STHS football wants to start quickly |

STHS football wants to start quickly

Steve Yingling

There is no better equalizer in sports than graduation.

Heading into their season opener against Sparks on Saturday, the South Tahoe High Vikings should be elated that they won’t have to run down Zack Quilici or Mike Pickens.

Last year, the two seniors destroyed the Vikings in a 34-7 defeat to the Railroaders in their season opener. Quilici caught 10 passes for 157 yards, while Pickens – the school’s all-time touchdown scorer – found the end zone on three of his seven rushes.

“Last year’s senior class was a tremendous group of athletes, probably one of the most athletic classes that has come through Sparks,” said Railroaders’ coach Rob Kittrell.

South Tahoe was really closer than the final score reflected as mistakes – namely three bad punt snaps – made the Railroaders’ task easier. But a lot can change in high school sports in 12 months.

South Tahoe is still dealing with a smaller supply of players than most of the Nevada 4A, but the Vikings do have an experienced core of offensive and defensive players.

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Standout senior receiver Chris Klug, who missed last year’s game against Sparks, could impact Saturday’s game like Quilici did a year ago. Senior quarterback Willy Ervin and Klug developed a pitch-and-catch chemistry after Ervin took over for Tony Stagnaro midway through the season.

“It’s going to be tough,” Kittrell said. “The last time we played up there in 1999, (coaches Tim) Jaureguito, (Chris) Morgan and Mac (Todd McIntyre) put a whooping on us. It’s a very tough place playing in the bowl up there, and the South Tahoe kids always get fired up. We’re going to see a great effort from the Vikings on Saturday, I’m sure.”

Sparks, on the other hand, returns seven starters for Kittrell, whose Railroaders posted a 6-3 record in 2007 and advanced to the postseason.

“They might not have as many weapons as last year, but they still are well-coached and very ready to play,” said STHS coach Chris Morgan. “We want to get out of the gates quickly and try to get a big victory.”

The Railroaders still look to wing the ball around the lot with all-around athlete Brian Orellana, one of the 3A’s top triple jumpers and discus throwers last year, and Angel Guillen as the main targets.

First-year varsity quarterback Joe Puccinelli didn’t participate in Sparks’ scrimmage with Wooster last Saturday due to an undisclosed injury. As a result, Guillen filled in behind center.

“Angel did really well last week in the scrimmage for having five hours preparation for it,” said Kittrell, the Railroaders’ 11th-year coach. “Angel can be very versatile for us. We can use Angel a lot like we used Zack when we moved him to quarterback last year.”

South Tahoe also has an injury in its backfield.

Senior running back Tyler Lastiri won’t play because of a pulled hamstring. Nathan Pedrajita and Joe Peltier are expected to fill the void.

Saturday’s game time at Viking Bowl is 1:30 p.m.