TRUCKEE, Calif. – When they weren't shooting their own feet and marching off yards in the wrong direction, the Wolverines looked like a team on a winning streak Saturday.
Truckee's defense and special teams delivered bruising performances while its offense delivered enough explosive plays between moments of self-destruction to earn a 35-0 win over visiting Elko (1-2).
The Wolverines (3-0) have now won 39 consecutive games, which ranks fourth in the nation in 11-man high school football.
“It was very frustrating,” Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer said of the game. “We always enjoy winning over losing, obviously, but we like to believe it's how you win that's important.”
Truckee was penalized more than 20 times in the game while turning the ball over to Elko on four occasions – three in the first half. The home team also botched a punt in the first half and set up the Indians several times with golden field position.
It didn't matter on the scoreboard, however, as Truckee's defense held Elko to just 1 yard rushing and 16 yards total in the first half, and 97 yards of total offense in the game.
The Wolverines jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead with a 60-yard punt return by Tyler Griffin – one of his three touchdowns on the day – and led 21-0 with 3:30 left in the first quarter.
After being held scoreless the rest of the half, the Wolverines added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, including a 99-yard TD sprint by Graham Christian that set a new Truckee record.
“We were lucky to come up with some big plays at opportune times,” Shaffer said. “I thought at times the offense did some good things. But a lot of them were called back.”
Truckee forced one of Elko's nine punt attempts on the day with a three-and-out possession to open the game.
That set up Griffin for his punt return from his own 40-yard line, as he darted in and out of blocks and was never touched en route to the score. Louden Smith kicked through the extra point to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead about 2 minutes into the contest.
Following another Elko punt, Truckee quarterback Erik Holmer fumbled the ball back to the Indians near midfield. But the Wolverines regained possession two plays later when Elko quarterback Dalton Ridgway threw a high pass intended for Alexander Rasch that was picked off by Christian.
Three plays later, Smith – who took some snaps in place of Holmer, who's still nursing a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand – hooked up with a wide open Zak Pettit in the middle of the field for a 28-yard touchdown completion.
Elko punted again on its next drive as Truckee stuffed its running game.
Taking over at his own 38-yard line, Holmer connected with Tyler Curtis a play later on a 39-yard reception to the Elko 5. Griffin then shook off an ankle tackle to score his second TD from 5 yards out. Smith, who was a perfect 5-for-5 on PATs, extended the lead to 21-0 with 3:31 left in the quarter.
The remainder of the half was ugly to watch – on both sidelines.
“I think we jumped out to the big lead and then relaxed mentally,” Shaffer said, referring to the sloppy second quarter. “We have a lot of cleaning up to do.”
Ridgway threw another interception on Elko's next possession, as Javier Virrey stepped in front of the intended receiver. The Wolverines returned the favor shortly after when JT Pete intercepted a pass by Holmer.
Four plays later, however, the Indians were forced to punt again after three consecutive incomplete passes.
Truckee's ensuing drive resulted in another interception, this one by Travis Kite, while on the very next play, Ridgway threw his third pick of the half to Griffin. Ridgway absorbed a hit by Pettit as he threw the ball, and he sat out the rest of the game with an ice pack on the back of his neck.
The Indians received their most promising scoring opportunity late in the second quarter. After the long snap sailed over the head of Truckee punter Julian Aguirre, Elko took over at the Truckee 13-yard line. The Indians managed to gain just 1 yard from there, which set up a 29-yard field goal attempt by Cody Kerns that never got enough air under it.
Those who missed the opening possession of the second half missed an interesting series of events.
Starting at their own 15-yard line, the Wolverines committed four consecutive penalties, which backed them up to the 1-yard line. Christian then took the handoff and ran up the gut behind a well-blocked line. Once in the secondary, he made a couple of sharp cuts and was gone, 99 yards for a touchdown as a gang of Indians failed to catch him from behind.
The touchdown run set a new Truckee record, besting a 98-yarder by Jake Pettit last season. “I think that broke Jake's heart,” Shaffer said.
Truckee tacked on a final touchdown with 3:14 left in the third quarter, driving 47 yards in five plays, capped by a Griffin TD from 3 yards out.
The Wolverines could have scored once more with about 5 minutes remaining. But they turned the ball over intentionally with four kneel-downs inside the 10-yard line after Zak Pettit recovered a blocked punt and, instead of scooping up the ball and running it in uncontested, stumbled to the turf as his helmet shot off his head.
“I was fighting for my second TD of the game, but I had too much momentum going forward,” Pettit explained of the play. “I don't know what happened. Everything just went black and I was down.”
Shaffer said that had the Wolverines driven down the field on their own, he might have given his players the opportunity to punch it into the end zone. But because of the situation, as well as his respect for Elko head coach Luke Sellers, he opted to turn it over.
“I didn't feel like we earned that one, so I wasn't going to take it,” he said.
Cody Green led the Indians with 42 rushing yards on six carries, while backup quarterback Connor Eltenburg completed 5 of his 13 passes for 32 yards, with no interceptions.
Christian, thanks to his long TD run, led Truckee's offense with 105 yards on four rushes, while Curtis finished with 50 yards receiving on three catches. Smith was 3-of-5 for 60 yards, and Holmer 4-of-9 for 59 yards, with the two picks.
“He can barely grip the ball,” Shaffer said of Holmer, who after his second interception was shaking his hand in pain. “He keeps reinjuring it (his thumb) on defense. But he competed. He threw some good passes. Hat's off to him. He's a leader.”
Shaffer also complimented the play of Grffin, who finished with three touchdowns and an interception, and 41 yards rushing on just four carries.
Defensively, Christian and Carter recorded a team-high nine tackles, while Pettit, Virrey and Holmer each had eight. Pettit had Truckee's only sack.