South Tahoe JV football uses last-second rally to tie Truckee 21-21 |

South Tahoe JV football uses last-second rally to tie Truckee 21-21

Anthony Gentile
South Tahoe JV running back Jake Bernal celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Vikings’ 21-21 tie with Truckee last Friday at Viking Stadium. Bernal ran for two scores in South Tahoe’s season finale.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribun |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Tahoe junior varsity football team produced an improbable last-second rally in its season finale last Friday night. The Vikings scored a touchdown on the final play of the game and converted the ensuing two-point try to tie rival Truckee 21-21 in thrilling fashion.

“I’m not surprised — that’s been the tenor of that group of kids all year long,” Vikings JV head coach Doug Russell said. “They’ve never given up and they’re a very tight unit — they really play hard for each other.

“It was well deserved — we worked hard all year long and sometimes good things happen when you work hard.”

In a back and forth game, Truckee appeared to take a decisive 21-13 lead on a 63-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter. But South Tahoe had an answer.

“I’m not surprised at the effort — I was surprised that we were able to move the ball 80 yards in four plays,” Russell said. “That effort is indicative of what type of kids they are.”

The Vikings were backed up in their own territory when they came up with a big play in the closing seconds. Quarterback Tommy Cefalu completed a pass to Jake Miller near the South Tahoe sideline, and with defenders closing in Miller flipped the ball to Zen Contestable — the hook-and-ladder called by assistant coach Shawn Miller moved the ball to Truckee’s 21-yard line.

“He put that in about four weeks ago and we’ve been practicing it about twice a week — we had that in our bag of tricks for that very reason,” Russell said. “We had to get down there and spike it in the middle of our celebration — I was very impressed with their football savvy to be able to pull that off.”

Contestable was tackled inbounds, and by the time South Tahoe got to the line and spiked the ball there were 2.7 seconds left. The Vikings had time for one more play, and took to the air with “Y Cross” to score — Cefalu lobbed a ball into the end zone that Contestable hauled in over a Wolverines defender with no time left on the clock.

“We knew we had to get to the end zone,” Russell said. “We’d been running a tight end crossing route for the last five weeks that has been our go-to play — quite often Zen had been popping open, but that’s a 10-yard route and we needed more.

“Zen took it to the end zone, got position and elevated over the guy covering him — Tommy threw the ball over the defender, who had stopped moving his feet.”

The touchdown made the score 21-19, and South Tahoe still needed a two-point conversion pull even. Out of a bunch formation, Cefalu found a wide-open Contestable on a crossing route to make the score 21-21 and cap the last-minute rally.

“That has been our standard two-point and goal line play all year long — all three guys were wide open,” Russell said. “We knew exactly what we were going to do and I think Truckee was still reeling from the shock of the score.”

South Tahoe opened the scoring on a touchdown run from Jake Bernal in the first quarter, and had a 7-0 lead at halftime. Truckee scored on a pair of long touchdown runs in the third quarter to take a 13-7 lead — early in the fourth quarter, Bernal tied the game with a 10-yard run.

The Vikings stopped Truckee near midfield on the ensuing drive, and lined up for the potential go-ahead field goal with 2:11 remaining. The 44-yard kick landed just short of the crossbar, and the Wolverines scored just more than a minute later to take an eight-point lead.

With the tie South Tahoe finishes the 2014 season with a 3-5-1 mark in Div. I-A Northern League play — and 4-5-1 overall. The Vikings began the year with a thrilling last-second win over El Dorado and finished it in similarly exciting fashion — STHS lost only one of its last five games to close out the season.

“It’s a very talented group and all the positions are accounted for — we have a strong line, we’ve got running backs, we’ve got a quarterback, we’ve got receivers and we have a kicking game,” Russell said. “It’s a group of skill guys that don’t come around every year — if they put the work in and get in the weight room, they could be the next group to make a little noise.”

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