Huskies win state football title
December 7, 2003
By Charles Whisnand
Tribune News Service
RENO – There’s the longest yard. The NIAA 4A State Football Championship will always be the longest two yards.
With time running out and Reno High protecting a three-point lead, the Huskies faced third and two at their own 28-yard line. Tom Barcia stretched out for the first down marker.
If he didn’t get it, Reno coach Dan Avansino would have faced the unenviable task of deciding to go for it or punt against a blistering wind and give Las Vegas a chance to force overtime with a field goal. The officials ruled that Barcia had stretched the nose of the football to reach the 30-yard line.
All Reno had to do was run out the clock. Game over. The Huskies had just completed an improbable run to win the state title with a 26-23 win over previously 13-0 Las Vegas on Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
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Barcia’s two-run gain also capped an up-and-down game for himself in which he had two punts blocked that ended up in two Las Vegas touchdowns, but also came up huge in the fourth quarter with his running and scored what turned out to be the game- winning touchdown.
His run also capped an improbable stretch for Reno, which was once 2-5, but won seven straight games for the state crown.
So did Barcia get the first down? “I thought I did for sure,” he said. “There was no doubt. No doubt.”
But even though Barcia’s run capped the win, Ryan Quinlan’s 15-yard run on the previous play was just as important. Reno avoided disaster when it recovered a fumble on first down, but lost seven yards on the play, leaving it with second and 17 at its own 13. But on the next play, Quinlan, who also had a big fourth quarter, ran for 15 yards, setting up Barcia’s two-yard dive.
Behind their offensive line, Barcia and Quinlan took over for Conor Martin, who had been shaken up earlier in the fourth quarter. “Our offensive line in the fourth quarter was huge,” Avansino said.
Las Vegas got back into the game when Michael Williams blocked Barcia’s punt, picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone. Jacob Robertson ran it in for the two-pointer to make it 26-23.
“I’ve never had a punt blocked in my life,” Barcia said. “I don’t even know what happened.”
Keoni Viernes blocked Barcia’s punt in the first quarter to set up Robertson’s 1-yard dive into the end zone to give Las Vegas a 6-0 lead. The first turning point of the game came on a play that Carson High fans should remember.
When Reno was 2-5, the turning point of its season came in a 0-0 tie late in the first half against the Senators when John Wallace threw to Wes Evans for a touchdown on a play action pass to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead. Reno went on to beat Carson and has been off and running ever since.
Reno pulled off the same play when Wallace hit Evans on a 66-yard pass down to the Las Vegas eight. That set up Conor Martin’s eight-yard TD run. Tom Vikre made the extra point to make it 7-6.
The Huskies missed another chance to score when Wallace overthrew a wide open Martin in the end zone. On the next play, Stanley Copeland intercepted Wallace’s pass in the end zone. So Las Vegas still trailed just 7-6 even though it didn’t pick up its first first down until there was one minute, 44 seconds left in the half.
A bad snap out of the end zone on a punt attempt gave Las Vegas a safety and an 8-7 lead. On the ensuing drive, Robertson, who was held to two yards on seven carries in the first half, rushed for 55 yards. That set up Copeland’s two-yard run that gave Las Vegas a 15-7 lead.
But the game turned one more time on Copeland’s four-yard punt that gave Reno the ball at the Vegas 29. That set up Conor Martin’s 29-yard TD run. The two-point attempt failed, leaving Reno behind 15-13.
Martin, who rushed for 111 yards on 29 carries, was shaken up early in the fourth quarter, but Quinlan and Barcia took over. Reno put together a drive on the strength of Wallace’s 15-yard scramble and a play action pass of 13 yards from Wallace to Quinlan. That set up Barcia’s 12-yard scoring run. The two-point failed again, but Reno led 19-15.
Reno’s Mike Kummer then intercepted a pass at the Vegas 42. Reno scored in two plays on Barcia’s 20-yard run and Quinlan’s 22-yard scoring run. Vikre’s extra point made it 26-15.
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