Vikings lead Truckee early, but Wolverines rout South Tahoe
Tahoe Daily Tribune
TRUCKEE, Calif. – One play into Saturday’s regular-season finale in Truckee, the South Tahoe Vikings had the Wolverines’ full attention.
South Tahoe senior workhorse Jacob Stowell broke off an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, while his Vikings used the momentum from the early strike to take a 14-7 lead against the two-time defending state champs midway through the first quarter.
The Wolverines were up for the challenge, however, as they scored 54 unanswered points between the first and fourth quarters to coast to a 61-22 win – their 33rd straight.
“We started off well, but then we kind of ran out of bodies,” said South Tahoe head coach Kevin Hennessee, who had only 19 players suited. “We were already banged up. We gave it a good effort, though. It would have been nice to hang in there a little longer, but I think we just got tired and ran out of guys.”
Truckee played shorthanded itself as several starters were sidelined with injuries, including tight end/defensive end Braden Waters and the entire linebacking corps that began the season. It showed early, as Stowell burst through the line on the first play of the game and found nothing but open grass en route to an 80-yard footrace to the end zone.
“We didn’t have any of our first four linebackers out there, and I think the speed of the game caught a few guys off guard a little bit,” Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer said. “But I thought the defense adjusted nicely and did a pretty good job.”
Truckee’s offense, meanwhile, looked like a well-oiled machine. The Wolverines used nine different ball carriers to gain 449 yards on 34 rushes, led by Jake Pettit’s 146 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries. Tyler Curtis had 116 yards on seven carries.
Combined with an efficient passing game led by quarterback Pat Shaffer, the Wolverines scored a touchdown on every offensive possession, save for their final one of the first half (which was one play) and the last of the game, when backup quarterback Erik Holmer took a knee on four consecutive downs inside the South Tahoe 15 to turn the ball over intentionally.
Stowell picked up 21 yards on his second carry and appeared to be on his way to a monster performance. But the Wolverines shut him down the rest of the contest as Stowell, who got up slowly from a couple of hits before eventually leaving the game late, led the Vikings with 106 yards on 18 carries.
With their home crowd still in shock, the Wolverines responded to Stowell’s long touchdown run on the first play with their own seven-play touchdown drive, which ended with a 2-yard run by Pettit.
South Tahoe proceeded to drive the ball to the Truckee 35-yard line before stalling and punting – and then catching a major break. The low-flying punt traveled about 15 yards before hitting a Wolverine, after which a South Tahoe player jumped on it to give the ball back to South Tahoe at the Truckee 29-yard line.
Quarterback John Cefalu hooked up with a leaping David Ziello for a 26-yard strike the next play, while Stowell reached the ball across the goal line two plays later to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead after Ryan Caro’s PAT.
It was the last time South Tahoe saw the end zone until the fourth quarter, after a running clock was in place.
“We knew that the potential was there for them to score some points early. We just had to weather the storm,” coach Shaffer said. “Their seniors wanted to win. They played hard.”
Truckee answered with a 9-yard touchdown run by Pettit that ended a six-play, 77-yard drive. Austin Ferreira kicked through the extra point to knot the score at 14-all with 2:47 left in the first quarter.
The Wolverines’ next possession early in the second quarter went 63 yards on six plays and culminated with a 9-yard TD pass from Shaffer to Trevor Auldridge. After the second of three consecutive three-and-out possessions for the Vikings, Pettit curled around the right side of the line and burst into the secondary en route to a 45-yard touchdown sprint, giving Truckee a 28-14 lead with 7:31 left in the second quarter
Senior wingback Ty Englert rounded out the scoring in the first half with a 14-yard touchdown run, giving Truckee a 35-14 lead. Pettit almost added another TD when he took the handoff on the final play of the half and ran 62 yards, but Caro caught him from behind at the 4-yard line.
The scoring trend continued in the third quarter.
Truckee took the opening kickoff and drove down the field before Curtis ran for a 38-yard score, breaking a tackle along the way. Following a Vikings three-and-out on their ensuing possession, Auldridge returned a punt 50 yards for another quick touchdown strike, extending the lead to 49-14 with 7:08 still to play in the third quarter.
Things only got worse for South Tahoe, as Chase Eichele sacked Cefalu and caused a fumble on the next play from scrimmage, and Max Collinson scooped it up and returned it to the Vikings 2-yard line. Two plays later, Javier Virrey scored on a 9-yard run after a couple of Truckee penalties, pushing the lead to 55-14.
With their reserves in the game, the Wolverines added a final touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Kai Goodpaster carried a gang of tacklers into the end zone from 14 yards out.
The Vikings, to their credit, did not throw in the towel. After the Truckee score, Cefalu hit Caro on a short route near midfield, and Caro raced to a 59-yard touchdown with 7:06 left on the running clock.
Truckee improved to 8-0 in Northern 3A league play and 9-0 overall with the win, while South Tahoe fell to 0-8 in league and 2-8 overall to end its season.
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