South Tahoe football reigns over Elko, extends winning streak to six games
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — On a wet, windy night at Viking Stadium, the South Tahoe football team reigned supreme. The Vikings shut out Elko 40-0 on Friday, Oct. 15, rolling in a 3A Northern League showdown between one-loss teams.
“We knew this was going to be the biggest game we ever played,” Vikings senior Zen Contestable said. “Shutting them out and putting 40 points up on the board was amazing — it was like no other feeling.”
The victory was the Vikings’ sixth straight, and ensures they will open the postseason at home as the league’s second or third seed. Beneath a constant rainstorm, the result rarely looked in doubt.
South Tahoe (7-1 3A Northern) opened the scoring late in the first quarter Friday, after the game started with three straight three-and-outs. The Vikings drove 68 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 14-yard pass from senior Tommy Cefalu to senior Noah Jackson that made it 6-0 with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings’ first scoring drive of the game featured three third-down conversions, including the 14-yard touchdown on third and goal. It was the first of three straight drives to reach the end zone for South Tahoe as it steadily built a lead against Elko (6-2).
“We just had to get used to it,” Cefalu said of the conditions. “We were all a little shocked about how bad it was, but reality set in and we just had to play through it.”
Following a defensive stop on the ensuing possession, South Tahoe marched 72 yards in nine plays for its second score. Senior Jacob Bernal made multiple Elko defenders miss on a 17-yard touchdown run that put the Vikings ahead 13-0 with 10:13 left in the second quarter.
“It was about speed and getting off the ball faster than them,” Bernal said.
Elko lost a fumble on a bad snap on the next drive, and two plays after junior Jakob Costley came up with the recovery South Tahoe was back in the end zone. Cefalu found junior McCallan Castles down the sideline for a 62-yard touchdown that made it 19-0 with 5:54 left in the first half.
The Indians mounted their best drive of the game after falling behind by three scores, but couldn’t get on the board before the break. South Tahoe came up with the stop after an incomplete pass fourth down from the 13-yard line — and took a 19-point lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, South Tahoe turned a pair of Indians’ miscues into touchdowns to turn the game into a blowout. Elko had the ball deep in its own territory when Vikings senior Gabriel Bueno stripped quarterback Eric Klekas and senior Summit Moulton recovered at the 10-yard line — Bernal ran for a score on the next play.
The Indians lined up to punt to end the next possession, but a bad snap turned the attempt into short loss and gave South Tahoe the ball at the 15-yard line. Two plays after the turnover, Cefalu connected with Jackson for a 12-yard score that made it 33-0 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
On the last play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Cefalu threw his fourth touchdown of the game — a 19-yard lob to Contestable that put the hosts up 40-0 with 55 seconds left. The rest of the game was played with a running clock, as the Vikings easily pitched a second straight shutout and snapped the visitors’ two-game winning streak.
“We knew what to expect and we knew what plays were coming,” Bernal said. “We just executed better than they did.”
Cefalu finished 16-of-30 passing for 247 yards, four touchdowns and one interception Friday — he completed five passes apiece to Castles (108 yards), Jackson (55) and senior Dylan Gooding (65). On the ground, Bernal ran for a game-high 115 yards and two scores on 13 carries.
“Once we established what they were trying to take away, we really liked our matchups,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said. “It was a lot of different guys contributing and a balanced attack.”
Boosted by the return of senior linebacker Andrew Herrera, South Tahoe held Elko to 134 yards — the Indians never found consistency while rotating Klekas and senior Emmit Johnson at quarterback. Gavin Byington had 101 yards rushing on 25 carries for Elko, which is locked into the fourth seed for the playoffs.
“They are who they are and they didn’t change a lot of what they were doing,” Franklin said. “We did our homework, the kids did a good job reading their keys, lined up well and tackled better.”
Rainy conditions played a big role in Friday’s game, but did nothing to slow down South Tahoe. The Vikings handled the elements far better than their opponents, despite Elko keeping the ball on the ground and finishing with only nine pass attempts.
“We took every opportunity we could to replicate the worst-case scenario, and tonight wasn’t as bad as we had practiced,” Franklin said.
South Tahoe will conclude the regular season at home against Truckee (7-1) on Friday, Oct. 22, in a Sierra Bowl with second place and a first-round bye on the line. Kickoff at Viking Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“We’ve been looking forward to it all season,” Contestable said. “Truckee is our rival and we know it’s going to be a bloodbath — we’re excited for it.”
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