Colts run by Vikings
RENO – Don’t take much stock in opening drives. They are as misleading as presidential campaign promises.
South Tahoe High made Wooster’s “D” look like a scout defense as the Vikings surgically drove 72 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead 1 minute, 50 seconds into their Nevada 4A Division II football showdown with the Colts on Saturday. However, little went right thereafter as the Colts continued their division dominance and series mismatch with STHS in a 34-21 triumph.
“It’s a big win in that it enables to once again be undefeated in conference,” said first-year Wooster coach Tony Amantia, who is not allowing the Colts to slide after the retirement of Joe Sellers. “The talent is very well balanced through our conference and there are no days off.
“I thought they should have been favored coming in here because they have executed better than we have. But today I think what got us over the hump was that we executed when we needed to.”
Derek McNeil quickly erased the Vikings’ only lead with a 90-yard kickoff return; STHS quarterback Tim Sprinkles was intercepted twice; and Josh James rushed for 194 yards, including two long fourth-quarter touchdown runs, as the Colts defeated the Vikings for the 21st time in 23 career meetings.
“We made some huge mistakes that allowed them to gain momentum. We gave them 21 points in the first half,” said Viking coach Tim Jaureguito. “We scored on the opening drive and let them get right back on us with a kickoff return. You can’t do those types of things in a game like this and expect to win.”
Wooster padded its strangehold on first place, raising its record to 3-0, while the Vikings’ title hopes disappeared as they slipped to 2-2. Jaureguito, who only has beaten Wooster once in his 13-year Viking coaching career, believes a win possibly got away Saturday.
“This is the most beatable Wooster team I’ve seen in years,” Jaureguito said. “I’m disappointed in the way we played. We should have gone out and executed and should have done better.”
South Tahoe must win its two remaining games to have any chance of finishing second and hosting a playoff game, or for that matter, to make the playoffs.
“It was just mistakes,” said Viking senior linebacker Justin McGrath. “We weren’t playing our responsibilities.”
Even though the Colts produced only 85 yards of offense in the first half, they ended the first 24 minutes with a 21-7 edge. Sprinkles, who played cautiously with a burdensome knee brace, set up two of the Colts’ first-half scores with interceptions.
Tom Talamante was the beneficiary of Sprinkles’ first mistake, a deep pass that sailed over intended receiver Matt Arzio. Starting at its own 48, Wooster utilized quarterback John James’ only two completions to drive 52 yards in seven plays. John James capped the 4:34 scoring match with a two-yard run.
Only six plays elapsed before the Colts made their second break. Linebacker Robby Stallings read a Sprinkles screen pass, batting the ball up in the air and then gathering in the pigskin and running to the Viking 14. Four plays later, J.J. Stallings scooted three yards for six points to put the Colts ahead 19-7. McNeil and John James hooked up for a two-point conversion, atoning for an earlier missed extra point and sending the Colts into intermission with a 14-point lead.
South Tahoe drove to the Wooster 15-yard line in the closing seconds of the half, but the opportunity slipped away as Sprinkles’ last-second pass fell short of Arzio in the end zone.
Momentum switched in the third period as South Tahoe’s defense continued to bottle up Colts breakaway runner Josh James. In fact, the Vikings sent the Colts to their sideline on three straight possesions after the minimum three plays.
“You watch any of their game film, and they don’t drive the ball. They get the big plays,” Jaureguito said. “But I don’t blame our defense; I blame our offense. I don’t think our backs ran hard, I don’t think our lined blocked well and I think Tim showed he’s banged up by missing on passes he usually doesn’t miss on and becuase of that we did not execute.”
Needing something to spark the offense, the Vikings turned to fleet-footed punt returner Chris Seals to get them back in the game. Seals took a punt on his 40 and bolted down the sideline, using a key block by Arzio to score on a 60-yard return. The quick six trimmed Wooster’s lead to 21-14 with 4:51 left in the third period.
Seals fumbled the next Wooster punt, but teammate Chas Tanner was there to negate the error, recovering the loose ball at his 41. The near- blow was a sign of what was to come, though, as running back Jake Hurwitz coughed up the ball two plays later at the Wooster 49. Matt George’s fourth interception of the season kept the Vikings poised for the upset, but the offense’s struggles lingered.
Josh James finally broke loose from the Viking vice grip in the fourth quarter, slicing his way outside and down the sidelines for 41- and 51-yard scores.
In between the backbreaking runs was a 45-yard interception return by the Vikings’ Micah Hoffman. The senior’s pick set up the Vikings’ final score, a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Sprinkles. But Josh James, a one-man gang, ran out the clock from there.
“It’s a great win, and South Tahoe is a great team. This was for the Division II championship, and they were a good team for it,” Josh James said.
Josh James outflashed Hurwitz, the league’s rushing leader. The Wooster back finished with 194 yards on 25 carries, compared to Hurwitz’s 88 yards on 21 rushes.
“Josh is a throwback. There’s not a lot of kids around anymore that have his mentality in the sense that he lives this game,” Amantia said. “He’s not one of those kids who takes plays off. He gives effort on every play.
Jaureguito cautioned his players in the locker room about playing for a 1-1 finish. He doesn’t believe a 3-3 record will be good enough to play into November. They obviously paid attention.
“We’re hurting a little bit, but if we win the next two, we’ll probably get into the playoffs easily,” McGrath said.
Note: Sellers wasn’t looking over Amantia’s shoulder on Saturday, not that the former Bishop Manogue coach would feel any added pressure. “I haven’t felt any pressure from anyone outside the program at all. To be honest with you, it’s more me and my competitive drive to be successful,” he said.
SATURDAY’S PREP FOOTBALL SUM
South Tahoe 7 0 7 7 – 21
Wooster 7 14 0 13 – 34
ST- Hurwitz 23 run (Ortiz kick), 1:50
W-McNeil 90 kickoff return (Olivo kick), 2:06
W-John James 2 run (run failed), 2:04
W-Stallings 2 run (McNeil pass from John James), 6:10
ST-Seals 60 punt return (Ortiz kick), 7:09
W-Josh James 43 run (Olivo kick), 1:47
ST-Sprinkles 1 run (Ortiz kick), 4:59
W-Josh James 51 run (kick failed), 7:55
First downs 12/10
Passing yards 131/35
Passing: South Tahoe, Sprinkles, 12-26-2-115; Romero 1-1-0-16. Wooster, John James 2-10-2-35.
Rushing: South Tahoe, Hurwitz 21-88, McIntyre 1-4, Uppendahl 1-1, Tanner 1-0, Sprinkles 5-(-19). Wooster, Josh James 25-194; Stallings 3-19, John James 4-8, Velazquez 1-2, Lazzari 2-(-1).
Receiving: South Tahoe, Williams 4-42, Arzio 2-27, McIntyre 2-15, Seeley 2-13, Griffith 1-16, Kaczmarek 1-15, Hurwitz 1-3.
Missed Field Goals: None.
JV: Wooster 28-6.
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