FALLON, Nev. - In another battle of tug-of-war, the Truckee Wolverines came out on top.
Truckee limited Fallon's potent offense as the Wolverines held on for a 30-20 win at the Edward Arciniega Complex on Friday.
The newfound rivals traded leads and thunderous hits in the chase for the Northern Division I-A crown. With the win, Truckee (7-1 DI-A, 7-1 overall) recaptured the top spot and must beat South Tahoe on Friday to win the title.
Fallon, meanwhile, falls to 7-1 and in a three-way tie for first, along with Truckee and Lowry. The Greenwave and Buckaroos tangle on Thursday in Winnemucca.
"I talked to (Fallon coach) Brooke Hill after the game and said 'I don't know how many more of these games we can take,'" Truckee coach Bob Shaffer said. "We've pretty much had games that came down to the end. This wasn't much different."
Truckee was the benefactor of numerous mistakes and penalties by Fallon including recovering a fumble on the first play of the game. Truckee's Mitch Harrity scooped up the ball after Skye Barton was stripped and rumbled 18 yards to the Fallon 16.
The Wolverines, however, were held to a 30-yard field goal by Louden Smith. But Fallon's quick-strike offense responded.
After a 51-yard kickoff return by Tyson Ernst to set up the Wave's drive at the Truckee 41, quarterback Morgan Dirickson hit Beau Marshall for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The drive nearly stalled after Dirickson - operating from the Pistol formation - fumble the snap and running back Trent Tarner recovered at the 21. It was a reoccurring theme for Fallon, although the Wave dodged the bullet when Dirickson connected with Barton for 11 yards on second-and-15 from the 21.
Truckee, meanwhile, put together a methodical 11-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 3-yard TD run from Tyler Curtis. The Wolverines also dodged trouble when quarterback Erik Holmer fumbled at the Wave's 13. Truckee lineman Julian Aguirre recovered the ball and tumbled 3 yards to keep the drive alive.
Fallon raced down the field on its subsequent possession, but Tristan Harriman missed a 26-yard field goal attempt. Making matters worse, Fallon's field goal unit forgot the kicking tee, which is allowed in high school football.
"It's just frustrating because it happened in a game like this," Hill said of the mistakes. "You got to play confident and play well. It's not all the kids fault. We got to do a better job of coaching them."
Two drives later, Holmer was picked off by Barton, but the Wolverines' defense forced a punt. Holmer marched his team 97 yards in five plays, highlighted by a 23-yard completion to Jake Pettit and a 35-yard strike to Adam Morgan.
Truckee's Tyler Griffin was shaken up on the drive after a big hit from Barton. Griffin was hurt twice in the game, but returned to action after both hits.
Curtis, though, capped the scoring drive with a 34-yard TD run through the middle of the Fallon defense for a 16-6 lead. Curtis had a game-high 88 yards on 16 carries.
Fallon had a chance to cut the advantage, but Dirickson was intercepted by Javier Virrey at the Truckee 1-yard line.
"When you're playing a good football team, you can't make mistakes," Hill said. "We had a couple dropped snaps that hurt us and a couple stupid penalties. You got to play clean. We didn't and they did."
The Wave, as they have done all season, came out in the second half on fire. Ernst capped a five-play, 42-yard drive with a 21-yard TD jaunt. He also had runs of 3, 5 and 13 yards.
Fallon regained the lead with 2 seconds remaining in the quarter when Dirickson hooked up with Barton for 80 yards. Dirickson's pass landed perfectly in the outstretched hands of Barton, who managed to keep his balance, and accelerated past the Wolverines' secondary down the right sideline for the score.
Dirickson completed 15 of 23 passes for 239 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Barton, meanwhile, hauled in eight passes for 149 yards.
Truckee's defense, though, stepped up and forced its second interception of the game when Morgan picked off Dirickson at the Fallon 35. Dirickson fumbled the snap on first down to set up a 2nd-and-19 from the 40. Tarner carried for 3 yards, but a 5-yard penalty put Fallon at 3rd-and-21 from its own 38.
Dirickson dropped back, fired to the left and the ball was tipped by a Truckee defender. Morgan dropped to his knees and cradled the ball at the 35. Truckee defensive end Zak Pettit added two sacks.
"I think we match up greatly," Pettit said. "It comes down to a little bit of heart. Our D has been shut down all year."
The Wolverines scored on the ensuing drive thanks to a 32-yard run from Curtis and a 7-yard TD pass from Holmer to Pettit. Holmer completed 10 of 15 passes for 169 yards, two TDs and one interception.
"Fallon, we have all the respect in the world for them," Holmer said. "Our offense stepped up and I think we hit our stride. We made key plays in key situations and made big plays. I think two coaching staffs - I think some of the best in the state. I think it's kind of starting a rivalry."
Fallon's next possession resulted in a turnover on downs and Barton leaving the game briefly after a monster hit from Pettit. Barton ran a seam route and Dirickson laid the ball into the waiting arms of Barton, who did not see Pettit come for the thunderous hit to jar the ball loose.
Barton lay on the ground for several minutes, was escorted off the field and returned to action several plays later.
Truckee wasted little time scoring on its next possession. Griffin ran 46 yards for a TD, but the play was called back for an illegal formation. No matter, as Holmer found Morgan for a 51-yard TD pass with 5:45 remaining to ice the game.
Holmer's pass seemingly floated in the air forever, but Morgan was able to beat Ernst and run under the ball and score.
"That was a big play we needed to make," Holmer said. "I think that kind of hit them in the stomach and took some wind out of them."
With three teams at 7-1, Truckee controls its own destiny. The Wolverines can lock up the No. 1 seed with a win at South Tahoe. If Truckee wins, the winner of the Fallon-Lowry game will be the No. 2 seed. The top two seeds open the playoffs at home.
Fallon can win the league with a win over Lowry and a South Tahoe win. Lowry can win the league with a victory over the Wave and a Vikings win. Truckee owns the tiebreaker with Lowry and Fallon.
"We got a pretty good opponent ahead," Hill said. "We got to go on the road and find a way to beat them. That's our challenge now. We want a home playoff game."