Warriors face huge task in Battle Mountain | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors face huge task in Battle Mountain

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Conrad / Buedel / Special to the TribuneSenior running back Cody Nelson, No. 22, has been Whittell High's top rusher and scorer in 2009. Nelson and the Warriors take on the Battle Mountain Longhorns in a playoff game Friday in Battle Mountain.

No Nevada Class 2A football team came within 18 points of Battle Mountain this fall, and the Longhorns are on a six-game winning streak.

Plus the Whittell Warriors have lost 44-8 and 33-6 in their past two meetings in Battle Mountain.

These are some of the numbers working against the Warriors going into Friday night’s state quarterfinal football playoff game in Battle Mountain.

Whittell (4-5) advanced to the state playoffs for the second straight year by placing fourth in the Northern 2A League. Senior running backs Cody Nelson and Philip Gielow have keyed a resurgence by the Warriors in the second half of the season. In winning three of their past four games, the Warriors’ one-two punch has delivered more than 200 rushing yards between them.

They will need to provide the same – if not more – if Whittell is going to pull off the biggest upset of the Nevada 2A season on Friday night.

“Definitely,” said coach David Atherton, who could be coaching his final game for the Warriors. Atherton announced before the season that this would be his final season so he could devote time to his career and personal life.

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“If we are going to be close to winning this game, it’s going to be because they have very powerful games. Our passing attack hasn’t been our strong suit, and it’s not because (quarterback Austin) Buyak’s been the problem. That’s not what our offense has been centered around.”

As much as Whittell plans to run the football, the Warriors can count on the Longhorns doing the same. Battle Mountain averages 284 yards on the ground per game, and the Longhorns chewed up 275 yards of real estate in the first meeting. Running backs Mike Lake and Justin Gray have combined for 1,599 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

Lake gouged the Warriors with 150 yards and two touchdowns in last month’s game.

Battle Mountain’s success on the ground is created from more than the size advantage that it typically enjoys.

“They are very good at blocking,” Atherton said. “It’s not so much that they are getting good blocking, but it’s their body position. They get great angles on you.”

By the same token, Whittell struggled with its blocking in the teams’ first game. The Warriors didn’t maintain their blocks, resulting in their inability to sustain drives.

“They have some athletes. They are running into a deal that it’s tough for them to get a full set of good linemen,” said Battle Mountain coach Tim Knight after his team’s 27-point victory on Oct. 23.

Atherton is confident that his seniors and juniors can put forth an inspiring effort, and they want to make the long trip to Battle Mountain worthwhile. Atherton said junior lineman Matt Schorr asked his coach why the team would make such a lengthy trip if it didn’t plan on winning,”Well said,” Atherton said. “The fact that we’re in the playoffs, this is a big deal for the seniors and juniors. They are really taking it serious. They want to get to the second round.

“If we can cross Battle Mountain, I honestly believe our team’s confidence will skyrocket, and we’ll take this to state.

“But to be state champs, you have to go through Battle Mountain.”

Opening kickoff is at 6 p.m. Friday.

Nevada Class 2A Football Playoff Glance

Friday’s Games

Whittell at Battle Mountain, 6 p.m.

Needles at The Meadows, 7 p.m.

Saturday’s Games

Rite of Passage at Lovelock, 1 p.m.

Lincoln County at Mountain View, 1 p.m.