Vikings football steamrolls toward playoffs |

Vikings football steamrolls toward playoffs

Becky Regan

ELKO- The David versus Goliath scene is nothing new for the Vikings, and Friday was no exception.

There were 80 well-rested guys suited up on Elko’s sideline with a homecoming stadium of support behind them. There were 19 suited up on South Tahoe’s side with an eight-hour bus ride behind them.

A daunting pregame to be sure, but the Vikings knew the end of the night would come down to the best, not the most.

Score one for David, or in this case South Tahoe.

The Vikings hurdled impossible odds Friday to pull out a 41-36 victory in Elko’s house and keep their postseason chances alive. The win was ignited by quarterback John Cefalu, who threw for 443 yards that night and notched three touchdowns.

“When you go far away things never go your way,” coach Kevin Hennessee said. “We had to overcome all that adversity.”

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It can’t always be said, but Friday night everything went according to plan.

Cefalu, who leads Nevada in passing with 2,247 yards, silenced the homecoming crowd on South Tahoe’s opening drive. He threw a short screen pass on third-and-7 to Kyle Moreno, who took it 82 yards for the score. Moreno would end the night with 154 yards and six catches.

Going into the game, Cefalu knew the win would come down to the offensive line. The same line that struggled with the blitz in the beginning of the season as the Vikings got off to a slow start.

Friday night, the line held it down for Cefalu. It was an effective line that was the difference maker in the past three consecutive Vikings wins. Three wins deep now, the slow start seems a distant memory.

The Vikings held Elko to three-and-out on its first possession and Kristofer DiGrande cut off Elko’s second drive when he intercepted a pass from Dalton Ridgway.

The Vikings put together another scoring drive on their third series. Cefalu completed a couple of short passes before finding Cale Backinger for a 26-yard scoring pass.

Cefalu threw for 302 yards in the first half alone, and the Vikings left the field after the second quarter with a comfortable 21-0.

Elko adjusted at halftime, however, and sophomore running back Jason Wilson put two touchdowns on the board for the Tribe in the third quarter.

Dylan Gardner answered back for South Tahoe. Gardner found Elko’s end zone in the third and came away with 109 yards on the night.

The Tribe put up three more touchdowns in the second half and continued creep in on South Tahoe, cutting the lead to 29-22. The Vikings regained their momentum in the fourth though.

Cefalu connected with Kyante Wilson on a 24-yard touchdown pass. The Vikings’ receiver ran 134 yards against Elko and has amassed 865 yards total this season.

Cefalu wasn’t done. He delivered a deciding blow when he found Brandon Cramer with less than four minutes left on the clock to put the Vikings up 41-29. Cramer hauled in seven passes on the night and recorded 115 yards.

The win was big for the Vikings’ playoff chances. Fallon and Fernley have locked up their playoff positions and the final two spots will come down to South Tahoe, Lowry and Truckee. The Vikings are now 3-3 in league and 3-4 overall.

“The kids were playing with a sense of urgency,” Hennessee said. “Every game now makes the next game important.”

The team has now strung together three consecutive wins as South Tahoe heads to Sparks Friday. A three game win streak is something Hennessee hasn’t seen in his four years of coaching the Vikings.

“They refuse to let go,” Hennessee said. “They found that somewhere in Dayton and they’ve managed to carry that through.”

– Free Press sports editor Martin Harris contributed to this article.

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