South Tahoe football falls short against El Dorado in opener
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe football team took plenty of positives away from its season opener, just not the result it wanted. The Vikings lost 35-32 to El Dorado (Placerville, Calif.) Friday night, Aug. 28, at Viking Stadium, letting a double-digit second half lead slip away in their debut under new head coach Louis Franklin.
“They’re focused and I liked their attitude at the end of the game,” Franklin said. “They know they’re close and we just have to get better.”
South Tahoe (0-1) scored on its first two possessions and had a 12-0 lead in the first quarter. After El Dorado (1-0) fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, the Vikings scored three plays later when Mason Cain connected with Zen Contestable on a 26-yard score.
On the Vikings’ next drive, Tommy Cefalu led a 73-yard march to put the hosts further ahead. A 19-yard pass from Cefalu to Contestable with 3:57 left in the opening frame made it 12-0, and South Tahoe had momentum early on in the game.
“We told the kids that things were going to go right and to take advantage of them — and they did,” Franklin said.
El Dorado scored midway through the second quarter to pull within 12-7, but South Tahoe produced an answer before halftime. With both Vikings’ quarterbacks on the field at the same time, the two were involved a double pass play that went for a score. Cain took the snap and threw a lateral to Cefalu, who found Contestable in the back of the end zone.
The junior receiver’s third touchdown catch of the half put South Tahoe ahead 18-7 with 15.8 seconds remaining, and the hosts took that lead into the break. The Vikings received to start the second half, and they appeared poised to score and take command of the game after moving 71 yards with 10 straight running plays. Then a fluke play shifted the momentum.
On third-and-3 from the 9, Cain mishandled a snap and El Dorado’s Cole Williams scooped up the loose ball. The Cougars linebacker returned the fumble 88 yards for a touchdown, and the ensuing two-point conversion made it 18-15 with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
“We were in complete control and we had a freak play. That fumble is on us, and that’s six points,” Franklin said. “We were gashing them and that was really pivotal.”
South Tahoe needed just two plays to extend its lead on the next possession, jumping ahead by 10 when Quinn Ritter broke a 56-yard touchdown run. But El Dorado scored on its next two drives, and took a 28-25 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run from Steven Fox.
The Vikings stalled at midfield after falling behind, and their deficit increased two plays after a failed fourth-down attempt. Aaron Golmitz found Chris Volek down the sideline for a 49-yard score — the third time the duo connected for six — that put El Dorado ahead 35-25 with 9:42 left.
“Some of the wind came out of their sails,” Franklin said. “They were playing pretty confidently and aggressively, and it just took us too long to get going again.”
South Tahoe eventually cut into the Cougars’ lead before its comeback attempt fell short. With 1:21 to play, Cain found Will Mori for a 17-yard touchdown on a hitch-and-go to pull the Vikings within three — but El Dorado recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to win the third straight season opener between the teams.
“We held in there for a while and then we made some mental mistakes,” Franklin said. “They’re easy things to clean up.”
The Vikings had balance out of their new triple option spread offense in the season opener, finishing with 191 passing yards and 187 rushing yards. Ritter led South Tahoe with a game-high 131 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while Jacob Bernal ran for 55 yards on five carries.
“It’s going to be effective,” Franklin said. “The kids see that and are gaining confidence in it, it’s just about playing faster now.”
At quarterback, Cain and Cefalu each played similar amounts. After the third quarter fumble, Cefalu stayed on the field for three straight possessions before the two split plays on the last two drives. Cain finished 6-of-15 for 114 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while Cefalu went 7-for-17 for 77 yards and two scores.
“Both quarterbacks played well,” Franklin said. “They both did good things and, toward the end, I wasn’t fair to them shuffling them in and out. In their situation, those guys are doing amazingly with it.”
In the air, Contestable caught six passes for 97 yards and three touchdowns. Mori added 68 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, all in the second half.
Defensively for South Tahoe, Andrew Herrera had a fumble recovery and a sack, Max Sweitzer finished with a sack and Joe Albrecht recovered a fumble. The Vikings held El Dorado to 85 yards rushing, but Golmitz threw for a game-high 247 yards and three touchdowns on 14-of-23 passing — three of Volek’s six receptions went for scores and he finished with 215 receiving yards.
“They didn’t ever march the ball on us,” Franklin said. “It was getting beat over the top, and that’s not okay.”
South Tahoe returns to action Friday, Sept. 4, when it opens Div. I-A Northern League play against Spring Creek (1-0, 1-0) at Viking Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“Spring Creek is a difficult opponent and I think this group is ready,” Franklin said. “We’re just going to worry about ourselves, protecting the ball and avoiding mental mistakes.”