Incline’s furious football rally falls short against West Wendover
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Another five minutes on the game clock and who knows what might have happened.
Incline scored 24 points in a span five minutes Friday night in the fourth quarter during a furious rally, but the hole was dug too deep and West Wendover made its long six and a half hour road trip worth the visit to the North Shore.
The Wolverines (2-3, 2-2 Northern) held on to win 39-30 and send the Highlanders (2-4, 1-4 Northern) to their fourth consecutive 2A Northern League loss.
While disappointed, Incline head coach Brian Martinez was proud and saw a lot of positives in what took place on the field.
But this story began early in the week when Martinez and his assistants instituted mass changes with eight starters not available due to a long-planned school-sponsored trip to Costa Rica.
Eight. That’s almost a complete starting unit. Those eight would likely be a force playing 8-man ball in 1A.
“We we’re playing with a lot of 2s and 3s tonight and they just kept pushing and fighting,” Martinez said. “One thing I was talking to our boys about after was their heart. They never gave up.”
The never-say-quit attitude was admirable because they had every reason to quit. Things went wrong. Like giving away turnovers and not creating one when it’s there for the catching.
And the loss burns a little more because Wendover’s first three touchdowns came on trick plays, including two hook-and ladder/laterals, one each on the first drives of each half.
After the Wolverines used trickery for a 7-0 lead they would never surrender, the Highlanders scored early in the second quarter on a 10-play, 68-yard run-it-down-your-throat drive capped by a 12-yard jaunt from Gage Pierce. The junior carried five times for 43 yards on the scoring march.
The extra point was blocked.
Wendover answered and scored using a half back pass. The quarterback took the snap and tossed it to the running back who lingered in the pocket. He scanned the field and threw a nine-yard dart to make it 13-6 going into halftime.
The Wolverines opened the second half with the ball and sucked the life out of Highlanders Stadium.
That darn hook and lateral worked again. They executed it perfectly, and it worked as designed.
Ouch. Touchdown. 19-6.
Incline acted like it just received a gut punch and went three and out. The Wolverines attacked fast and, in a few plays, made it 26-6 with a traditional touchdown pass.
Wendover added to its lead early in the fourth quarter on a play that could have easily been an interception.
But Martinez was right, the kids kept fighting until, ultimately, they turned into a mid-western style power rushing football team lining up in the power-I, two fullbacks, Joe Wilderman and Marco Barraza, behind quarterback Dylan Cleary with tail back Pierce dotting the I.
The Highlanders ran the ball 11 consecutive times and capped the 74-yard drive when Cleary scrambled 17 yards for a touchdown with 6:24 left.
Wendover scored on a 60-yard wide receiver screen that Incline would love to replay and have a second try after giving the receiver too much room on third-and 15.
The Highlanders ran the ball 12 consecutive times the next time and capped it off with Barraza’s first career touchdown with 1:23 left to make it 39-22.
Barraza was told early in the week that he was going to be moved from center to full back.
“Coach told me to come in early and he’d show me some plays and I was smiling the whole time,” Barraza said. “Coach told me, ‘You won’t stop smiling.’ I’m super excited about getting a new position and getting my first touchdown in high school. It just changed everything.”
The Highlanders recovered an onside kick and Cleary hit Kennan Collier on the very next play for a 53-yard touchdown to chop further into the lead, but that was the last of the scoring.
“I loved the comeback at the end, I thought it was amazing,” said Highlanders offensive/defensive lineman Christopher Vaughan. “Everyone’s spirits were high. Nobody turned on each other. I was happy.”
The Highlanders finished with 249 yards on the ground on 53 attempts, led by Pierce’s 95 yards on 21 totes. Barraza had 39 yards on a dozen tries and Cleary had 80 yards on 11 carries. The dangerous dual threat Cleary also completed 4 of 13 passes for 85 yards. Kai Martinez caught a pair of passes for 18 yards.
“Gage was amazing tonight,” Martinez said. “He fought … we take our center (Barraza) and put him at full back and we put a freshman at center and he missed one snap all game. The rest of the snaps were laser-on. That’s big time. The kids stepped up and fought for each other. Everything you want in football happened tonight, except that we got a win.”