RENO — Bob Shaffer’s nemesis struck again.
The third-winningest football coach in Nevada high school history, with an .842 career win percentage (170-32) and nine state titles in 18 years leading the Wolverines, may well have gone 0-for-his-career in evading the victorious water-cooler dousing.
The recently retired coach was the victim of one final chilly soaking Friday night, as players from the Silver team emptied water coolers over Shaffer and longtime assistant Josh Ivens — Truckee’s new head coach — in a coordinated effort near the end of Friday’s 32nd annual Sertoma Classic at Damonte Ranch High School.
“They got me one last time. I wasn’t quite expecting it,” said Shaffer, beaming with content as he savored the post-game celebration — the product of a resounding, 49-6 win over the Blue all-stars. “I was trying to pay attention to what was going on out on the field, kind of reveling in that last moment, just being out here under the lights and around football and the coaching staff I’ve been with a long time — just enjoying the moment.”
Shaffer’s wet clothes could not dampen his mood. The coach was all smiles after watching his team execute his game plan to near perfection en route to the lopsided win.
Having announced his retirement this past winter — following Truckee’s fourth consecutive state championship — Shaffer had plenty of time to scheme for his seventh go as head coach in the annual showcase game.
He came up with a no-huddle offense, which his team of Silver all-stars had to learn in four days of practice. They learned it well, despite a “rough” start that almost prompted Shaffer to shelve the plan.
He’s glad he stuck to his guns. The Silver squad led by Truckee quarterback Erik Holmer (22-of-32, five TDs, 314 yards) and Reed receiver Devin Gray (five catches, 85 yards, four TDs) scored the first 35 points of the game. They led 28-0 at half.
“I didn’t do spring ball, so I had all kinds of extra time on my hands. So I came up with the no-huddle plan and put it together,” Shaffer said of his experiment. “The first couple days I almost scrapped it. It looked pretty rough. I thought of maybe going back to the wing-T. But on Wednesday we showed some light, and then Thursday we looked better, and Friday I had all the confidence in the world. They did a great job.”
It was all Silver from the start as their platooning offensive and defensive units controlled both sides of the ball.
On the first offensive play of the game, Reed’s Dominic Montenegro picked off a pass by Carson quarterback Matt Nolan, giving Silver possession near midfield. After driving to the Blue 9-yard line in 14 plays, Holmer threw a pair of incomplete passes on third and fourth down to turn the ball over.
The Silver team then forced a three-and-out and, after a long punt return up the sideline by Ryder Lowry of Spanish Springs, began its next drive from the Blue 14. The next play, Holmer lobbed a high ball into the corner of the end zone for Gray, who plucked it out of the air for the game’s first score.
Truckee’s Tyler Griffin kicked through the first of his seven PATs on the evening, and Silver was on a roll.
They scored on five of their next six possessions, including a 75-yard interception return by Fallon’s Dalton Johnson, who stepped in front of a pass by South Tahoe QB John Cefalu to adjust the score to 28-0 with 1:37 remaining in the second quarter.
Cefalu, the Northern Division I-A’s Offensive Player of the Year, had several catchable balls dropped in the game. He finished 3-of-10 for 25 yards, highlighted by an 18-yard dart to South Tahoe teammate Cale Backinger in the fourth quarter.
After his initial score, Gray caught touchdown passes of 19, 23 and 23 yards.
His second TD was particularly impressive, as he pulled down another high-arcing pass from Holmer despite the draping defense of Sparks’ Mario Guadron Jr. Gray dug out a shoestring catch and raced up the sideline for his third TD, in the second quarter. He then found himself in the right place at the right time for his fourth score, as he caught a deflected pass near the goal line to give the Silver squad a 35-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
“He made some big catches,” Shaffer said of Gray. “But the nice thing was, it wasn’t a one-man show. We didn’t rely just on him.”
Holmer, who was left as the only quarterback on the Silver roster after Douglas QB Michael Nolting opted not to play, said he enjoyed his assortment of skilled offensive weapons.
“Honestly I just had to throw the ball up to them (Silver receivers) and they got it,” Holmer said. “Devin had a great game. It was fun playing with all those kids. They have really good talent.”
Aside from Gray’s 85 receiving yards, Reed’s Ty Shepard caught three balls for 93 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown. Reed’s Brett Chaney finished with 57 yards receiving, Griffin had 45 yards and Vance Lively of Spanish Springs had 34.
Holmer also inflicted damage with his legs, as the versatile quarterback led the Silver all-stars’ ground attack with 59 yards on 12 rushes.
“When the quarterback from Douglas decided not to play, that was it, we didn’t have another quarterback on the roster,” Shaffer said. “So we had to make sure Erik stayed healthy, but yet also take advantage of his skills, which is the option of being able to run or throw. We put him in some of those scenarios, and he made some great decisions and had a lot of fun.”
Fallon’s Tyson Ernst added 38 yards on 13 rushes and recorded the final score on an 8-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
The Blue all-stars mounted their best drive in the third quarter, when Nolan marched his team 80 yards, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Reno’s Justin Crow. Drew Smith of Damonte Ranch, whose coach, Shawn Dupris, and his staff led the Blue team, finished with a team-high 66 yards on 17 carries. Crow had 75 yards receiving on six catches.
Holmer and Griffin weren’t the only Wolverines to impact the game. Truckee had seven players competing, including Jake Pettit, Julian Aguirre, Javier Virrey, Nico Duner and Benito Gurrola, which was more than any school. Backinger, at 6-3 and 230 pounds, recorded several tackles and was a force on the defensive side.
Lahontan Valley News Sports Editor Steve Puterski contributed to this story.