Vikes beat Fallon, clinch playoff berth
The South Tahoe High football team closed out the regular season by capturing the final Northern Nevada 4A Division II playoff spot with a 53-30 win over a pesky Fallon squad on Saturday in South Lake Tahoe. Fallon needed to win by seven to knock Tahoe out of the postseason. The Vikes will open the playoffs against undefeated McQueen on Thursday in Reno.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make the playoffs and we’re in. That’s the most important thing,” said Tahoe coach Tim Jaureguito. “More than anything, I’m really happy for this group of guys because they’ve worked hard. That’s what it’s all about.”
South Tahoe (6-3, 3-3 division) opened with fiery emotion on a chilly afternoon. After holding Fallon to a three-and-out series, the Vikes promptly marched 56 yards to break the ice with running back Bryan Bough carrying the load. On fourth and six from the Greenwave 17, quarterback Bret Uppendahl scampered around the left side and used a Jon Shaver block to run to paydirt. Tim Sprinkles hit Corey Martin for the conversion to put Tahoe up 8-0 with 8:40 to go in the first quarter. The Vikes moved to the Fallon 10 on their next possession, but Uppendahl was picked off in the end zone to kill the drive. Tahoe’s Ian Xavier returned the favor on the next Greenwave possession, snagging a Kyle Ferguson offering at midfield.
It stayed 8-0 until the start of the second, when just nine seconds in, Bough took a middle screen pass from Uppendahl through the heart of the Fallon defense for 24 yards to push the lead to 14-0. The drive started on the Fallon 35.
The Greenwave soon tried to open up its formations – a ploy which would pay dividends in the second half – but failed to move the ball with regularity.
“We knew we had to play above our heads to beat Tahoe. We just enjoyed the challenge,” said Fallon coach Tommy Thomson.
Meanwhile Tahoe’s offense matched the “D’s” play, finding the end zone for the third time in five possessions. Bough (18-190-TD) sliced at will through the Greenwave defenders, reeling off runs of 35, 8, 10 and 10, before Uppendahl’s second of three rushing TDs from 1-yard out. Matt Solbrig’s kick put Tahoe up 21-0 with 9:18 to go in the second. Solbrig finished the first-half scoring with booming field goals of 42 and 35 yards.
“We started to get into a rhythm in the second quarter. The line was giving me a ton of time and giving Bryan (Bough) huge holes to run through. We were just executing pretty well,” Uppendahl said.
Fallon emerged from the locker room a different team. After recovering its first of two onside kicks and just one minute into the final 24, Colby Diehl thrashed three yards to begin a Greenwave flash flood, 27-6.
“I don’t know what happened. We were pumped up at halftime and thought we had this team. I think we underestimated Fallon. They ran it up on us real quick,” said Viking senior defender Jason Nixon.
Tahoe answered as Uppendahl hit a wide-open Casey Dowling on a 24-yard looper to make it 33-6 at the 8:28 mark. But the Greenwave just wouldn’t withdraw. Ferguson (21-34-282-2TD-3int), a senior, began operating from the shotgun, a move which served to spread thin the Vikes’ defense, picking apart the secondary with precision short balls and accurate deeper tosses.
A late hit on fourth and eight from the Tahoe 28 gave Fallon room to work from the 15-yard line. John Cruz later scampered 3 yards to cut the lead. Everyone in attendance knew what was coming next, but Fallon managed to recover the ensuing onside kick as the quarter ended, 33-12.
The Greenwave wasted little time making it pay off, as just 10 seconds in, Ferguson hit Vince Vallejos on a 32-yard screen similar to Bough’s, making it 33-18. After another onside kick, recovered by Tahoe after a lengthy referees’ discussion, the Vikes quickly went back to work. Bough, who returned after missing part of the half while nursing a nagging shoulder injury, bolted 11 yards to score. A Bough 35-yard run and a Fallon pass interference call keyed the drive. A Solbrig boot made it a seemingly comfortable 40-18 advantage with 11 minutes to play.
But Fallon remained wide open and Ferguson was gunning. After two 15-yard personal fouls on Tahoe, the Fallon QB found Kenny Redner down the right side for 25 yards, making it 40-24.
“This was it. We’ve got 25 seniors and just wanted to finish strong,” Ferguson said.
Fallon didn’t get the next onside kick but quickly got the ball. Greenwave defenders removed the pigskin from Bough’s arms during a five-yard run, taking possession at their own 37. Screening and drawing remained effective for Fallon and a pass interference call gave the surging team good position. Deihl collected his second rushing TD from 5 yards out, making it interesting at 40-30 with 5:32 to play.
But Uppendahl showed his senior leadership after Tahoe recovered Fallon’s sixth onside attempt, calmly guiding the Vikes 55 yards and scoring on a 3-yard keeper with 3:14 left. The kick made it a 47-30 lead. Bryan Marino pounded runs of 26, 11 and 7 yards on the drive, following an offensive line, which dominated but admittedly could’ve played better.
“We expected them to come out in a 50-front, but they came out in a 4-4 and we just capitalized on their mistakes. But I think it was a six on a scale of 10. We can do better,” said Shaver, who was the target on four of Fallon’s onside attempts. “They started coming to my side. I just was trying to get it and cradle it because I knew I was going to get knocked. I didn’t think about anything except wanting to catch it.”
Added Uppendahl, “When they got those two onside kicks in a row, I was scared. I thought they were going to come back. But Jon (Shaver) stepped up and recovered a couple, we got the ball back, ran some clock out and ended up on top.”
Tahoe finished the scoring as sophomore Garett Kunce hit Daniel Williams on a 20-yard pass with :40 left.
Jaureguito was optimistic about his team’s chances at McQueen, a team which hasn’t allowed a score in 21 consecutive quarters.
“You’ve got to face a team like McQueen sooner or later, so why not face them right out of the shoot. They haven’t played anybody of real quality in quite a while. I do think we need to take it to another level. But if we do that, I think we’ll be right in the ball game,” he said.
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