TRUCKEE, Calif. - The Truckee football team limped into the season with injuries to some of its most key players. Now, after an 8-1 campaign that resulted in a top playoff seed, the Wolverines enter the postseason hobbled just the same.
But with revenge on their mind.
The team that shattered Truckee's 41-game win streak - Fernley - is coming to town for an anticipated rematch Saturday at 1 p.m. Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer thinks his battle-hardened squad will be prepared, despite its banged-up status.
"I hope so. It seems like they're pretty focused," he said Thursday. "The biggest thing for us is we're trying to overcome injuries. If we can get those guys semi healthy and ready to play, it will help us, let's put it that way."
Senior quarterback and linebacker Erik Holmer, who began the year with a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand, has been slowed by a shoulder injury of late and likely will only play on offense, Shaffer said.
Senior linebacker and running back Graham Christian sat out the last three games with a shoulder injury and remains a game-time decision Saturday, Shaffer said, while senior linebacker Julian Aguirre also injured his shoulder in practice this week and is questionable against the Vaqueros.
"Those are our two starting inside linebackers and starting running back," Shaffer said, adding that backup inside linebacker Lance Bokinskie has been out all week with the flu. "They haven't been doing much in practice. We'll see how they feel Friday."
Healthy or not, Shaffer is banking on his team playing better than the last time Fernley was in town, when the Vaqueros handed the Wolverines a 7-0 loss on Oct. 6 - their first loss since the 2008 state championship. They just have to limit their mistakes, the coach said.
"We probably won't make many adjustments," Shaffer said. "We thought defensively we had a great game plan going in. We just missed 32 tackles. And on offense, between the turnovers, the 12 or 13 penalties or whatever it was, and the 43 missed assignments, we wouldn't have been able to beat a bad team, much less Fernley."
Truckee mustered only 265 yards of total offense in that game, as its offense never gained traction against an athletic Fernley defense.
In three games since then, however, Truckee's offense appears to have found its groove. The Wolverines posted 56 points in a shutout win against Wooster a week after the loss, 30 points in a crucial win at previously undefeated Fallon the following week and 63 points at South Tahoe to end the regular season last week. (Never mind that South Tahoe managed 28 first-half points against Truckee's D, which has allowed only 79 points all season.)
The Vaqueros, meanwhile, hit tough times after their big upset win at Truckee. Fernley has lost all three games since, falling 12-0 at Fallon, 41-14 at Lowry and 34-28 at home against Dayton (4-5) last week. The three consecutive losses dropped the Vaqueros to the No. 4 playoff seed out of the North, and set a date with a hungry group of Wolverines seeking a fourth consecutive state championship.
If Truckee does get past Fernley, the road to state will be tougher than ever with the addition of nine new, larger schools in the Southern Division I-A (formerly the 3A).
Aside from perennial Southern power and nemesis Moapa Valley, whom the Wolverines have met the past four years in the state championship, top-seeded Cheyenne out of the Southern Sunset League is expected to contend for the title as well. Cheyenne was a playoff team last year in the larger Division I (formerly 4A). Teams are re-seeded after the opening-round games this weekend.
"Yeah, for sure," Shaffer said about the challenges ahead. "But that's OK. That's how you want it to be. Fifty to nothing blowouts aren't much fun to watch."
In other first-round matches, top-seeded Moapa Valley out of the Sunrise League plays second-seeded Mojave of the Sunset, while Cheyenne faces second-seeded Boulder City of the Sunrise League. In the North, second-seeded Lowry plays third-seeded Fallon.