McQueen coach shows sportsmanship in rout of Vikings
By Steve Yingling
Tribune Sports Editor
RENO – A sometimes bitter football rivalry between South Tahoe High and McQueen didn’t carry over into a Northern Nevada 4A first-round playoff mismatch on Friday night at McQueen High.
McQueen coach Ken Dalton, who didn’t hesitate to run up the score on the Vikings when Tim Jaureguito was coach, showed STHS some mercy after building a 41-0 first-half lead.
After scoring on their first possession of the third period, Dalton played his second- and third-stringers the rest of the way in McQueen’s 48-19 romp.
Dalton hasn’t always been so kind. In one game in the late 1990s with his team well ahead, the longtime McQueen coach brought his first unit back in the game with the Vikings’ near the goal line in the fourth period.
Dalton’s regulars didn’t need to play in the second half after their dominant first-half performance. McQueen repeatedly blitzed and harassed Northern Nevada League passing leader Mikey Van Gorden, forcing four first-quarter turnovers.
Van Gorden, who routinely passed for more than 200 yards per game during the regular season, was forced to throw before he wanted to and completed just six passes in 21 attempts for 62 hard-fought yards. He was intercepted three times and fumbled twice.
“I think that is the best team in Nevada,” said STHS coach Todd McIntyre. “They had real good coverage and pressure. They brought four guys on the rush and sometimes five and brought a lot of pressure. It was hard to find guys open.”
During a 3-minute, 37-second span that started late in the first quarter and ended 13 seconds into the second, McQueen scored 28 unanswered points.
Junior running back Josh Pritchard got the Lancers rolling by taking an inside handoff 50 yards for a score. Then the Lancers’ opportunistic defense took over.
Junior defensive back Justin Surina made the first of his team’s three picks of Van Gorden at the Vikings’ 29.
South Tahoe’s much-maligned defense, however, hung tough as J.P. Foster sacked Nick Nistler on third down, forcing a McQueen punt.
But as the Vikings moved toward midfield, Jared Burbridge intercepted Van Gorden.
“Van Gorden has had a wonderful year and we were very fortunate to get to him early,” Dalton said.
Four plays later, Pritchard scored from seven yards out for his second touchdown. Jacoby Covington added a two-point conversion run, giving McQueen a 14-0 lead with 3:24 left in the opening quarter.
STHS continued to self-destruct on its next drive. As Van Gorden made a nifty move out of the pocket, the ball came loose and McQueen’s Ben Tirado picked it up and returned the fumble 15 yards to the Vikings’ 15. After a 14-yard run by Nistler, Jake Albin plowed in from the one to put McQueen in front 21-0 with 2:52 to go in the first quarter.
“It was really tough. They have a great defense,” Van Gorden said. “They bring pressure, they cover all our wide receivers … they’re great.”
Van Gorden tried to make a running catch on the ensuing kickoff and the ball bounced off his pads and forward into an awaiting Lancers’ hands at the STHS 30.
Following an incomplete pass, Nistler connected with Tirado on a 30-yard scoring pass with 2:27 remaining in the quarter.
After a Matt Bobman punt, Nistler hit Surina on a 49-yard touchdown along the sideline 13 seconds into the second quarter. McQueen completed its first-half scoring when Jamelle Dalton took a pitch 65 yards for a score.
STHS missed an excellent scoring chance to get on the scoreboard midway through the second period. A 54-yard punt was mishandled by Surina and the Vikings recovered on the Lancers’ 19. But Martin Taylor, who rushed for 80 yards, fumbled on a draw play at the 11.
Dalton had an opportunity to tack on another score before halftime but elected to run out the clock after reaching the Vikings’ 24 with less than a minute to play.
After Covington’s 5-yard TD run on McQueen’s first drive of the third quarter, the Vikings dominated the remainder of the game. Van Gorden passed seven yards to Dennis Merritt for six points and ran five yards for another score.
“I thought it was real good of coach Dalton to put his second team in,” McIntyre said. “We matched up real well with their second team.”
“We played 60 kids and we were very, very pleased with that,” Dalton said.
STHS’s defense also finished strong, not allowing McQueen a first down over the final 20 minutes. The Vikings’ prideful second half also included a blocked punt by junior Mark Dalmacio that was recovered in the end zone by senior Spencer Dean and a fumble recovery by senior Eric Domingo.
“I didn’t want the seniors who had come together to go out without a fight. That block was for them,” Dalmacio said. “Me and Eric were on the outside and we saw that they brought their outside guy in to block our two guys, so we figured we’d
put Eric behind me and look like we had one guy. Eric went outside and took their protector out and I just came (inside) and blocked it.”
As much class and sportsmanship as Dalton demonstrated in the second half was reciprocated after the game by a worn-out Van Gorden. Van Gorden caught up to Dalton as he was walking toward his locker room and offered his congratulations.
Dalton countered with “Great job. You can play for me anytime.”
South Tahoe, making its third appearance in five years, finished 3-8. McQueen (10-0) will play …. in the regional semifinals on Friday.
“We had a pretty good season and it was fun being South Tahoe this long,” Van Gorden said. “I’ll be excited to go to college hopefully and do something there.”