Playoffs in Warriors’ future after homecoming blowout (w/photo gallery) |

Playoffs in Warriors’ future after homecoming blowout (w/photo gallery)

Steve Yingling

ZEPHYR COVE ” Longtime Whittell High School football followers of Lake Tahoe would have a tough time recalling a more thorough homecoming victory than the one the Warriors executed on Friday night.

Whittell put forth a dominant performance in dismantling Independence 42-0 in a Northern Nevada 2A League football game.

The win clinched a postseason berth for the Warriors (5-2 overall and 5-2 in league), who only have next week’s home game against ROP remaining on the schedule. It is the first time since 2002 that Whittell has qualified for the postseason.

“We keep state in mind all of the time. That’s all we’re shooting for is state,” said Whittell junior linebacker/running back Philip Gielow. “It would be a huge thing for us to walk away with a state champ ring.”

Junior running back Cody Nelson rushed for 156 yards and three first-half touchdowns, and the Warriors’ defense realized its third shutout in four games against a Colts’ squad that came into the game with a 4-1 league mark.

Independence was limited to 53 yards of total offense and three first downs. Only once did the Colts cross midfield, and that drive ended on a fourth-down interception by Rio Delucia. Roberto Concha-Foley also picked off a Colts’ pass early in the second half to set up a touchdown. Junior Nick Warner repeatedly penetrated into the Colts’ backfield, making several tackles for losses and a pair of quarterback sacks.

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“Our defensive ends Nick Warner and Cody Reed are just on the ball all of the time,” Gielow said.

When Nelson wasn’t breaking off huge chunks of real estate on the perimeter of the Colts’ defense, Concha-Foley was tormenting Independence with a double-edged sword – his pinpoint passing and back-breaking sprints along the sideline.

“Everybody was playing well,” said Whittell coach David Atherton. “I was heated at the start of the week with the North Tahoe win. It’s funny as a coach to really think for five years they didn’t win a game, and I’m (mad) because we gave up 28 points.

The defense got refocused this week.”

Concha-Foley rushed 15 and 19 yards for touchdowns and connected with Ian Allen on a 26-yard scoring strike. The senior quarterback finished with 72 yards rushing and 245 passing yards.

One of the largest homecoming crowds in the past two decades turned out to watch the Warriors, who have won four straight games after a 1-2 start.

“The community support right now is the most enthusiastic that I’ve ever seen, hands down,” said Atherton, a former Warrior running back in the mid-1990s. “I remember playing, and yeah we had good fans, but not like this.”

Unless some upsets occur in the next few weeks, Atherton is hoping to take those fans with him on the road for the playoffs. Early indications are that the Warriors will meet Battle Mountain, which defeated Whittell 26-6 earlier in the season. Atherton purposely scheduled a bye week on the final week of the regular season so his team would have an extra week to prepare for its playoff opponent.

“Some people might have thought it was egotistical, but my thought was that this is our year to go to the playoffs. Why wouldn’t we want our bye week before the playoffs?” Atherton said. “After ROP, it’s a good opportunity to rest them up.”

to view photos from the Whittell homecoming game and festivities.