Tonight could be a turning point for Vikings football.
The Vikings (2-3) will take an eight-hour bus ride deep into the nowhere's of Nevada to face Elko (1-4). Elko is by no means an easy win, but it is doable for this year's Vikings. It's also a must. With four games remaining in regular league play, tonight is pivotal to playoff chances.
"This game is going to be a turning point. If we win this one our chances are high, but if we lose it's going to be a toss up," linebacker Cale Backinger said. "Right now it's between us and Fernley. We'll see how the season plays out, but they play Truckee, and we play Elko.
With that being the case, South Tahoe has a better chance at picking up the win Friday than Fernley. Truckee holds a 41-game win streak.
Meanwhile, it's no 41 games, but the Vikings have picked up momentum with two consecutive wins. They also have among of the best Division 1A quarterbacks and receivers in the state.
Quarterback John Cefalu has recorded 1,772 yards, 17 touchdowns and boasts a 60 percent completion on passes. Cefalu is reading the defense and playing smart on the field this year, and it's limited his interceptions to two all season.
The low interceptions probably also has something to do with receiver Kyante Wilson. Wilson has amassed 726 yards with 42 receptions and six touchdowns. He usually gets double coverage at this point, but hasn't shut him down. Wilson is big, he can move, and he's also a threat on defense.
Most of the Vikings' starters play offense and defense. They have 19 players compared with Elko's 40.
"It's basically been like that our whole lives. You play 11. It doesn't really matter how many people you have on the sidelines," Backinger said. "They're going to put their 11 best guys out there and we're going to put ours, and we're going to see who's more of a man, really."
The Vikings know Elko has more than just numbers though. The Indians have a strong passing game, great special teams and a tough defense.
"We're playing a tough Elko team that's very well coached and we've got to take an eight-hour ride to get there so we've got a lot of things to overcome," coach Kevin Hennessee said.
The difference maker will likely be South Tahoe's offensive line, which is hit or miss for the Vikings.
"People are blitzing us like crazy so every week we're trying to come up with ways to pick the pressure up which is the key to throwing," Hennessee said. "But it's getting better. Jason Rogers is feeling more comfortable playing tackle. We still have a sophomore playing on there so it's just working that stuff out."
It's no coincidence that the offensive line started showing improvement over the past two weeks and the Vikings picked up two wins.
"Our receivers are a better matchup against theirs, but I think it all comes down to the line," Cefalu said. "They're whether we win or lose the game. The last two games we've had five sacks and that's really put us over the edge."