Going streaking: South Tahoe football downs Wooster on homecoming, wins second straight
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Halfway through the 2015 season, the South Tahoe football team is hitting its stride. The Vikings beat Wooster 24-8 last Friday, Oct. 2, at Viking Stadium, a homecoming victory that produced their first winning streak in three seasons.
“We’re starting to change the way we think,” Vikings quarterback Tommy Cefalu said. “South Tahoe has never been able to get the feeling of winning, loving it and wanting to strive for it — we’re getting to the point where it feels like we need to do that.”
After a defensive stop to start the game, South Tahoe (2-4, 2-3 I-A Northern) opened the scoring on its second offensive play. Cefalu faked a handoff and ran 74 yards through Wooster’s defense for a touchdown that made it 6-0 with 7:30 left in the first quarter.
“I just saw open grass,” Cefalu said. “Huge shout out to the linemen and the receivers blocking — I had to finish it, so I did.”
Wooster (2-4, 1-4) took its next four drives into Vikings territory while showing a power pistol wing look, but came away empty each time. Will Mori and Dylan Gooding intercepted passes on consecutive possessions, then Mori broke up a pass play on fourth-and-3 at the 25-yard line early in the second quarter.
“The defensive backs learned from their mistakes early; they’re improving every day in practice and they made plays tonight,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said.
Following the fourth-down stop, South Tahoe needed only five plays to find the end zone. Quinn Ritter capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run, and a two-point conversion pass from Cefalu to Darren Jackson made it 14-0 with 7:12 left in the second quarter.
Late in the first half, a fumble gave Wooster the ball 13 yards from the end zone — its fifth first-half drive that went inside the Vikings’ 30-yard line. But South Tahoe’s defense again kept the visitors from getting on the board, and took a 14-0 lead into the break.
On third-and-eight from the 11-yard line, Andrew Herrera sacked Hunter Triplett for a loss of seven. Then on fourth down, Mori intercepted a pass in the end zone with 10.2 seconds in left to keep momentum on South Tahoe’s side headed into halftime.
“That was huge, because we were still up two scores,” Franklin said. “They have too much firepower on offense to give up that score.”
After the break, South Tahoe extended its lead while dominating possession. Wooster’s offense was on the field for five plays in the third quarter, and the Vikings led 21-0 headed into the final frame.
“It wasn’t a pretty night [offensively], but we really controlled the game after the first quarter,” Franklin said. “We knew we could be more physical than them and that was key — we were able to run the ball.”
Both teams traded defensive stops to start the second half before South Tahoe added to its lead. Two plays after a 43-yard pass from Cefalu to Zach Shearer, the junior quarterback found Jackson in the end zone for a 20-yard score that put the Vikings up by 21 points with 5:54 left in the quarter.
On the second play of the ensuing possession, South Tahoe’s Summit Moulton recovered a fumble by Wooster running back Chosen Gbenjo. The Vikings took over at the Colts 27-yard line and methodically moved the ball to set up the first field goal attempt of the season for Kade Wallace — on the first play of the fourth quarter, Wallace hit a 22-yard kick to make it 24-0.
Wooster scored on the next drive, marching 80 yards in 14 plays on a drive that featured a pair of fourth-down conversions. Triplett’s 5-yard pass to Solomon Louris and two-point conversion with 5:06 to play ended South Tahoe’s shutout streak at seven quarters, but ultimately did nothing to threaten the outcome of the game.
“It feels great, but we knew we had it in us — we just needed to work harder,” Jackson said of the Vikings’ first winning streak since 2012. “It’s happening late in the season, but we’re getting work done and making progress.”
Cefalu finished 10-of-16 passing for game-high 149 yards and a touchdown in the win, to go along with 108 rushing yards and a score on 11 carries. Shearer caught four passes for 106 yards, and Ritter ran for 45 yards on 14 carries — South Tahoe finished with 319 yards of offense, split nearly evenly on the ground and in the air.
“We’ve really focused on tempo the last two weeks — we’ve been going and going and going,” Cefalu said. “It’s been tough learning a new offense, but we’re finally getting it and it’s starting to work.”
Triplett was 11-for-27 with 122 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions after throwing for five scores against the Vikings last year. Gbenjo ran for a team-high 67 yards and caught two passes for 56 yards — South Tahoe held Wooster to 214 yards in the victory.
“Our defensive backs were the key tonight,” Vikings defensive lineman Cameron Milam said. “They’re working hard as hard as they can go every day and every down. They have that edge right now.”
South Tahoe returns to action Friday, Oct. 9, at Dayton (0-6, 0-5). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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