South Tahoe football falls to rival Truckee 21-20 in Sierra Bowl, enters playoffs as third seed
A single point was all that separated South Tahoe and Truckee on Friday, Oct. 21, in the latest installment of the Sierra Bowl. The Vikings fell to the Wolverines 21-20 at Viking Stadium in a 3A Northern League showdown between playoff-bound rivals.
“Every point matters,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said. “We did what we had to do to win, we just didn’t capitalize on every opportunity we had.”
Truckee (8-1 3A Northern) claimed both the second seed and a first-round bye by winning the regular season finale. South Tahoe (7-2) finishes third and will open the playoffs at home next week.
“This is a good group of kids, I’m proud of these kids and I can’t wait for the playoffs,” Franklin said.
The Vikings and Wolverines traded a pair of scores in the first half Friday, and went into the break tied 14-14. South Tahoe took the opening drive of the third quarter to Truckee’s 11-yard line, but came away empty after a fumble.
The Wolverines marched the ensuing drive 90 yards in 10 plays to retake the lead. Senior Cole Harrity ran for a 3-yard touchdown — his third of the game — to put the visitors ahead 21-14 with 4:05 left in the third quarter.
South Tahoe needed just five plays to answer, scoring on a 12-yard pass from senior Tommy Cefalu to senior Dylan Gooding that made it 21-20 with 3:02 left in the third. The ensuing extra-point try from senior Noah Jackson missed wide right, keeping it a one-point game.
“In a tight game, the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win,” Franklin said.
The Vikings kept Truckee off the board the rest of the way, but were unable to go in front. South Tahoe had two drives in the fourth quarter, and both ended with a stop on fourth down.
“We should have scored, and we didn’t,” Franklin said. “That’s on us — that’s more what we didn’t do than what they did.”
The second stop came on a fourth-and-8 from midfield — Cefalu threw a middle screen pass to senior Jacob Bernal, who was tackled two yards shy of a first down. After the turnover on downs, Truckee ran out the last 4:34 to hold on for its seventh straight win over South Tahoe.
“It was perfect, except we didn’t block the one guy who made the tackle,” Franklin said of the fourth-down play. “It was set up beautifully, we just didn’t quite execute it and they made the tackle.”
Truckee took the game’s opening drive for a score — a 5-yard run from Harrity — and had a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter. South Tahoe jumped in front early in the second quarter, scoring one play after a strip sack from senior Jackson Binns deep in Wolverines’ territory.
STHS senior Alberto Morales fell on the fumble at the 5-yard line, and the Vikings found the end zone on the next play. Cefalu hit junior McCallan Castles on a fade route, and the extra point put South Tahoe ahead 7-6 with 11:00 left in the second quarter.
Later in the frame, both teams traded scores on consecutive possessions to send the game into halftime tied at 14. Harrity ran for a 72-yard score with 7:21 left, and a two-point conversion pass from senior Jayden Commendatore to senior Ian Schmidig put Truckee ahead 14-7.
South Tahoe answered by driving 63 yards with six straight pass plays for a touchdown. Cefalu capped the drive by finding Jackson wide open for a 28-yard score that tied the game up with 4:54 left in the first half.
“With the way they lined up, we liked what No. 7 [Cefalu] could do,” Franklin said. “They had a big interior guy who was tough to block, and their best two guys on defense are run stuffers — spreading the field was better for us.”
Cefalu finished 20-of-37 passing for 243 yards, three touchdowns and an interception — Jackson (75 yards) and Castles (73 yards) caught five passes apiece. Bernal ran for 33 yards on nine carries and caught three passes for 28 yards.
For Truckee, Harrity ran for a game-high 231 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries — and senior Wulfe Retzlaff added 83 yards on 14 rushes. The Wolverines ran for 374 yards, and held onto the ball in the second half after committing five first-half turnovers.
“We’re very proud of our guys,” Wolverines coach Josh Ivens said. “We knew South Tahoe was going to be a handful for us — they’re a great team and well-coached.”
South Tahoe will play in its first postseason game since 2004 when it hosts sixth-seeded Fernley (4-5) in the league quarterfinals Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. The Vikings beat the Vaqueros 36-8 when the teams met in the regular season on Sept. 9 — and the winner advances to play Truckee in the league semifinals.
“It’s good for the school, it’s good for the community and it’s something we need to get used to doing,” Franklin said. “It’s great that these seniors and juniors are doing that — they’re setting a new standard.
“We have to get better, and I’m happy we get to play a game next week and keep on that normal cycle.”
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