Truckee seniors look to avenge last year’s loss
Sierra Sun sports editor
Truckee football players understand a win in Saturday’s 3A state semifinal game against visiting Virgin Valley will give them the chance to play for a 3A state championship, but for the seniors, a win would put to rest 12 months of pent-up frustration.
Last year, the Wolverines traveled to Bulldog territory and lost 28-21 in the state semifinals. The seven-point difference was created by a Virgin Valley kickoff return for a touchdown with only 32 seconds left in the first half that broke a 14-14 tie.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a year ” it’s just kind of sitting there in my mind,” said Truckee senior quarterback Paul Tierney, who threw for 289 yards in the losing effort. “Everyone’s really anxious to play. We’re really motivated, and we’re not holding anything back.”
The loss to Virgin Valley was the capper on a nightmarish week that included more than 20 kids missing practice due to illness on the Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the game, and the loss of key running back Mike Hackley to a broken wrist. A win this Saturday would help the Wolverines of yesteryear forget the tragic episode altogether, but they also realize the bigger goal is to win two.
“There’s a lot of emphasis this week on payback and redemption, but more importantly we have to get past them if we’re going to make the trip to Las Vegas for the state (championship),” said Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer. “That’s where our excitement is coming from.”
Truckee last won a state championship in 2001 and lost to Bishop Manogue in the 2002 title game. In 2004, the Wolverines are 8-1, having won eight straight, while outscoring opponents 401-92 on their way to claiming the North’s No. 1 seed.
The Bulldogs own an 8-3 overall record, but they’re coming off a redeeming 20-16 win over league rivals Boulder City ” a team they fell to in the regular season ” in the Southern 3A play-in round. Shaffer is well-accustomed to seeing the Bulldogs in postseason play.
“Every year they’re either No. 1 or 2 coming out (of the South),” said Shaffer, who noted this will be the first time in his 11 years at Truckee that the Bulldogs will visit Surprise Stadium. “Virgin and Moapa (Valley) have a long history of being the two best teams down there, and that’s held true again this year.”
On offense, Truckee will look to counteract Virgin Valley’s high-pressure defense. Although he threw for a healthy amount of yards in last year’s game, Tierney felt uneasy in the pocket against Virgin Valley’s blitz-happy invasion.
“They were pressuring us in the backfield; I think I got sacked more than six times,” Tierney said. “They have five different defensive fronts that they run, so there’s going to be a lot of audibles and changing things around.”
Senior Jamie Maehler, Truckee’s No. 1 receiving threat, was a main target of the Virgin Valley defense a year ago.
“They were really aggressive; they had triple coverage on me,” said Maehler, who still managed to pile up 196 yards receiving in that game. “They were probably the best tackling team I’ve played against.”
Shaffer has only one Virgin Valley game film ” the earlier regular season loss to Boulder City ” to study, but he expects the same sort of aggressive defensive approach this year.
“They’re going to send seven or eight people almost all the time,” he said. “Our offensive line, along with the support of the wing backs and running backs and their need to block, is going to be the key to our success.”
From an offensive standpoint, Shaffer called Virgin Valley “predominantly a running team” that will try to exploit a defense between the tackles; but the Bulldogs will also run the option or counter play to keep defenses honest. The Bulldogs are not afraid to pass, however, especially by implementing play-action.
“We have to make sure we don’t allow the big play on that long pass,” said Shaffer, specifically naming the fade route to No. 20 (Todd Allen).
Truckee may hold the advantage in the special teams department. It was a missed 22-yard field goal that hurt the Bulldogs in the earlier overtime loss to Boulder City in the regular season, Shaffer said. Truckee place kicker Benji Islas has made five field goals this season, including three of 39 yards or more. Islas, who has numerous touchbacks on kickoffs this year, may ensure a kickoff return doesn’t beat Truckee this year.
For the Truckee seniors ” Tierney, Maehler, Islas and the other 24 ” it’s do-or-die time, and the “do” will come with a satisfying bonus of payback. But traveling to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, winning, and bringing a 3A state championship back to Truckee would be the most gratifying. Since Shaffer became the head coach in 1995, Truckee has won three state championships (1996, ’98 and 2001).
“It would be horrible to go through Truckee and not get a state championship because it seems like almost every grade does,” Tierney said. “That’s the entire focus of the season. I can’t believe it’s our last game at home.”
