The Highlanders knew they were in for a tough football game at perennial power Pershing County last Thursday. And that's just what they got in a 50-6 Mustangs rout.
Pershing County (8-1 overall, 7-0 league) jumped on Incline early, scoring 22 first-quarter points and leading 37-0 at the half.
"Playing a team that has gone through our league undefeated put feat into our players, and they played like it in the first half. It was hard to watch," said Incline head coach Scott Conn, whose Highlanders will travel back to Pershing County (also called Lovelock) for a first-round playoff game this Friday.
The Highlanders rebounded to play a much better second half, Conn said, as they held the Mustangs to 13 points while scoring a touchdown themselves in the fourth quarter.
"That was big for the kids' confidence," Conn said of the score, despite the fact that the Mustangs had second-string players in the game.
Incline, too, had subs in the game. But it was out of necessity, as several Highlanders left in the first half with injuries. Conn said the Mustangs' defensive line averaged more than 210 pounds, compared to Incline's 166 pounds, sopping wet and muddy.
Nevertheless, the Highlanders feel better about their chances entering this week's playoff contest and rematch.
"Now that we've played them once, their guys are no longer a mystery to us," Conn said. "Some are tougher matchups than others - with most of them being tough. But at least you know what's lined up across from you now."
In Thursday night's game (games across all divisions were played Thursday because of Nevada Day on Friday), Pershing County rushed for 290 yards, led by Jacob Flores' 138 yards and three touchdowns and Jared Jensen's 127 yards with one TD. Quarterback Seth Montes completed 6-of-7 passes for 73 yards and a TD.
Incline was held to 82 rushing yards in the game, although fullback Sean Herrera gained 92 yards on 15 carries, with Incline's only touchdown. But quarterback Christian Biscotti, who was 3-of-9 for 27 yards passing, rushed for minus-17 yards against the stout Mustangs defense, which knocked down Incline's rushing total.
Brendon Steinmeyer rushed for 7 yards on five carries, while Michael Wegener had one catch for 16 yards. Steinmeyer led the Highlanders' defense with 22 tackles, including 12 solo. Jack Clouthier had eight tackles and Masxsimo Battel and Wegener each had seven. Steinmeyer also had a 54-yard kickoff return.
Incline, seeded fourth in the postseason, finished the regular season 6-3 overall and 4-3 in Northern Division III play.
Second-seeded Yerington will take on third-seeded Battle Mountain in the other first-round Northern playoff game Friday. In the south, top-seeded Mountain View plays fourth-seeded Needles and second-seeded Lincoln County plays third-seeded Laughlin.
"We hope to go out there and have a different result," Conn said of Incline's playoff matchup. "The kids are motivated, but they know it's going to be an uphill battle."