, scoring touchdowns on a Mike Avilla punt return (his seventh return for a touchdown this season), a 24-yard run by Cross and a 3-yard run by Seth Scribner, the first of his Wolverine career.
Shaffer said he never really feared an upset because the Wolverine defense kept the Ram offense at bay the entire game, as ROP was held to -24 yards of total offense.
“I would have been concerned if our offense wasn’t moving the ball and if their defense was the reason why,” Shaffer said. “But it was our own fumbles and dropped passes which kept us from putting the ball in the end zone early in the game.”
Truckee players and coaches said they had been impressed by ROP’s play – at least for the first half.
“There was all this big hype about Truckee being undefeated, yet here’s ROP shutting us down for the first half,” DeCoite said. “We went out and overlooked this team.”
“I’ll give credit to ROP,” Detwiler said. “That was the best ROP team I’d seen.”
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