For a half, Warriors give Incline a tussle
ZEPHYR COVE – Their red and watery eyes told the story and was confirmed by their body language.
Victory had eluded Whittell High for the third straight season and the seniors were dealing with the realization that they would never win a high school football game.
They handled it well, knowing they had helped lay the foundation for the program’s future success.
“Most of the coaches have said we were vital to getting Whittell to turn around,” said Whittell senior lineman Bryce Rafferty. “I feel we have turned around 200 percent better than where we were last year.”
Still, losing to rival Incline 28-0 in a Northern 2A game on Friday wasn’t how the Warriors envisioned ending their football season. Now the Warriors (0-9) must carry the crushing burden of a 26-game losing streak into the offseason.
“They’re disappointed they didn’t get a win, but they are pretty satisfied with the season in terms of how we were a football team this year,” said WHS coach John Summers.
The Highlanders suffered their unpleasant news afterward, learning that they had been eliminated from playoff contention when Rite of Passage defeated Yerington 21-8. The Highlanders (5-5 overall, 4-4 division) finished one game behind fourth-place ROP.
Incline turned Friday’s game when senior Alex Woods returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown – the first against the Warrors this season – snapping a 0-0 tie.
Woods had one more big play left in his prep career, slicing through the Warriors for a 77-yard scoring run with 8 minutes, 10 seconds remaining to give the Highlanders a 27-0 lead. Questionable to play beforehand, Woods finished with 206 yards on 21 carries. The output increased his season total to nearly 1,800 yards.
“We did a pretty good job on him for the first half. That was our thing, to punish him every time he carried the ball,” said Summers about containing Woods, who had 73 yards at intermission. “The kickoff was the killer.”
For a half the Warriors looked like they were headed for that long-awaited victory. Twice they marched deep into Highlander territory, only to be turned away.
“We told our kids all week to be worried about this game, because we knew Whittell was better than their record showed,” said Incline coach Chris Morgan. “They are going to turn the corner; they really are.”
On an opening drive that started at its 3, Whittell advanced to the Incline 25 before the Highlanders forced several incomplete passes and tackled Casey Coates for a 6-yard loss on fourth down.
Their best scoring chance came early in the second quarter when Robert0 Concha-Foley picked off a pass that first glanced off Travis Swoger’s fingertips. Concha-Foley returned Incline’s only pass of the afternoon 15 yards to the Incline 31.
An 11-yard run by Philip Gielow and a 16-yard fourth-down completion to Cody Nelson moved the Warriors to the Incline 10. The drive, however, stalled, and the Warriors elected to go for the TD from the 8 on fourth down, and Concha-Foley’s pass to the middle of the end zone landed harmlessly to the ground.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s been our story all year,” Swoger said. “We were capable of winning, and we just hurt ourselves.”
The Warriors nearly answered Woods’ special teams’ touchdown with a long drive on their first possession of the second half. Seven plays, including 18- and 11-yard runs by Gielow, moved Whittell to the Incline 30. But a fumbled exchange from center and a delay of game penalty forced the Warriors to punt.
Incline took command on its next series, methodically driving from its 10 to the Whittell 20. Senior Ryan Bahneham ran the final 20 yards for the score. Kyle Bahneman’s extra point made the score 14-0 Incline with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
“We told the seniors you have one half of football possibly left for the rest of your lives. How do you want to end?” Morgan said. “Obvously the kickoff return gave us momentum. Without that it could have gone back to the way the game was going.”
Kyle Bahneman removed any chance of a Whittell comeback by intercepting Concha-Foley pass and returning it to the Warrior 45. Woods’ 27-yard run set up the Highlanders on the 1, and Kyle Bahneman snuck in for a 21-0 edge with 11:05 remaining.
Swoger led Whittell’s rushing attack with 83 yards on 13 carries, while Gielow compiled 75 yards on 17 carries.
INCLINE 28, WHITTELL 0
Incline 0 0 14 14 – 28
Whittell 0 0 0 0 – 0
I-Woods 85 kickoff return (K. Bahneman kick)
I-R. Bahneman 20 run (K. Bahneman kick)
I-K. Bahneman 1 run (K. Bahneman kick)
I- Woods 77 run (K. Bahneman kick)
First downs 13 15
Rushes-yards 36-339 40-118
Passing 0 48
Comp-Att-Int 0-1-1 9-15-1
Punts-Avg. 2-33 3-38
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 4-1
Penalties-Yards 9-56 2-10
Passing – Incline, K. Bahneman 0-1-1-0; Whittell, Concha-Foley 9-15-1-48.
Rushing – Woods 21-206, Behrens 7-74, R. Bahneman 4-35, Pastrana 3-23, K. Bahneman 1-1. Whittell, Swoger 13-83, Gielow 17-75, Coats 1-(-6), Team 1-(-9), Concha-Foley 8-(-25).
Receiving – Whittell, Humbired 5-15, Coats 3-17, Nelson 1-16.