The Incline football team nearly held on for its second victory of the season at West Wendover on Friday night. But the Wolverines steadily chipped away in the second half, scoring 16 unanswered points to earn a 16-14 win.
“It was a very disappointing loss for us,” said Incline coach Scott Conn, whose Highlanders (1-5) needed the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. “The kids worked real hard and we had a good game plan using our third-string quarterback (Alex Zissis), who did a great job.”
The Highlanders got off to a promising start. They scored two second-quarter touchdowns to carry a 14-0 lead into the half.
Sophomore running back Owen Graffis led the offensive attack. He became the first Incline back to rush for more than 100 yards, as he finished with 111 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown — a 25-yard run on a sweep play in the second quarter. Zissis completed 4 of his 14 pass attempts for 78 yards, 51 of which went to senior Kevin Kurashewich.
Zissis, a sophomore left-hander, helped his cause on the defensive side, as he intercepted a West Wendover pass deep in the red zone and returned it 93 yards to the house. Conn said the return might be an Incline record.
West Wendover (1-7) slowly took over the momentum after the half, however. The Wolverines pieced together a long scoring drive in the third quarter and made the two-point conversion to cut Incline’s lead to 14-8.
It was an unfortunate swing for the Highlanders, who just minutes before were threatening to increase their lead to three touchdowns.
Incline drove the ball to the West Wendover 20-yard line before Graffis was tackled and the ball popped out upon Graffis hitting the ground. One official ruled the ball down, but the white hat overruled the call and gave the the Wolverines the ball on a fumble recovery. Film later confirmed that the ball was down.
Nevertheless, the Wolverines took advantage while also wearing down the Incline defense with their methodical drive. West Wendover, which limited Incline to just six offensive plays in the third quarter, marched down the field again in the fourth quarter and capped the lengthy drive with the go-ahead touchdown.
“They certainly earned their touchdowns,” Conn said.
The Highlanders were down but not out. Using a hurry-up offense, they countered with their own long drive, which reached the West Wendover 35-yard line before the Wolverines intercepted a pass with less than a minute remaining.
Conn said despite the loss, he was pleased with the effort of his team, particularly the improved play of the offensive line, as well as Graffis, Zissis and the standout play of his linebacking corps of Ben Snyder, Michael Guymon, Joe Sunseri, Kurashewich and Masxsimo Battel.
“Our line played significantly better,” Conn said. “They were opening some big holes.”
Guymon, who had 11 tackles (7 solo), was named player of the game for Incline. Kurashewich, who finished with nine tackles and two sacks, was defensive player of the game, and Graffis was offensive player of the game.
Incline will end the season with a home game against Battle Mountain on Friday at 6 p.m.