South Tahoe football comes up short in Sierra Bowl, falls at Truckee 21-13
TRUCKEE, Calif. — The 2015 Sierra Bowl was touted as a season-ending showdown between two evenly matched, bitter rivals hungry for bragging rights. It certainly lived up to the billing.
After falling behind visiting South Tahoe 7-0 early in the contest on Saturday, Oct. 31, Truckee answered with 21 straight points then fended off a second-half comeback attempt to escape with a 21-13 win.
“Overall, we’re very pleased with our defense,” Truckee coach Josh Ivens said. “That is a team that’s pretty well-oiled on offense. We knew we had our hands full trying to slow them down, and we did.”
The Wolverines posted a final record of 5-4 in Div. I-A Northern League (5-5 overall) while defeating the Vikings for the sixth consecutive year. South Tahoe, which had won four of its last five games after an 0-4 start, finished 4-5 in league (4-6 overall).
“That says a lot about the character of the kids. I’m proud of them,” South Tahoe coach Louis Franklin said. “It would have been easy to give up early. They didn’t. Just like this loss, every loss has been close — nothing bad. I think they’re definitely building something for the future, but you’d like to send the seniors out with a win. We just weren’t able to do that.”
While the Vikings had their chances Saturday, they hurt their cause with five turnovers, including three interceptions and two lost fumbles. The final interception — a pick by Truckee junior Jack Englert in the corner of the end zone — ended a promising, potential game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.
Truckee went three-and-out on its ensuing possession before forcing South Tahoe into a crucial turnover on downs on four plays. That was the last time the Vikings touched the ball, as Truckee’s offense ate the final six minutes with a 16-play drive that ended at the 3-yard line as time expired.
“Hats off to Truckee. They didn’t make mistakes and we did,” Franklin said. “Five turnovers — it’s hard to win games with that.”
South Tahoe drew first blood midway through the first quarter on a 20-yard pass play from junior quarterback Tommy Cefalu to senior running back Darren Jackson. Cefalu went on to throw for 241 yards on 15-of-27 passing with the one TD and two interceptions; Jackson caught five passes for 80 yards.
Truckee pulled even late in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore Noah Williams. The Wolverines took advantage of a short field on the score, as they needed to gain only 27 yards after senior Sean Bokinskie intercepted a pass thrown by receiver Noah Jackson.
South Tahoe punted on its next possession. One play later, junior running back Cole Harrity outsprinted the Vikings’ secondary en route to an 82-yard touchdown run along the Truckee sideline. Harrity, playing in his first game back from a shoulder injury, went on to rush for a game-high 192 yards on 19 carries.
“We put the ball in Cole Harrity’s hands and he did not disappoint,” Ivens said. “Having him back today made a big difference.”
The Vikings responded with a couple of first downs before a hard hit jarred the ball from the grip of junior running back Dylan Gooding at the end of a 25-yard run.
Truckee junior linebacker Wulfe Retzlaff recovered the fumble at the 7-yard line, and the Wolverines proceeded to drive 93 yards in 15 plays for another score — a 25-yard pass from junior quarterback Tyler Davis to senior receiver Jordan Jepsen. Junior All-League kicker Jose Araiza kicked through the point-after attempt, and the Wolverines led 21-7 with 1:18 remaining in the first half.
Bokinskie made a leaping interception over the middle shortly after, and Araiza missed a 53-yard field goal attempt to close out the first half.
South Tahoe seemed poised for a comeback after receiving the opening kickoff of the second half and driving 82 yards in six plays, capped by a 4-yard TD run by Darren Jackson. The score was set up by completions of 42 and 29 yards to senior receiver Zach Shearer, who finished with a game-high 118 yards on five receptions, all in the second half.
The Wolverines blocked the point-after attempt by Kade Wallace to keep the score at 21-13. The Truckee defense did not allow another point — the unit forced South Tahoe to punt on its next two possessions, while Englert’s fourth-quarter interception in the end zone ended a 70-yard drive.
“They needed to have their best game of the year today,” Ivens said of his secondary. “This was the next team on the list that was going to challenge our secondary, and I was very pleased with their effort. They made a lot of plays.”
Although South Tahoe’s defense held the Wolverines out of the end zone in the second half, Truckee converted three fourth downs that helped sustain drives and burn time while keeping the ball out of Cefalu’s hands. One of the Wolverines’ fourth-down conversions — a bruising run up the gut by Retzlaff — was at their own 29-yard line.
“We were going for the win. We were not about punting and giving the ball back to a very good offense,” Ivens said. “We had to move the chains and keep the ball. That was kind of my philosophy.”