Wolverines cage Panthers; showdown with Greenwave looms
After taking a dominant win against a struggling Dayton program to open the season, Class 3A newcomers North Valleys received a proper introduction to Northern League football in the form of the Truckee Wolverines.
The Wolverines entered the game at North Valleys on Friday night eager to send a message to the Panthers, and by the time the final whistle sounded on a 66-13 victory, Truckee had done just that, in a hard-hitting and dominant performance.
“We felt challenged tonight,” said Truckee Coach Josh Ivens. “Having a team drop into the division from the division above, I think we had some stuff to prove. Our guys were fired up, and our physicality was much better tonight.”
From senior running back Sean Kelly busting loose for 136 yards rushing and four touchdowns (three receiving), to senior linebacker Drew Wingard blowing up a receiver on a fourth-and-short pass — maybe the biggest hit of the season — as part of his team-high 11 tackles, big plays and ferocious defensive play had the Wolverines in control all night.
Early on, however, it appeared the Panthers might offer more of a challenge, taking their opening drive down the field for a touchdown on a keeper by senior quarterback Kyle Claiborne for a 7-0 advantage.
“No one really knew what to expect,” Kelly said of the opening drive. “We were surprised, but I think it was a testament to our confidence for us to drive back through that.”
Truckee responded with a scoring drive of its own, capped by a short touchdown run by senior Kevin Malo. The Wolverines captured the lead on North Valleys’ next possession, picking up a safety on a snap that went over the punter’s head. Malo added to the lead on Truckee’s next drive, scoring on an 8-yard option play.
Truckee’s defense then forced a three-and-out on the next Panthers’ possession, and again picked up two points off a bad long snap, resulting in an 18-7 lead with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
Kelly capped Truckee’s next drive by gashing the Panthers on a 29-yard touchdown run.
North Valleys showed signs of life to start the second quarter, as Claiborne got loose for a 53-yard touchdown run, making the score 25-13.
“(Claiborne) is a heck of a player — hard to tackle, big kid,” said Ivens on the play of the North Valleys quarterback.
The Wolverines offense answered with a 58-yard drive, capped by a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Marcus Bellon to Kelly.
Truckee finished off the first half with another touchdown with 9 seconds on the clock. Junior Tyler Estabrook got the call, taking a reverse from the 31-yard line for the score and a 25-point lead going into the locker room.
SECOND HALF, SAME STORY
Kelly continued the onslaught to start the second half, ripping the Panthers defense on a 47-yard run, before hauling in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Bellon. The Truckee quarterback then added to the lead on the next drive, scoring on a 16-yard keeper.
Kelly added his fourth touchdown of the evening on the following possession, catching a 28-yard pass from Bellon, who then found senior running back Jackson Skaff for the two-point conversion and a 60-13 lead.
Truckee’s final points of the evening came midway through the fourth quarter, when Skaff took the ball from the 12-yard line, ran through four tackles, and raced for an 88-yard touchdown run.
“We were not happy that a 4A school came down and is playing in our league,” said Skaff. “We wanted to show them what Truckee football is all about. The tradition we have, how hard we hit, how fast we play. We did not want them to feel welcome.”
Bellon finished his night 8 of 11 through the air for 162 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Kelly finished the game with 183 yards of total offense. As a team, Truckee ran for 460 yards and six touchdowns.
Defensively, senior Marcus Trotter picked up two sacks. Wingard and senior Woody Rose each got to the quarterback once.
Truckee (3-0, 2-0 Northern League) now faces its likely stiffest test of the season when the Wolverines host Churchill County (2-0 Northern League) on Saturday. The Greenwave are the top-ranked team in Class 3A, according to MaxPreps.com, while the Wolverines sit at No. 3. Truckee lost to Churchill County 42-22 on the road last season.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Surprise Stadium.
“We need to have the best week of practices we’ve ever had if we want to beat Fallon,” said Skaff. “They’re big up front, and they’re a good team. We want to take it to them as well.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.