South Tahoe football flattens Fernley 36-8 in home opener, Galli shines in first varsity start

Anthony Gentile
South Tahoe junior Peyton Galli throws a pass with senior Jacob Bernal blocking in the Vikings’ league contest against Fernley on Friday, Sept. 9, at Viking Stadium.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe football team went into its home opener shorthanded Friday night, Sept. 9. The Vikings were without the services of their starting quarterback and middle linebacker in a 3A Northern League contest against Fernley — but it didn’t matter.

South Tahoe routed the Vaqueros 36-8 at Viking Stadium to deliver an emphatic victory in its home debut. Junior quarterback Peyton Galli threw three touchdowns in his first varsity start and the Vikings defense was stout against Fernley’s triple option as part of a complete performance.

“It’s a great bounce-back, it’s a huge win and it’s one of the best wins of my coaching career,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said. “It’s a big win for the kids.”

South Tahoe (2-1 3A Northern) had a 22-8 lead after a wild first half, and tacked on a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The Vikings hadn’t beaten Fernley (1-2) since the teams became league mates in 2010, and ended that six-game losing streak with stunning ease.

The first two quarters Friday night featured seven combined turnovers — including five in the second quarter — a successful onside kick attempt by the Vikings and a botched punt that turned into an interception return for a score. All that added up to South Tahoe taking a 14-point advantage into the break.

Early in the second quarter, the Vikings produced the first score of the game in unlikely fashion. Fernley’s Sam Ramirez fielded a low snap on a punt attempt and judged that he didn’t have time to get a kick away — so he tried to make a play with his arm.

Ramirez floated a pass that landed in the waiting arms of South Tahoe’s Tyler Ritter. The senior safety returned the errant throw 40 yards for a touchdown, and a successful two-point conversion put the Vikings ahead 8-0 with 10:09 left in the half.

After recovering an onside kick, South Tahoe appeared headed to a two-score lead before fumbling on the 4-yard line. Fernley took the fumble back to the Vikings’ 39-yard line and scored seven plays later on a 6-yard run from AC Reyes — a two-point conversion tied the game 8-8 with 4:36 to play in the quarter.

South Tahoe quickly retook the lead with a four-play, 71-yard drive capped by a screen pass from Galli to senior Robert Cage that went 19 yards for a score. Cage made a handful of Vaqueros miss en route to the end zone to put the Vikings up 15-8 with 3:20 left in the half.

In the last minute of the first half, South Tahoe capitalized on a turnover to add to its lead. Junior cornerback Matt Cain intercepted a pass along the sideline — his second of the half — to give the Vikings the ball at Fernley’s 32-yard line with 38 seconds left.

On the next play, Galli threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to junior McCallan Castles that made it 22-8. Galli dropped the pass into Castles, who was behind the Vaqueros secondary after beating bracketed coverage on the outside.

The Vikings went into halftime ahead by 14, but not before delivering a defensive stop. Fernley had the ball at the 8-yard line with four seconds left in the half, but pressure forced quarterback Zach Burns into a throw that sailed out of the end zone as time expired.

In the third quarter, South Tahoe scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes to take a commanding 28-point lead. Senior Jacob Bernal ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 3:13 left in the quarter, then Galli found Castles for a 44-yard score on the first play after a Fernley interception.

On his second score of the night, Castles made a leaping catch at the 8-yard line before dragging his defender that distance into the end zone. The touchdown punctuated the victory, and Fernley didn’t get any closer in a scoreless fourth quarter.

Galli finished 11-for-21 passing with 179 yards, three touchdowns and one interception Friday — and never seemed flustered in his first varsity start. Castles caught seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, while Bernal had 17 rushes for 93 yards and a score.

Defensively, South Tahoe forced six Fernley turnovers and held the Vaqueros to 151 yards of offense — including 46 in the second half. Burns was 4-for-14 with 28 yards and three interceptions, and had 19 yards rushing on 17 carries.

South Tahoe returns to action Friday, Sept. 16, at home against Fallon (2-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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