[Below is the 2004 Virgin Valley roster and a mini-preview of the other semifinal matchup, Spring Creek at Moapa Valley.]
No. Name Ht. Wt. Gr. Pos.
3 Brett Smith 11 QB/LB
4 Jordan Flores 10 LB/RB
7 Anthony Frehner 6’1″ 155 11 S/QB
11 Spencer Planck 9 TE/DE
14 Tyler Thurston 6’0″ 170 12 S/QB
20 Todd Allen 5’10” 180 12 C/WR
21 Cas Zarate 5’6″ 160 10 CB/RB
22 Dane Byers 5’8″ 165 12 S/RB
24 Alec Johnson 5’11” 175 12 DL/OL
25 Brock Francis 5’8″ 150 12 CB/RB
27 Cody Sleppy 5’8″ 160 11 LB/RB
30 Kyle Smith 5’11” 155 12 CB/RB
32 Kyle Johnson 5’7″ 160 12 CB/RB
34 Stewart Carboni 5’7″ 150 11 CB/RB
35 Chris Adamson 10 RB/DE
40 Cass Overman 5’8″ 155 11 CB/TE
41 Shad Teerlink 5’8″ 150 11 LB/WR
42 Aaron Vines 10 S/WR
44 Carson Overman 5’8″ 150 12 C/WR
47 Sage Francis 10 RB/LB
51 Preston Cook 6’2″ 150 12 DL/OL
52 Jacob Decker 5’9″ 180 12 CB/DL
55 Julio Baltazar 5’8″ 185 12 LB/DL
58 Spencer Zarate 9 OL/DL
60 Ryan Horlacher 6’2″ 185 11 DL/OL
61 Johnn Santos 5’5″ 185 11 DL/OL
62 Erik Mikkelsen 6’2″ 195 11 DL/OL
66 Brett Sawyer 5’11” 195 12 DL/OL
68 Kevin Cortes 9 OL/DL
70 Gilbert Garcia 11 OL/DL
71 Yasuo Miakashi 10 OL/DL
72 Brent Horlacher 9 OL/DL
74 Jace McEwen 5’10” 170 12 DL/OL
75 Jordan Tait 6’1″ 180 11 DL/OL
76 Akio Miakashi 6’0″ 245 12 DL/OL
80 Cody Anderson 6’1″ 195 12 DE/TE
81 Josh Goodrich 5’9″ 155 12 C/WR
82 David Henderson 5’9″ 140 11 C/WR
85 Austin Goff 10 OB/DB
88 Bram Frehner 10 RB/DB
Britton Barnum 10 WR/DB
Head Coach: Kirk Hafen
Asst. Coaches: Steve White, Alf Frehner, Evan Wilson, Keven Hess, Nick Hansen, Todd Sparks
As junior running back James Edwards goes, so does his Spring Creek Spartans.
Already the Greater Nevada career rushing leader with at least one game to go in the postseason, Edwards has carried the ball 344 times for 2,874 yards through 11 games this season. In a 34-11 home win over Dayton in the Northern 3A play-in round, Edwards broke current University of Nevada, Reno senior running back Chance Kretschmer’s career record of 5,021 yards obtained at Tonopah High from 1996-99. Edwards had 32 carries, 284 yards and four touchdowns against Dayton.
The success of the Spartans clearly revolves around Edwards. Edwards rushed for 132 yards and 164 yards respectively in Spring Creek’s two losses to Elko and Truckee this season. Although way down from his staggering 261 per game average, the yardage factor wasn’t as important as the ability of the Elko and Truckee defenses to limit Edwards’ big gains.
Unless Moapa Valley can hold Edwards to under 75 yards (Edwards has been held under 100 yards only once in his career by Manogue), then Edwards will also break the Nevada single-season rushing record, 2,949, held by Las Vegas’ Antoine White (2000-01).
Moapa Valley is coming off a 45-28 win over Pahrump Valley last week, but Moapa led 45-0 in the second quarter. Behind the consistent passing (60 percent completion rate, 1,269 yards) of quarterback Jeff Bowler, Moapa closely resembles that of the Truckee Wolverines’ offense.
The Pirates have no running backs listed among the Top 20 Greater Nevada rushers and no receivers in the Top 10 in terms of receptions. This means, like Truckee, the Pirates spread the ball around and make use of a wide talent base of athletes on offense.
In that respect, Truckee and Moapa Valley would make for an interesting matchup in the state championship game.
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