Vikings fall to Truckee in playoffs to end season
TRUCKEE — South Tahoe huddled after near midfield Saturday afternoon on the grassy field in the mud and rain following their football game against Truckee. The coaching staff took turns talking to the players whose faces were wet, but not all of it was due to precipitation.
South Tahoe suffered a 35-28 loss to the Truckee Wolverines and it was an emotional defeat for sure. It was the second straight loss in two weeks to the rival Wolverines and this one hurt. It ended their season in the first round of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association 3A Northern Region playoffs.
“We worked so hard all season and it’s over now,” said junior co-captain Kody Griffis. “We worked hard, got better everyday and it sucks it had to end here. I’m gonna miss these guys.”
Vikings head coach Louis Franklin was disappointed following the result but is proud of what the senior class has accomplished. After several years of being a doormat in the 3A Northern League, Franklin has guided South Tahoe to as many wins in his three seasons (18) as the Vikings had in the nine seasons before he arrived, including two playoff appearances.
“It’s a special group and they’ve helped set a new standard for our program,” Franklin said. “It’s something that my kids and other kids can look up to because they’re good boys. They’re good in the classroom, good in the community and they’re good on the football field. For a lot of these kids with older brothers, they’ve got bragging rights. They won more football games than their brothers ever did. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s not the way we wanted to finish but there is way more positive this year than negative.”
Early in the game, it looked like the Vikings were going to be run off the field. Truckee took a 15-0 lead in the first seven minutes. The Wolverines scored a pair of touchdowns and were helped when the Vikings had a punt snap sail out of the endzone for a safety.
But the Vikings gave the Wolverines a dose of their own medicine. South Tahoe jumped out to a 15-point first quarter lead last week only to have Truckee rally back.
Peyton Galli rolled to his left on a fourth down and threw a 33-yard dart to Tyler Wattanchinda who made the grab just inside the back line for a touchdown. Jakob Costley punched in the 2-point conversion and the Vikings were unstoppable for the rest of the half.
Truckee answered with a touchdown but the Vikings made big play after big play.
Galli avoided a sack, stepped out of a tackle attempt and found Matt Cain wide open behind the Wolverines defense. Cain made the grab then sprinted the final distance for a 46-yard score to make it 21-15.
Costley followed with a big defensive play, nailing Truckee quarterback Marcus Bellon in the backfield before he could hand off the ball and caused a fumble. The entire South Tahoe defensive line was there to pounce on the fumble. It was the first chink in Bellon’s armor. He completed eight passes in a row to start the game and looked invincible and hard to tackle.
A couple of plays later, Galli lofted a 21-yard pass to Cain who made a great catch near the goal line and fell into the endzone to tie the game.
“I wanted us to start out ahead, but we fought back and I’m so proud of all these guys for that,” Galli said. “I really wanted to beat them, we just couldn’t get it done. But I love all these guys.”
Truckee again responded for another touchdown when Bellon hit Jaime Parisi with 1:04 left in the half.
But the Vikings went to their star receiver Mccallan Castles on the next play and he showed why he is headed to play division I college football.
Galli threw a bomb 40 yards downfield that Castles hauled in with just his right hand. It was raining, the field was a soggy mess and Castles reached and plucked it out of the air and left the Truckee defender in his wake en route to a 72-yard touchdown.
“I had to one-hand it, he had my other arm,” Castles said. “I caught it and just booked it, I wasn’t sure if he was going to catch me.”
That was Castles lone catch on the day but the South Tahoe senior will forever remember his time wearing the Vikings colors.
“Everybody is sad, but it was a great season,” Castles said. “It was a great way to end it. They made one less mistake on defense than we did and that’s all it was. Everybody played their hardest. It’s hard to come out here and lose and have it be over but this has been the greatest experience of my life.”
The game was tied 28-28 at halftime and the Vikings hardly saw the ball in the second half.
The Vikings had a big opportunity when linebacker Caleb Moretti fell on a fumble on the third play of the new half.
South Tahoe couldn’t turn that into points and grab its first lead. Truckee made the Vikings pay with a long, physical drive that took well over a dozen plays and scored the winning touchdown with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Vikings ran just 15 plays in the second half while the Wolverines had almost three times that many.
Three yards here, four yards there, three more yards and a first down. The Wolverines methodically maintained possession and squeezed the life out of what was a shootout in the first half.
“It hurt not converting that turnover, that was a good opportunity to get a jump on them,” Franklin said. “And then they just held the ball 8-9 minutes and that swung the momentum back to them. We didn’t take advantage of a sudden change opportunity. They did a good job in not letting us score right there.”
Galli threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns in the first half but the Vikings couldn’t get a rhythm in the second half and completed just one pass in the second half for 1 yard. The Vikings had just 20 yards in the second half.
“First half was offensively what we wanted but it was frustrating defensively, with some of the big plays we let happen,” Franklin said. “We weren’t disciplined enough with our eyes. In the second half, I thought we played good defense. We made them go on long drives, one was like 15 plays and that’s the goal because teams usually make mistakes and they had a few mistakes. Conditions didn’t play much of a factor, the kids caught the ball well and ran well, we just didn’t tackle as early on as physically I wanted us too. I think they were assisted but it is what it is. We didn’t make enough plays at the end of the day and it’s a bummer because this was good group.”