Mistakes derail Vikings in division opener
Saturday’s game against Reno couldn’t have been set up any better for the South Tahoe High football team.
It was the Vikings’ homecoming game and they were coming off a 52-0 win over Foresthill last week, a game that gave them some much-needed confidence. The Huskies, meanwhile, have been reeling since a 6-3 loss to previously winless Wooster.
Then the game was played.
Reno’s Brennan Locker rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns and the Huskies scored 21 points off South Tahoe turnovers in a 56-7 Sierra Division win over the Vikings on Saturday at Viking Bowl. Reno (2-2 overall, 1-1 division) led 14-0 at halftime, then scored on its first three possessions of the second half to take a 42-0 lead into the fourth quarter.
The second-half explosion soothed the fears of Reno coach Dan Avansino.
“After last week, our mindset was simply to try and find our identity, to find some emotion and passion out of our guys,” Avansino said. “I still don’t think we had it in the first half. But after a pretty harsh halftime talk, which was probably our harshest of the year, even though we were up 14-0, we just looked flat again. We told them, ‘We are tired of this. Let’s make a change or let’s just can it in.’ And they decided to make the change.”
The Huskies outgained the Vikings 373-145 on offense, and 88 of South Tahoe’s yards came on a long run by Martin Taylor in the fourth quarter that set up the team’s only touchdown. Quarterback Chris Diana scored on a 5-yard TD run with 10:56 left in the game to make it 42-7.
The Vikings (1-3, 0-1) had four turnovers and committed six penalties for 47 yards, including consecutive penalties in the first quarter that damaged the team’s chances for an early lead.
“If it wasn’t for a couple of mistakes by us, we’re right there,” said first-year South Tahoe Nick Samaras. “That’s a good football team. They got stunned last week. I knew they wanted to come out here and get after it. We played them tough for the first half and then we made mistakes. Mistakes did us in.”
On the Huskies’ opening drive, South Tahoe’s Eliot Pekar chased down Reno quarterback Jon Dankworth on third down, causing a fumble that Taylor recovered. Starting from the Reno 42-yard-line, Diana connected with Lee Williams for an 11-yard pass and Diana followed with a 9-yard rush, leading the Vikings to a first down at the 19.
But a holding penalty, an illegal motion penalty and a sack on the next three plays pushed South Tahoe back to the 40. Even though the Vikings were forced to punt, Diana pinned the Huskies down at their own 2.
Eight plays later, though, Dankworth hooked up with Casey Brown on third down for a 68-yard touchdown pass that opened the scoring.
“I think if we could’ve punched one in on them, it might have changed the whole complexion of the game,” Samaras said. “We just kind of lost our composure a little bit late in the third and fourth quarter. Turnovers killed us. You can’t win if you turn the ball over. The team is down, but they learned another lesson today. It takes four quarters of football to win, not two quarters.”
In the second quarter, South Tahoe’s Adam Cook intercepted a Dankworth pass deep in Viking territory, setting up a drive that started at the South Tahoe 6. After Taylor busted out for a 19-yard gain, the Vikings didn’t get another first down on the drive.
A bad snap on the punt forced a turnover on downs, allowing Reno to take over on the South Tahoe 17. Locker punched in the first and his two touchdowns, giving the Huskies a 14-0 lead.
On the first drive of the second half, Locker had nine carries for 45 yards and capped a 12-play drive with his 3-yard TD run. On the Huskies’ next two offensive plays from scrimmage, Dankworth threw touchdown passes, including a 57-yarder to Peter Roepke that made it 28-0. Dankworth finished 165 yards and three touchdowns.
The first of two straight South Tahoe fumbles in its territory resulted in Dankworth’s third touchdown pass, and John Hume scooped up the second fumble and ran 12 yards for another score.
“Besides our other win versus Fallon, this is the only time we have dominated the line of scrimmage,” Avansino said. “It was good to get our confidence back that way. We certainly loved the fight South Tahoe gave us, particularly in the first half. South Tahoe is on the right track. It’s going to take some time, but they are on the right track.”
Taylor rushed for 110 yards on five carries, while Mark Dalmacio rushed for 22 yards for the Vikings, who play at Wooster next Saturday in Reno.
“It’s not an excuse, but we’re a very young and inexperienced team,” Samaras said. “We don’t have any varsity experience to speak of, except for a couple of guys. They are still learning the game.”
Sierra Division Standings
Games through Sept. 24
Team W L W L
Hug 2 0 4 1
Douglas 1 0 3 1
Wooster 1 1 1 4
North Valleys 1 1 3 2
Reno 1 1 2 2
South Tahoe 0 1 1 3
Carson 0 2 2 3