South Tahoe draws Reed for first home playoff since 1991 |

South Tahoe draws Reed for first home playoff since 1991

As a veteran high school football coach, Tim Jaureguito is frugal with his compliments and careful not to incite the opponent for that week.

He knows how the system works. Then something big must be happening with his football team, because the 13-year South Tahoe coach is picking the Vikings along with Elko as the favorites to represent the North in next month’s state championship game.

First, the Vikings must get by last year’s zone runner-up, Reed, at 1 p.m. in South Lake Tahoe.

“I would probably say at this point it’s a tossup between Elko and we’ve been playing real well the past three weeks,” Jaureguito said. “Even though we lost last week, we did some things real well.”

This much enthusiasm hasn’t whistled between the pine trees since 1991, when the Vikings advanced all the way to the state finals for the third time in school history. That’s also the last time South Tahoe hosted a playoff game – an edge that players and coach are looking to capitalize on against the Raiders.

“I hope we have a lot of fans, like we had at homecoming,” said Viking quarterback Tim Sprinkles. “That was the most fans I’ve ever seen, and it was the most amazing atmosphere to play in.

“This game is huge, and with fan suppport it makes it that much tougher for the other team.”

Jaureguito and his Vikings avoided making the eight-hour trip to Elko for the first-round of the playoff when Division II champ Wooster knocked off Reno on the final weekend of the regular season. Hence, the Vikings (6-3) earned the second seed out of Division II and drew Division I third-seeded Reed (7-2), which only lost by four points to undefeated McQueen.

“It’s huge to be playing at home,” Jaureguito said. “It’s going to be nice to be sleeping in our beds the night before the game instead of at a motel. I think you’ll find that come Saturday we’ll have a bigger crowd than we’ve had in many, many years.

“Just playing in Tahoe, a lot of coaches in the league will tell you that’s the last place they want to play.”

Reed coach Doug Parry agrees.

“We may have the toughest opening-round playoff game as far as crossing over,” Parry said. “South Tahoe is a very good football team. We didn’t take care of business in our division, so hopefully we can have a repeat performance of last year and hope that the road is kind to us.”

A significantly upgraded defense and special teams propelled South Tahoe from playoff spectators and into the postseason for the third time in four years. They have complemented a big-play offense with scores of their own.

“We can go as far as we want to,” said Viking senior defensive back Matt George, who has picked off a school-record six interceptions and anchored one of the stingiest secondaries in the league.

Through nine games, the Vikings have only surrendered one touchdown pass. They’ll be tested on Saturday as all-league quarterback candidate Lamar Lee has passed for 13 touchdowns and rushed for 11 scores.

“To tell you the truth, we play their offense every day, and they play our defense. The way we look at it, we’re just used to the offense,” said Viking outside linebacker Mario Guerrero, who blocked two punts in a 30-16 loss to Utah 5A powerhouse Northridge last Saturday. “Every time that we’ve lost, we’ve come back that much stronger.”

Parry, who used to coach in Utah, came away impressed with South Tahoe’s performance against Northridge.

“I’m very familiar with that program, and historically, they have been a very good football team, so psychologically I don’t think the loss is a downer for them at all,” Parry said. “You take away a few mistakes and they are in the game with a chance to win.”

Supplement Lee’s obvious skills with the return of running back Matt Joseph and the consistent rushing of fullback Mike Drew, and the Viking defense will have its hands full on Saturday.

“I feel we have as good of defense, if not the best defense in the entire league. And now it’s time to go out and prove it,” Jaureguito said.

While Jaureguito isn’t concerned about what to expect out of his “Sierra Swarm,” he does have some reservations about his offense. They coughed up the ball five times to Northridge and were inconsistent in their offensive thrusts.

“Last week was a wakeup call to the offense,” Jaureguito said. “They have to step up and get better because they’re going up against the leading defense in the league.”

Both teams employ a one-back offense and try to spread out the defense horizontally and vertically. The Viking offense has repeatedly relied on the jets of junior running back Jake Hurwitz. Hurwitz rushed for a league-leading 1,212 yards, procuring more carries than usual out of a one-back system.

However, Sprinkles may hold the key if South Tahoe hopes to win its first playoff game since 1991.

“This is my first as a quarterback being in such a big game,” said Sprinkles, who played flanker as a sophomore when the Vikings were battered by McQueen in the first round of playoffs. “It’s my senior year and we get to host a playoff game. It’s so incredible.”

Sprinkles, who accounted for six touchdowns the last time South Tahoe played Reed in a 40-36 triumph in 1998, has extra incentive to beat the Raiders. Parry was quoted in a newspaper article earlier in the week as saying that he’d be happy with as half as many points as they scored in their past meeting with South Tahoe. Sprinkles took that to mean that Parry doesn’t feel threatened by the Viking offense.

“We’re taking that as a challenge, and we’re working as hard as we can,” Sprinkles said. “We’d like to make it a little easier on the defense, so it’s not so close down to the wire, and they can go out and play the physical football like they want.”

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