Injuries, penalties sink Incline in playoff football clash with Battle Mountain

Incline running back Joe Duran was having a strong game on Friday against Battle Mountain before getting injured in the second quarter.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It would be easy to say that nothing went right Friday for the Incline Highlanders in their home playoff loss to Battle Mountain.

They racked up more than 100 yards in penalties and suffered multiple injuries to key players, including two of their most lethal offensive threats. But they also forced five turnovers and the defense allowed the Longhorns just one touchdown.

But after injuries sidelined their starting quarterback and top running back, the Highlanders couldn’t get their offense rolling and fell 12-7 in front of a packed house at Highlander Stadium in the first home playoff football game at Incline since 1983.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the kids,” said Incline Head Coach Brian Martinez. “They never stopped fighting and that’s all we ask for. We tell them, ‘Whatever you do, even if it’s a mistake, do it 100%.'”

The penalty difference in the game might have been the most difficult pill to swallow.

Incline was flagged 11 times for 108 yards while Battle Mountain had two penalties, an offsides before the third play of the game and a facemask which added a few yards, and a first down, to the Highlanders only scoring drive.

Incline took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Highlanders forced a Longhorn fumble on their third play of the game and it was recovered by Joe Duran at the Battle Mountain 26.

A few plays later, quarterback Nick Suter received a shotgun snap, looked briefly to throw to his right, but quickly tucked the ball under his arm and ran around the left side for an 8-yard score with 4:48 left in the opening quarter.

Incline went on another drive on its next possession early in the second quarter. The Highlanders drove 50 yards to the Longhorn 31 when Duran, who had been the primary ball carrier and was proving difficult to stop, suffered a leg injury and would not return to the game. He had already carried the ball 11 times for 60 yards at that point.

The drive stalled on fourth down when officials called a running play dead moments before Incline freshman Colin Combs fell forward past the first down marker.

On the very next play, another freshman, Tommy Williams, intercepted a pass at the Battle Mountain 41. But after a couple of short runs and a false start penalty, the Highlanders punted.

Battle Mountain on its next drive again challenged the freshman, and Williams again answered by blanketing the receiver and plucking the ball out of the air for his second interception of the game.

The game remained 7-0 at halftime.

Incline injury fortunes got worse early in the second half.

Incline quarterback Nick Suter looks for a receiver Friday night.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Suter three plays into the third quarter went down with an injury. He had just completed a pass and ran twice for a first down, but on the first down run, he didn’t immediately get off the grassy turf. He finished the game with 50 yards on seven carries and was 4 of 6 for 22 yards through the air.

After Suter left the game, the Highlanders had five more possessions and totaled just 17 yards.

Battle Mountain followed with its best drive of the game that was aided by a facemask to turn what would have been a fourth down into a first down. On the facemask, the Battle Mountain ball carrier got up from the illegal tackle and threw what looked like an open hand punch to the tackler’s face. Officials told Incline coaches they didn’t see it.

Incline freshman Colin combs runs for a first down Friday night.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Two plays later, Battle Mountain scored on a 12-yard run.

With Battle Mountain lining up for a 2-point conversion try, Martinez yelled several times for a timeout ahead of the snap, but was apparently not heard.

The Longhorns ran in the conversion to take an 8-7 lead and when Martinez came out of the coaching box to ask why a timeout wasn’t allowed after the play was over, he was immediately flagged before asking any questions and given a sideline warning. During the conversation with the head official who threw the flag, he told Martinez he didn’t hear him yell for a timeout, and that next time he should just run out onto the field to get their attention.

Incline lines up for an offensive play.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

“Penalties and injuries killed us,” Martinez said. “It’s frustrating.”

Battle Mountain got two more points when they sacked Incline in the endzone for a safety with about 8 minutes left in the game.

After kicking to the Longhorns, the Highlanders forced their fourth turnover with Jonathan Santiago recovering a fumble at their own 43. Four plays later, Incline turned it over on downs.

With Battle Mountain trying to put the game away, Incline forced another fumble at their own 9 with just over a minute remaining.

But the Longhorns defense again stepped up and forced an intentional grounding penalty in the endzone to record their second safety of the night.

Incline quarterback Kade Martinez looks for an open receiver.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

“Hats off to Battle Mountain,” Martinez said. “We beat them 21-0 earlier this year and we knew they were going to come back strong. They are a group of kids that play hard. But after the game, you see their players hugging it out with our guys and that’s the respect we’ve been fighting for.”

Instead of limping off the field with sad faces, Incline has a tradition whether they win or lose the final game. The Highlanders gathered in a circle and the seniors performed their favorite tackling drill one last time which lifted their spirits.

“They get to call out their fellow seniors for one final tackle hoo-rah,” Martinez said.

The Highlanders are graduating seven seniors and Martinez said he is excited about coaching another strong group of kids next season.

“Resilience has been the key word for us this season,” Martinez said. “Whether it’s our home field, getting a bus, wildfire smoke, COVID — everything that was thrown at them this year, they just didn’t quit. I’m going to miss our seniors, but we’ve got a strong team coming back. The future is bright.”

Incline co-team captains (from left) Nick Suter, Marcos Resendiz, Kade Martinez and Tyler Bingham meet the Battle Mountain captains for the coin flip.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune
Incline Head Coach Brian Martinez helps his team warm up Friday night.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

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