South Tahoe football delivers offensive outburst in home finale, routs Sparks 63-21
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — In its last home game of the season, the South Tahoe football treated those in attendance at Viking Stadium to an offensive outburst. The Vikings scored touchdowns on nine of their 11 drives in a 63-21 win over Sparks on Friday, Oct. 23, running away from the Railroaders for their most decisive win of the year.
“We know we’ve been capable of doing this all year, and it was great to see it tonight,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said.
South Tahoe (4-5, 4-4 I-A Northern) trailed after the game’s first possession, but shrugged off the early deficit to take the lead by the end of the opening quarter. Sparks (3-6, 2-6) capitalized on a muffed punt near midfield, scoring two plays later on a 23-yard run from Hunter O’Meara to jump in front 7-0 with 9:12 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings needed only four plays to produce an answer, a 1-yard touchdown run from Andrew Herrera with 7:47 to play in the opening quarter. Herrera ran in the ensuing two-point try to make it 8-7. On its next offensive possession, South Tahoe went ahead when Tommy Cefalu found Zen Contestable in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard score with 2:12 left in the first quarter.
“After they got that touchdown, we came back and knew that they weren’t as good as the scoreboard showed,” Vikings senior Zach Shearer said.
The Railroaders tied the game early in the second quarter, with O’Meara breaking a 66-yard run that made it 14-14 with 7:35 left in the half. Then South Tahoe left Sparks in the dust, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to take a 21-point lead into the break.
Two plays into the next possession, Cefalu threw a screen to Contestable at the line of scrimmage that the junior broke for a 21-yard score. A two-point conversion run from Noah Jackson thereafter put South Tahoe in front 22-14.
Dylan Gooding intercepted Sparks quarterback Sylis Sanchez on the next drive, giving South Tahoe the ball on its own 15-yard line with 1:53 left in the half. In that span, the Vikings scored a pair of touchdowns to take complete control of the game.
“It felt like there was no stopping us,” Shearer said.
On the first touchdown, Cefalu found a wide open Shearer along the sideline for a 47-yard score with 1:01 left in the half. South Tahoe then successfully attempted an onside kick, and five plays later was back in the end zone — a 14-yard pass from Cefalu to Jackson on the last play of the second quarter gave the Vikings a 35-14 advantage at the break.
South Tahoe added to its lead on the opening possession of the second half, capping a 69-yard march with a 5-yard pass from Cefalu to Jackson. The Vikings’ defense recovered a fumble on the next drive, and they eventually found the end zone with a 23-yard throw from Cefalu to Shearer — the junior’s sixth touchdown pass of the night made it 49-14 midway through the third quarter.
The Vikings’ stretch of five unanswered scores ended when O’Meara returned a fumble 42 yards for a score with 2:43 left in the third quarter — but then they got rolling again. Gooding ran for a 45-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, and Luis Quintero punctuated the win with a 5-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter.
“It means a lot for our seniors to go out with a bang,” Vikings senior Will Mori said. “It feels great to be out here winning.”
Cefalu finished 25-of-34 passing for 404 yards and six touchdowns in the win, setting career highs in completions, yards and touchdowns despite not attempting a pass in the fourth quarter. The junior completed passes to seven different receivers in his smoothest performance of the season.
“Tommy is doing a phenomenal job processing things really quickly,” Franklin said. “He’s not forcing it like we did earlier in the season; he’s playing really well and the receivers are playing well.”
Gooding had 132 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown against Sparks to go along with 82 yards receiving on three catches. Contestable finished with 107 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions, Shearer had three catches go for 84 yards and two scores and Jackson caught five passes for 73 yards and two scores. The Vikings’ offense finished with a season-best 539 yards and didn’t attempt a punt for the entire game.
For Sparks, O’Meara led the way with a game-high 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. The Railroaders ran for 305 yards, but only totaled 37 yards in the air — Sanchez was 1-for-4 for 20 yards and an interception.
“They weren’t expecting us to be as physical as we were,” Mori said. “Their two backs were their guys and we wanted to make them feel it.”
South Tahoe celebrated its seniors prior to kickoff Friday night, a group that has provided the on-field leadership during a season of transition. And once on the field, the Vikings celebrated the occasion with a performance that shows how far the program has come in a five-month span.
“This year has been awesome,” Shearer said. “It’s nothing like anything I could imagine.”
South Tahoe concludes its season Saturday, Oct. 31, when it travels to play rival Truckee (4-5, 4-4) in the Sierra Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
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