South Tahoe football beats Truckee 28-20 in 3A Northern League semifinals, advances to state for first time since 1991
TRUCKEE, Calif. — “The Year” will continue for the South Tahoe football team. And after the Vikings exacted revenge in a Sierra Bowl postseason rematch, it will conclude in the state playoffs.
Third-seeded South Tahoe knocked off second-seeded Truckee 28-20 in the 3A Northern League semifinals Saturday Nov. 5, at Surprise Stadium. The Vikings’ much-coveted victory over their cross-lake rivals secured the program’s first state appearance since 1991.
“This is everything to us. We’ve wanted this so bad for the last four years and it’s finally here,” said Vikings senior quarterback Tommy Cefalu, who threw four touchdowns in the victory. “This is the greatest feeling ever.”
South Tahoe (9-2) had a 14-7 lead at halftime after scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter. In the second half, the Vikings delivered the big plays necessary to beat Truckee (8-2) on its home field and snap a seven-game losing streak against their rivals.
The Wolverines took the opening drive of the second half 65 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown, tying the game on a 2-yard run from senior Cole Harrity and extra point with 6:42 left in the third quarter. Then South Tahoe answered on the next possession to go back in front.
The Vikings marched 85 yards in 10 plays to retake the lead. On first-and-goal one play after senior Dylan Gooding broke loose on a 38-yard run, Cefalu connected with junior McCallan Castles for a 4-yard touchdown that made it 21-14 with 3:24 left in the quarter.
Truckee found the end zone on the next drive, scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter. Wolverines senior Jayden Commendatore ran in a 1-yard sneak with 11:57 left in the game, but a missed extra point kept the Vikings ahead 21-20.
With a slim lead, South Tahoe’s offense produced a second straight scoring drive — its biggest of the season. The Vikings converted on third down three times during a 13-play, 61-yard drive, and Cefalu hit Castles on a 3-yard slant for a score — his third of the contest — to give the visitors a 28-20 lead with 6:43 to play.
The Wolverines drove the ball to South Tahoe’s 29-yard line on the next possession before two holding penalties sandwiched around an incomplete pass led to a third-and-long situation. On third-and-20, Commendatore was chased down and sacked by senior Max Schweitzer — the 9-yard loss forced Truckee to punt on fourth down.
South Tahoe got the ball back on its own 11-yard line with 2:00 left after the stop, and ran out the clock while forcing Truckee to burn all three of its timeouts. The Vikings got the necessary first down after a Wolverines personal foul penalty, and two plays later were celebrating at midfield with the school’s student section.
Cefalu finished 21-of-30 passing with 201 yards and four touchdowns in the win, and dissected Truckee with a performance that included only two completions of more than 14 yards. Senior Noah Jackson had a game-high 10 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, and Castles caught eight passes for 67 yards and three scores.
On the ground, South Tahoe ran for 142 yards led by senior Jacob Bernal’s 78 yards on 14 carries. Gooding ran for 65 yards on six carries — and totaled 81 yards on nine touches.
The Vikings held Truckee to 169 rushing yards Saturday, after allowing 374 yards on the ground in the teams’ first meeting. Senior Wulfe Retzlaff ran for 80 yards on 14 carries and Harrity had 63 yards rushing on 13 attempts for the Wolverines — both had short touchdown runs.
Commendatore finished 8-of-15 passing with 104 yards and an interception in the loss. Junior Matt Cain picked off the Truckee quarterback in the first quarter, setting a South Tahoe single-season record with his 10th interception of the year.
The Vikings’ first trip to the state playoffs in 25 years will begin in the 3A State semifinals against Southern top seed Desert Pines (Las Vegas) (10-1) on Saturday, Nov. 12. Northern top seed Spring Creek (10-1) hosts Southern second seed Chaparral (Las Vegas) (6-5) in the other semifinal — both games are scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.