Uppendahl, defense swarm to the spotlight
Even as South Tahoe’s highlight-reel offense prepared for the 1999 football season, it was the retooled Viking defense that warmed – or swarmed – to the spotlight.
As such, South Tahoe discovered new stars to complement senior quarterback Tim Sprinkles during the first two games against Sparks and Lowry. With Sprinkles out three to six weeks with a slight tear of his mediocollateral ligament, the Vikings are hoping to do something similar when they travel to Minden to take on Douglas on Friday.
“You’ve got to beat the top dog in order to make the playoffs, that makes this game real important,” said Viking coach Tim Jaureguito. “There is a great deal of importance for this game from the standpoint of this being our league opener, and Douglas is a contender for one of the top spots in the division.”
Some are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. While some might make a case for the new Sierra Swarm defense achieving greatness this year, the team’s newest candidate to thrust into greatness is junior quarterback Jarred Uppendahl, who assumes control of the offense Friday. Uppendahl moved to quarterback from his starting position as wide receiver, and has been taking snaps with the first-team offense all week.
“It’s going to be extremely challenging, but it will be a really good test to see where we’re at as a team,” Uppendahl said. “This is unexpected, but I’m pretty prepared for it. I knew if Tim did get hurt, I would be the next one there.”
Uppendahl, at 5-11 and 166 pounds, is just a bit smaller than the 6-1, 171-pound Sprinkles. The junior hasn’t taken as many snaps as Sprinkles, but brings similar skills to the position. Uppendahl showed in scrimmages earlier this year he can throw, scramble and make plays on the run, but he prefers to drop back into the pocket as his brother, Bret, did for the Vikings in 1996 and 1997.
“I’m more of a pocket passer. I can run when I have to, but I feel more confident in the pocket than I do outside of it,” Uppendahl said.
Jaureguito is now counting on Sprinkles to lead the team from the sidelines – a role that the left-handed quarterback already seems to have embraced.
“If he can get the job done, that’s all I care about, is winning,” Sprinkles said of his understudy. “It makes me feel really good about getting the job done, that’s the main thing. Our defense is really going to look to step it up and they’re going to have to play really well against Douglas.”
Understandably, Jaureguito isn’t looking for Uppendahl to duplicate what Sprinkles did for the Vikings.
“Jarred has done a good job and is progressing, but one of the things we have to do as coaches is simplify the game plan because he doesn’t have the experience Tim has,” Jaureguito said. “We don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him to audible or read the defense in terms of the pass play. We want to simplify things so he can go out there and get the job done without having to think too much.”
The South Tahoe defense can make the task easier for Uppendahl and the offense. So far, the defense has produced three touchdowns, including two last week by Mario Guerrero, who might see some extra duty at running back due to a knee injury to James “Stump” Fabrizio. Fabrizio injured the knee during Wednesday’s practice and his status for the game and the rest of the season is uncertain.
“I’m not taking away from Sparks or Lowry, but they’re not the same type of team as Douglas is. The defense has to go out and prove they can play with one of the top teams in the league,” Jaureguito said.
Chris Seals, who rushed for 47 yards on only four carries last week, and Chas Tanner could also see time at running back to spell junior speedster Jake Hurwitz.
“This injury puts a lot of pressure on Jake, to say the least. We haven’t made any decisions on what we’re going to do yet,” Jaureguito said.
The Tigers run the ground-pounding wing T offense, a formation that typically relies on strong blocking and slick handoffs for counters, leads and trap plays. Douglas will also attempt to cross up the defense by mixing in some of its old fly offense passing plays.
Quarterback Brandon Griffith runs the Douglas offense behind a line that includes 6-2, 235-pound tackle Bryce Lister, and 5-11, 280-pound guard Sili Mafua. Both linemen return from last year’s 5-5 Tigers and line up on the same side as tight end Gabe Hatchett, also a returning starter.
“They’re probably the best 0-2 team in the state. They are well-disciplined, have unbelievable size and real good speed. We’re just playing a top-notch football team,” Jaureguito said.
Game time is at 7 p.m. at Douglas High.
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