Unbeaten Vikings have caught fans’ attention
There’s one sure-fire way to detect a winner before a game even starts – check out a team’s support for a road game. South Tahoe High’s Vikings are off to a 3-0 start – something the 1991 state finalists never accomplished – and the fans naturally are following them everywhere they go.
On Friday night, the fans watched on their feet in the closing seconds as their resolute Vikings made the big plays when they had to in a dramatic 17-15 Northern Nevada League Division II victory over nemesis Douglas.
Douglas must have been shocked to see Viking spectators nearly equaling its own. But the Tigers must know why after seeing some of the talent the Vikings exhibit on both sides of the ball.
“It was great crowd support, and we’ve been really pleased with the support the community has given us,” said veteran Viking coach Tim Jaureguito, who has seen some of his other outstanding teams struggle in the support department. “We hope they continue to support us for the rest of the season.”
The vibes from the Viking faithful seem to indicate this is a special team. They’re confident, and they expect South Tahoe to win – even without standout senior quarterback Tim Sprinkles, who is nursing a slightly torn MCL tear for the next few weeks or so.
Sprinkles, however, hinted on Friday night that he believes his knee is progressing nicely and could be ready for the Reno Huskies – who turned the tables on the Vikings a year ago, rallying from a 26-10 halftime deficit for a 43-26 triumph – on Sept. 24. With games to follow against Wooster on Oct. 2 and Carson on Oct. 15, Sprinkles’ availability would be a boost to a team that looked awfully tough to stop in lopsided wins over Sparks and Lowry.
Not to take anything away from capable fill-in quarterback Jarred Uppendahl, who tossed a 54-yard touchdown strike to Immanuel Williams in his new starting role on Friday.
“There’s a little more pressure, but we knew Jarred could do it,” said Viking senior defensive lineman Justin McGrath, who made several tackles behind the line of scrimmage. “Defense wins championships, and we were here to play.”
But Sprinkles may be the league’s most talented player. His ability to read defenses, to audible, to scramble and his soft passing touch make him nearly irreplaceable.
Hopefully, some colleges have noticed Sprinkles’ talent, and he won’t rush his comeback to catch their attention and keep the Vikings moving toward their lofty goals. In any case, the Division II title is extremely important this season since Division I appears to have the most talent. Defending zone finalists Reed and Elko likely will form three-fourths of the zone semifinals, along with perennial contender McQueen.
McQueen, following an uncharacteristic second-round playoff exit in 1998, looks meaner than ever. The Lancers haven’t allowed a single point in three wins – and they have come against quality foes such as Wooster and Douglas.
With the top seed from Division II scheduled to host the fourth seed in Division I in the playoff’s opening round, it’s crucial for the Vikings to shoot for the top spot. I’m sure Jaureguito would rather open the playoffs against Galena or Sparks rather than an Elko or Reed.
Of course, Jaureguito isn’t conceding anything to this point. After all, six straight losses would spoil what has been an encouraging and thrilling start.
“I still think Douglas is a very good football team (even though it’s 0-3), and they should be in position to make the playoffs by the end of the season. In fact, we could meet them somewhere in the playoffs if we’re fortunate to get there,” Jaureguito said.
If they Vikings return to the playoffs after a one-year absence, I’m sure the fans will let them know one way or another.
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