TRUCKEE – The Spring Creek and Truckee football teams were due for a good overtime thriller.
The visiting Spartans nearly pulled off their first win over the Wolverines since 2006 in comeback fashion Saturday. But Truckee responded with its back against the “T,” punching the ball into the end zone before holding Spring Creek out with a clutch goal-line stand to preserve a 26-20 win.
“Every single week on Thursday, we have a goal-line session at the end of practice with our backs to the ‘T,’” said Truckee coach Josh Ivens, referring to the large red “T” behind the southern end zone at Surprise Stadium. “We take pride in defending the ‘T.’”
Ivens would have preferred his team didn’t have to Saturday.
The Wolverines jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead and held a 17-6 advantage at the half. The Spartans steadily chipped away at the lead in the second half, however, eventually knotting the score at 20 early in the fourth quarter.
Neither side could muster any points the rest of regulation – despite what appeared to be the go-ahead field goal off the foot of Truckee quarterback and kicker Louden Smith with 3:15 remaining, which was erased on a holding penalty.
Overtime was needed. The format gives each team four downs from the 10-yard line. Truckee chose its end of the field – backs to the “T” – after Spring Creek won the coin toss and elected to defend first.
Truckee’s offense that sputtered in the second half stepped up its game, as senior running back Austin Vance gained 7 yards on a first-down run and 2 more on second. After an encroachment penalty on Spring Creek, senior fullback Lance Bokinskie lumbered in to the end zone standing.
Vance’s two-point conversion run came up inches short, and the lead stood at six.
There was no question who the Spartans would use in response. Spring Creek junior running back Braxton Williams, who filled in at quarterback for injured starter Dillon Draper, carried his team from start to finish, rushing 39 times for 115 yards while also recording a key interception return in the first half.
Williams got the call. He gained 5 yards on a first-down carry. He was stuffed for no gain on second. On third down Truckee senior Scott Womack tackled him for a 4-yard loss, setting up Spring Creek with a fourth-and-goal from the 9.
Williams dropped back for a rare pass – he was 2-for-2 before then. He had junior receiver Mike Smith open, streaking for the back corner pylon. Smith tried to scurry under the high-arcing pass but could not.
Truckee’s large homecoming crowd let out a collective sigh of relief. The Wolverines (2-3) held on for their second straight win.
“I was a lot more pleased with the second half than the first,” said Spring Creek coach Joel Jund, whose Spartans (2-3) lost their third straight. “Give the Truckee kids credit. They’re getting better. They’re well-coached as always and they play hard. And I thought our kids played hard too. I was proud of their effort.”
The Spartans got off to a slow start, as Truckee drove down the field after the opening kickoff with a six-play scoring drive, capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Smith to senior receiver Sean Daniel.
A botched Spring Creek punt after a three-and-out then set up the Wolverines at the Spring Creek 20-yard line. Smith kicked a 40-yard field goal three plays later, giving Truckee a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Spring Creek got the break it needed early in the second quarter. After forcing a turnover on downs and a punt, Truckee drove from its 43 to the Spartans 7. Smith fired a quick pass on third-and-3 to Vance. Williams read it out of his hand. He stepped in front of Vance for the interception and won a foot race 97 yards down the sideline to the end zone.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving Truckee up 10-6 with 9:01 remaining before half.
The Wolverines regrouped and put together another drive, only to have a 47-yard field goal attempt by Smith blocked.
After forcing a Spring Creek punt, Truckee drove down the field again, using a 45-yard pass from Smith to Thor Retzlaff and a 7-yard run by Tanner Sawyer to set up an 18-yard touchdown run by Vance. Smith kicked through the PAT, and Truckee led 17-6 with 1:20 remaining.
Truckee might have scored again had it not been for one of their several costly penalties on the day. Austin Campbell fumbled to Truckee at the 28-yard line on the kick return. But a holding penalty on second down backed up the Wolverines to the 49, and the half came to a close.
Momentum swung in Spring Creek’s favor following a long halftime break for homecoming.
The Spartans received the kickoff and proceeded to drive 70 yards in 11 plays, nine of which were runs by Williams as Spring Creek began to employ more of a power running game. Campbell caught a pitch from Williams and ran around the left side untouched for a 10-yard touchdown to cap the drive. The conversion failed, but the Spartans were within striking distance, 17-12.
Truckee padded its lead with a 27-yard field goal by Smith with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. But it wasn’t enough.
Spring Creek scored its second touchdown of the half on the ensuing possession. Anticipating another rush from Williams on a fourth-and-1 play, the Truckee secondary bit badly on the run, and Williams found a wide open Mike Smith for a 47-yard score. Williams rushed for the two-point conversion, tying the score at 20 with 10:36 left in the fourth.
“In the second half they got in a groove, and we looked tired or something,” Ivens said.
The Wolverines had their chance in regulation. They marched from the Spring Creek 48-yard line to the 6 before stalling. Smith then kicked through a 23-yard field goal from the right hash mark. A late flag flew in – holding.
Smith tried again, this time from 37 yards. The kick had plenty of distance, fooling the crowd for a moment, but it stayed wide right.
Ivens credited the Spring Creek coaching staff for tweaking their offensive strategy in the second half, and for making due with a running back at QB.
“Coach Jund does a good job each year with his personnel. He always comes up with a way to be effective,” Ivens said. “We have a ton of respect for their coaching staff.”
As for his Wolverines, Ivens said he was pleased with the offensive line. “When all said and done the O-line grinded out 10 yards when we needed it,” he said. “They also protected Louden pretty well.” The coach also noted the play of Daniel on offense and Retzlaff on defense, as well as the entire defensive front.
Retzlaff tallied a team-high 17 tackles (10 solo), while Mitch Harrity recorded 16 tackles (10 solo), Greg Engler and Gabe Deiro each had 12, Bokinskie 11, and Ben Ketron 10. Ketron and Womack each had a sack.