Happy homecoming: South Tahoe football routs Dayton, secures playoff berth
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — For the South Tahoe football team and its senior quarterback, it was a happy homecoming Friday, Oct. 7. The Vikings found the end zone on their first eight offensive possessions on the way to a 57-0 win over Dayton at Viking Stadium, extending their winning streak to five games in lopsided fashion.
“It’s huge,” Vikings senior quarterback Tommy Cefalu said. “We’ve been looking forward to this game, playing in front of a big crowd and winning.”
South Tahoe (6-1 3A Northern) scored six touchdowns in the first half Friday and added two more after the break for its most decisive win of the season. Cefalu threw five touchdown passes in his second game back from a hand injury that sidelined him for a month, while making his first home start of the 2016 season.
“I’ve been waiting for a home game for 365 days, and it felt good to back,” Cefalu said.
The Vikings got a stop on the opening drive of the game Friday, then needed just four plays to open the scoring. Senior Jacob Bernal ran for a 9-yard score with 8:31 left in the first quarter, and the ensuing two-point conversion put the hosts up 8-0.
From there, South Tahoe rolled while keeping Dayton (0-7) winless on the season. The shutout was the Vikings’ first of the 2016 campaign — it locked up a playoff spot and secured the program’s first winning season since 2003.
“As a group, we’ve been working so hard for these last four years,” Cefalu said. “We’ve been looking at this year ever since then, and it’s huge that we can actually look forward to the playoffs.”
Cefalu threw two touchdowns apiece to senior Noah Jackson and junior McCallan Castles, and another to senior Zen Contestable. His 63-yard touchdown pass to Castles with 5:10 left in the first half gave the Vikings a 35-0 lead, and put a running clock into effect.
“We came out and laid it on them from the get-go,” Castles said.
Early in the fourth quarter, senior Max Schweitzer punctuated the victory with a bruising 5-yard touchdown run — his fifth straight carry of the scoring drive. Dayton drove into South Tahoe territory in the closing minutes, but senior Tyler Ritter picked off a pass to end the threat and secure the shutout.
Cefalu finished 13-of-19 passing with 280 yards and five touchdowns — including four in the first half. Jackson had 139 yards receiving and two scores on four catches, Castles caught six passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns, and Bernal led South Tahoe’s rushing attack with 78 yards and two scores on six carries.
Castles was offered by Nebraska two days earlier — the fourth scholarship offer that has come the talented junior’s way. On Friday night, the 6-foot-5-inch wideout made stellar plays in the passing game and delivered devastating blocks when the Vikings ran the ball.
“I’ve come to understand that I’m not going to be very liked in the league,” Castles said. “I’m just going to keep blocking and show kids up — if they don’t want to shake my hand, they don’t have to.
“My mentality on blocking is that if a player is in front of me, he’s going to be on the ground when the whistle blows. That’s how our whole wide receiver group wants to play — we want to be the most physical group on the field.”
Dayton finished with 121 yards offensively while splitting quarterback duties between senior Blake Fletcher and sophomore Justin Schmidt. The Dust Devils didn’t cross midfield until the onside kick at the start of the third quarter, and were shut out for the fourth time this season.
Though South Tahoe secured a playoff berth with Friday’s win, there is still plenty to play for in the last two weeks of the regular season. The Vikings are currently in a three-way tie for second place with Elko and Truckee, who they host in consecutive weeks to close out the regular season.
“It’s that time of the season,” Cefalu said. “We did all the hard work up until this point, now it’s just about seeding. We have to play every night like it’s a playoff game.”
South Tahoe returns to action at home Friday, Oct. 14, against Elko (6-1). Kickoff at Viking Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It should be a fun one,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said.
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