South Tahoe football falls to Bear River in season opener
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Vikings football home opener didn’t go as hoped, but the outcome was as expected.
Under the lights Friday night at Viking Stadium, with a strong crowd, despite the early start to the season, the visiting Bear River Bruins from Grass Valley defeated South Tahoe 50-3.
“Unfortunately, it went as expected,” said Vikings head coach Louis Franklin. “We looked young at times. We looked good at times. We just couldn’t consistently put it all together this week.”
Bear River is a defending division champion in Northern California and looked every bit the part to start the new season.
The Bruins used a power rushing attack and the young Vikings couldn’t match their physicality. They scored touchdowns on six of their seven drives and the defense also reached the endzone.
South Tahoe moved the football very well at times, but Franklin was right on the mark earlier in the week when he said his young team that features 17 sophomores would show flashes of greatness, but would also have breakdowns.
“Just mental mistakes, I don’t think we played bad against them at all,” said senior Kody Griffis. “Turnovers killed us.”
The Vikings looked poised to score after receiving the opening kickoff.
Sophomore Jake Tarwater completed 3 of 5 passes for 40 yards on his first varsity drive to help get South Tahoe inside the Bear River 10. The big play was a beautifully thrown bomb down the sideline that Griffis hauled in over his left shoulder for 32 yards.
The drive ended when an intended receiver wasn’t where he planned to be.
“There was some flukey stuff, like we drive down there and our wideout in the endzone slips and the ball ends up sticking in the belly of the defender, and he caught it,” Franklin said. “That was a 14-point swing.”
Bear River used 10 plays to score and take a 7-0 lead with under four minutes in the first quarter.
The Bruins created the next turnover by giving Tarwater zero time to throw the ball. The quarterback was smashed mid throw and the ball fluttered toward Bear River’s Austin Slining who reached out with one hand, picked it off and returned it 27 yards for a score.
South Tahoe drove 35 yards on the next drive before fumbling away possession.
The Vikings drove 35 more yards on the drive after that, but again lost a fumble.
Four possessions resulted in four turnovers.
“We kept our heads in the game the whole time, we had the mentality of pushing forward and that’s what’s good about this young team,” Griffis said. “I felt it was great effort, great attitude, just turnovers and mental mistakes.”
The Vikings converted a long kick as time expired in the first half. Gio Medina Morales laser-blasted a 46-yard field goal from the right hash to make it 27-3 at the break.
South Tahoe senior running back James Knudsen had 59 yards on 14 carries after the first 24 minutes and finished with 61 yards on 17 attempts.
The second half featured few Viking highlights. One was a Tarwater pass to Griffis over middle that went for 28 yards.
Another highlight was the Vikings defense finally stopping the Bruins. Senior defensive back Tyler Brumis was all over the pass and looked like he ran the route better than the receiver. He plucked out of the air a long pass down the middle.
Tarwater finished his first varsity game by completing 11 of 24 passes for 129 yards.
Griffis caught five passes for 95 yards and Medina-Morales had six receptions for 34 yards.
“Our quarterback played good tonight,” Franklin said. “We had too many drops. I thought we ran the ball better than we anticipated and it was nice to see James play well.”
The Vikings will look to regroup for next week when they start play in the Northern League. While the loss counts on the record, it doesn’t hurt South Tahoe in the grand scheme. Playoffs are determined by league standing.
South Tahoe (0-1) will host Elko at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24.
“It’s our job as coaches, we have to a better job, and the kids will play better from here on and out,” Franklin said. “That’s a good team and they just wear you down. We hung there for quite awhile. Maybe it’s good to get these growing pains done before the league games that count.”