‘The Year’ ends for South Tahoe football with loss against Desert Pines in 3A State semifinals
LAS VEGAS — Not every story gets the ending it deserves. For the South Tahoe football team, “The Year” came to a crushing conclusion in the 3A State semifinals Saturday, Nov. 12.
Northern second seed South Tahoe fell to Southern top seed Desert Pines (Las Vegas) 56-7 in the state semifinals Saturday afternoon. The Jaguars scored five touchdowns in the second quarter to turn the Vikings’ first state appearance in 25 years into a one-sided runaway.
“It didn’t go our way, but this one game won’t define our season,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said. “I’m really proud of this group of kids. They’ve done something that hasn’t been done in a long time and forever changed the legacy of the football program.”
Desert Pines (11-1) opened the scoring on the second drive of Saturday’s game, taking the lead on a 16-yard run from UNLV-bound running back Isaiah Morris with 5:56 left in the first quarter. South Tahoe (9-3) answered on the next possession — but that would be its last score of the game.
The Vikings marched 70 yards in 10 plays to tie the score late in the first quarter. Senior Andrew Herrera pounded the ball in from 3 yards out on third-and-goal to make it 7-7 with 2:14 left in the opening frame.
South Tahoe recovered an onside kick after scoring, but went three-and-out with three straight incomplete passes — and the score was tied as the first quarter expired. By halftime, South Tahoe trailed 42-7 after a disastrous second quarter.
“We had a bad quarter and made them look really, really, really good,” Franklin said. “But at the end of the day, they were good.”
The Jaguars took a 14-7 lead with 9:30 left in the quarter when Tyler Williamson — a sophomore making his varsity debut — rolled out and found Arizona-bound receiver Tony Fields for a 15-yard score. On the next play from scrimmage, Desert Pines was in the end zone again — courtesy of a 35-yard interception return touchdown from Monquel Galsow.
Desert Pines scored three more times before the break, as part of a five-touchdown quarter. The last of the scores — a 31-yard interception return from Tony Wallace with 1:30 left in the half — made it 42-7 headed into halftime.
In a second half played with a running clock, the Jaguars added two more touchdowns in the third quarter before a scoreless fourth quarter. South Tahoe played hard after the break, and the final seconds of its season were met with frustration and sadness on the visitors’ sideline.
“We talked about our character — being able to look in the mirror at the end of this game and making sure we gave everything we had,” Franklin said. “The kids held up.”
South Tahoe was held to 121 yards of offense in the loss while playing without senior 1,000-yard rusher Jacob Bernal, ruled out earlier in the week due to injury. Senior quarterback Tommy Cefalu finished 7-of-22 passing with 52 yards and three interceptions, and Herrera ran for a team-high 43 yards on eight carries.
“That’s a game where you really miss your heart-and-soul stud rusher,” Franklin said. “Andrew did a great job filling in for us, but it would have been nice to have Bernal for more balance. Getting one-dimensional was something we feared, and kind of did it — it was bad coaching on my part.”
For Desert Pines, Williamson finished 9-of-11 with 193 yards and four total touchdowns. Morris ran for 142 yards and a score on eight carries.
“When they went trips receiver, it was USC on the outside [Randal Grimes], Arizona in the slot [Fields], UNLV in the backfield [Morris] — with a left tackle [Poutasi Poutasi] going to Louisville,” Franklin said about the Jaguars, who were loaded with Division I-caliber recruits.
The bitter ending to South Tahoe’s season does little to overshadow what has been a stellar — and historic — campaign. The Vikings delivered their first winning season since 2003, made the postseason for first time since 2004 and concluded the season in the state playoffs to end a drought that spanned back to 1991.
“It’s program-changing and it’s awesome,” Franklin said. “It’s been great to be a part of.”
In the program’s second season under Franklin, the Vikings more than doubled their win total following a four-win campaign in 2015. Along the way, South Tahoe delivered its first-ever victory over rival Truckee — in the 3A Northern League semifinals — while beating Fallon and Fernley for the first time in league play.
“This is something they’ll always look back on and be able to remember forever,” Franklin said. “It’s nothing disappointing — the kids will remember this season for the rest of their lives.”