South Tahoe and Hug High face off tonight with playoff game in balance
With a home playoff game in the balance, South Tahoe and Hug high school football teams are essentially starting the Nevada 4A postseason a week earlier than the rest of the teams tonight.
The Sierra Division schools enter tonight’s 7:30 p.m. regular-season finale tied for second place with 3-1 records. The winner has the luxury of hosting Galena or Elko next week, while the loser makes either a six-hour trip to Elko or visits rookie playoff participant Galena.
“Everybody wants to host a home playoff game, especially the seniors because it is the last time we get to play on our home field,” said Vikings quarterback Jarred Uppendahl, who leads the Northern Nevada League with 17 touchdown passes.
Hug has a groundswell of momentum and support entering the final game, having qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1987 and only the third time in school history.
“We’re excited about that, but it’s something we can relish and pat ourselves on the back about when the season is over,” said Hug’s eighth-year coach Rollins Stallworth. “One of the nice things about it is we’re really focusing on (tonight) and setting ourselves up for a home playoff game.”
A win tonight also puts the Hawks in the school record book for achieving the most wins in school history.
Both teams have performed well on both sides of the ball, but the defenses have carried the Hawks and Vikings lately. Hug has surrendered a total of 14 points in the past two games, including a 3-0 shutout of Carson last Friday.
“They are playing as good as any defense in the league,” said Vikings coach Tim Jaureguito. “They gave up 300 yards rushing in their first game and last week (Carson’s backs) combined for 76 yards.
“They’ve won some close games and they’ve gotten a lot of confidence, and half of the battle is attitude at this level.”
Jaureguito suspects that Stallworth will stack the line of scrimmage with eight or nine defenders in hopes of slowing down the league’s leading rusher Jake Hurwitz (1,202 yards, 137 carries).
“One thing they won’t give us Jake. They’ll put eight or nine guys in the box, forcing us to throw, and Jarred’s going to have to be on top of his game,” Jaureguito said.
If that’s the case, Jaureguito likes the Vikings chances – especially after the offense worked out a few kinks in the passing game during practice earlier this week.
“Our timing has been off a bit, and that’s one thing we worked really hard on the last couple of days,” Jaureguito said. “I was real pleased with the way Jarred threw (Tuesday), and if he continues to throw like that (today), then he’s going to be real tough to stop.”
Uppendahl has three of the league’s top receivers to choose from, including Immanuel Williams, 11 touchdowns; Ryan Hickey, five touchdowns; and Jerry Seeley, 21 catches for 424 yards.
“By far, they have the most difficult offense in the league to prepare for, because they do both things really well,” Stallworth said. “They are one of the teams year in and year out that has a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard passer.”
Like any matchup between playoff-bound teams, the outcome comes down to execution and mistakes. And Uppendahl feels the Vikings have the talent to get the job done.
“They’re at the top of their game right now, so it’s going to be an exciting game,” Uppendahl said. “They’re a really good defense, but the only way we won’t score any points is if we stop ourselves.”
The STHS defense has stepped up its game, allowing no more than 21 points in its past four games. A swarming unit led by Justin Nixon, Ryan Griffith, Chas Tanner and Sean Kezer also faces an enormous challenge based on the stats Hug’s skilled players are accumulating.
Senior quarterback Marco Bisio has passed for 1,162 yards, complementing the one-two running punch of junior tailback Antoine Barlow (552 yards) and junior fullback Bakari Taylor (260 yards, five TDs). Lee Morehead’s 28 receptions leads three receivers with 20 or more catches.
Jaureguito, however, predicts the Hawks will try to pound the ball between the tackles.
“Like everybody else they’ll try to drive it down the field and keep it out of our offense’s hands,” said the 13-year STHS coach.
The tripleheader begins at 2:45 p.m. with the frosh game.
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