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October 6, 2012
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Truckee football | Fernley snaps historic win streak at 41 games

TRUCKEE, Calif. - "Hold your heads high, Truckee!" a man barked from the home stands.

A 41-game winning streak, after all, is nothing to be ashamed of.

But Truckee players, many with tears of frustration rolling down their cheeks, were in no mood for consolation.

For the first time since the 2008 state championship, the Wolverines did not win. In fact, they did not score.

Credit the Fernley Vaqueros, who shocked a packed homecoming crowd with a 7-0 upset win at Surprise Stadium on Saturday, snapping Truckee's streak one shy of a new NIAA record.

The 41-game streak, which began freshmen year of this year's senior class, ranked fourth in the nation in 11-man high school football. The mark tied The Meadows (1998-2001) for best in NIAA history (11-man).

"We knew it would happen sooner or later," said Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer, whose 164 career wins is the most by any active coach in the NIAA. "But it hurts. I can't remember the last time we were shut out. I'm not sure it's happened since I've been here."

Fernley pulled off the feat with a stout defensive effort that limited the Wolverines to just 259 yards of total offense, compared to their 412-yard average entering the contest. Truckee also repeatedly hurt its own cause with untimely penalties and turnovers, the last of which cost them the game.

After three and a half quarters of scoreless football, the Vaqueros finally capitalized on one of the Wolverines' mistakes when they recovered a fumble at midfield and drove 41 yards in nine plays, capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by quarterback Skylar Williams.

Two plays earlier, running back Paul Bustamante picked up a crucial first down on fourth-and-2 with a 3-yard plunge on a read option play. The Truckee defense then bit on the fake handoff to Bustamante, and Williams - who hurt Truckee all game with his legs, finishing with 99 rushing yards - ran around the right side of the line and into the end zone untouched for the game's only score.

But 1:57 still remained on the clock, and Truckee fans knew well that their team had pulled off similar miracles - against Fallon in last year's state semifinal, for example.

This time, however, the miracle drive came to an abrupt end, and not in the home team's favor.

It started with promise, as Truckee drove from its own 20-yard line to the Fernley 29 in five plays, using a 20-yard pass play from Louden Smith to Adam Morgan, a 17-yard completion to Graham Christian and a late-hit penalty on the Vaqueros.

With 51 seconds remaining, Smith launched a deep ball to Erik Holmer near the front corner pylon, where Fernley's Beau Hogan was defending. Both players leaped for the ball, but Hogan, who had inside position, snatched it out of the air in front of Holmer, pulled it in to his chest, and held on as he landed flat on his back at the 3-yard line.

The official pointed in the direction of the Fernley end zone 97 yards away, and two plays later, Truckee's win streak ended to the sight of hundreds of Fernley fans pouring onto the field in celebration.

"We were playing cover three, and my job is to get back in zone," Hogan said, recalling his big interception. "I saw out of my peripherals that the quarterback cocked his arm back, so I dropped back and was in perfect position. I was just glad I caught the ball in bounds."

"My hat's off to Fernley," Shaffer said. "They did a great job and were well-coached. Their kids played hard for four quarters, and when the opportunity presented itself, they took advantage of it."

While he tipped his cap to the Vaqueros, Shaffer also was disappointed with the number of mistakes committed by his team. Truckee had nine penalties in the game and turned the ball over three times. Fernley, meanwhile, had 11 penalties but did not turn the ball over once.

"We kind of just ran into a buzz saw where those things came back to haunt us that did earlier in the year," Shaffer said. "It's not that the kids didn't play hard. They just had a lot of miscues that happened at bad times. It was the little mistakes when all said and done that hurt us."

It was a frustrating day in general for the Wolverine faithful.

Truckee struggled to move the ball from the start against Fernley's defense. Holes that normally open up en route to big touchdown plays were non-existent. The Wolverines mustered only 49 rushing yards in the first half and 128 in the game, while quarterbacks Smith and Holmer combined for 131 yards on 9-of-17 passing.

The inefficient offense, combined with the number of poorly timed penalties, left the Wolverines with poor field position the entire game as they rarely crossed midfield. Before reaching the 29-yard line on the final possession, the farthest Truckee drove was to the Fernley 35 before turning the ball over on downs.

"Too many times it was third-and-17 or second-and-15, when it should have been second-and-1," Shaffer said.

Truckee's defense, which had allowed just 24 points through the first five games, held up its end of the bargain. The vaunted unit held the Vaqueros to 201 yards of total offense and stopped several threatening Fernley drives deep in Truckee territory.

The Vaqueros reached the Truckee 18-yard line in the first quarter before settling for a missed field goal attempt, they reached the 34-yard line in the second quarter before turning the ball over on downs, and they reached the 14-yard line in the third quarter before Truckee pushed them back and forced a punt.

After fumbling the ball to Fernley in the fourth, however, Truckee's defense could not get a stop when it was needed most. Several Wolverines looked banged up on the go-ahead drive. Between plays, Christian slumped over in pain, Zak Pettit was noticeably hurting from somewhere, and Holmer was still dealing with a "stinger" he suffered in the first half.

"Truckee is a tough team every year," said Fernley head coach Chris Ward. "Their defense is solid. But our defense stepped up to the challenge. Anytime you can come here and get a shutout, you know you're playing well."

The Vaqueros entered the game with only one shutout, against Elko. They allowed 19 points against Wooster the previous week and 21 to Spring Creek the week before.

"It was a well-played game. Fernley deserved to win. I'm not going to take anything away from them," said Shaffer, whose players received a standing ovation from their home crowd as they left the field.

Fernley improved to 6-0 in Northern Division I-A play and 6-1 overall (the one loss was against Silver Creek, Colo., 19-13, to open the season). Truckee fell to 5-1 in league and overall.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 7, 2012 04:07PM Published Oct 6, 2012 07:32PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.