Comes down to defense for Vikings
As exciting as South Tahoe High’s offense has been, the Vikings know the longevity of their football seasons hinges on defense.
After surrendering 661 total yards in a 52-38 loss to Douglas last Saturday, South Tahoe wants to solidify their defense against Fallon, a team the Vikings need to defeat to qualify for the Northern Nevada League 4A playoffs.
“We’re going with pretty basic defense. We’ll sit in our defense and try and play good football,” said Viking coach Tim Jaureguito. “They’re playing physical, but we have to start playing defense with enthusiasm, that’s the one thing that has been missing more than anything.”
South Tahoe, 5-3 overall, and Reno enter the final weekend of the regular season tied for fourth place with 2-3 marks in Division II. Four teams from Division I and four from Division II qualify for the playoffs, which begin Thursday. If South Tahoe and Reno both win, the Vikings will make the playoffs by virtue of their victory over the Huskies. If both teams should lose, Fallon will forge a three-way tie for fourth place and necessitate a tiebreaker ruling.
In the latter scenario, the Greenwave would make the playoffs by beating South Tahoe by seven points or more.
“Just to win will be hard enough for us because we respect Tahoe so much,” said Fallon first-year coach Tommy Thomson, who formerly owned Sierra Athletic Club in South Lake Tahoe before it became Time Out Health Spa and Fitness.
Whichever team emerges in fourth place must play Division I champion McQueen (7-0) in the playoff’s first round Thursday in Reno.
While Jaureguito is concerned about his defense, the offense has regained its early season high-scoring form. Tailback Bryan Bough’s return to the lineup after a two-week absence rejuvenated the Vikings offense as they rolled up 580 yards against Douglas.
“I really believe the offense is going to fire on all cylinders this week. We have proven time and time again up front that our offensive line can play with anybody,” Jaureguito said.
With the return of tackle Ryan Souza to the offensive line, quarterback Bret Uppendahl was only sacked only once by Douglas. The 254-pound Souza, who has had his share of injuries this season, including a concussion, was just glad to resume contact.
“I was just ready to hit and that kind of made it easy for me to (keep up with the pace of the Douglas game),” Souza said. “It gets kind of tiring with the no-huddle plays, but you get breaks. I wasn’t getting tired, just frustrated.”
Despite missing nearly three games, Bough has a chance to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. The 5-foot 11-inch senior has 901 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“They are a different team with Bough. I don’t remember him very much from last year’s game, and I don’t remember the quarterback very well. We know these kids now, and I’m very impressed with (Bough),” Thomson said.
Bough’s breakaway presence also enabled Uppendahl to have one of his finer performances of the season – 244 yards, two touchdown passes and one scoring run.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make the playoffs and see what could happen from there,” said senior receiver Casey Dowling, who caught a career-high 10 passes for 172 yards against Douglas. “I feel this offense has enough confidence that we can hang with any team.”
Fallon brings the league’s fourth-best overall defense to Tahoe. The Greenwave led explosive Douglas 9-6 at the half on Oct. 3 before losing 37-13. Fallon’s downfall has been turnovers – namely 13 interceptions by quarterback Kyle Ferguson.
“South Tahoe is going to put points on the board against anybody, it’s just a matter if you can stay with them,” Thomson said.
Ferguson has thrown for more than 900 yards and 10 touchdowns, including nine scores by junior John Cruz.
The Vikings have won only once at home in 1997, but Jaureguito believes his seniors are determined to go out winners.
“For the seniors on offense and defense, this is their last home game. This will be a real emotional game for them and because of that I think they will play well,” Jaureguito said.
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