Vikings determined to end 37-year corralling by Colts
For the most part, when Wooster has tackled South Tahoe on the gridiron over the past 37 years, the games essentially have served as a bye week for the Reno school.
By no means does this degrade what the Vikings have accomplished between the goal posts, but history doesn’t lie. Wooster has won 20 of the 22 encounters, having lost only 19-17 to the Vikings in the memorable 1991 zone championship and 25-14 in 1963 – Wooster’s second season of football. In fact, Wooster’s first football season ever, in 1962, started with a 21-20 victory over the Vikings.
Having gone 36 years without defeating the Colts in regular season play, the Vikings are hungrier than a cannibal stranded alone on an island. Viking coach Tim Jaureguito, who coached one of the VIkings’ two career triumphs over the Colts, believes that long-awaited win is within reach Saturday when the 4-1 teams collide at Wooster High.
“I think we have just as good of a chance as anybody else of beating Wooster this year. We’re pretty dinged up right now. Hopefully the guys we’re resting this week are ready to go,” Jaureguito said.
A spate of injuries in a 19-17 win over Reno Sept. 24 prompted Jaureguito to do something he hasn’t done since 1991: reduce contact by practicing without pads.
“We did that in ’91 after our McQueen homecoming win, and we never went with full pads for the rest of the year. We know they can hit and play. I don’t think we’re losing anything by not going out in full pads,” Jaureguito said. “We’ve had three really physical games in the last three weeks and we have to step up and play one more. I believe our guys will do that, because they’re tough.”
The injuries have pervaded the team. The most serious has been a partially torn mediocollateral ligament tear to one of the league’s best quarterbacks, Tim Sprinkles. The three-sport athlete played most of the Reno game, tossing two touchdown passes and running for another score, but he re-injured his knee slightly in the fourth quarter.
“I knew going into the game that the only risk that I was taking was that if someone twisted my foot so the ligament was exposed and extended my knee, and that’s what happened,” said Sprinkles, who removed himself from the division game, allowing junior Jarred Uppendahl to close out the victory.
Sprinkles expects to play Saturday, but he and the coaches are evaluating his condition on a daily basis. Yet, Sprinkles wants to play in this game more than any other, painfully recalling the 32-6 drubbing the Colts performed last fall in South Lake Tahoe .
“It was kind of embarrassing. We got shellacked. It’s going to take a lot to keep me out of that game. It’s the game of the year. I’ve been looking forward to this game from the beginning of the year,” Sprinkles said.
South Tahoe’s injury report, which rivals some NFL teams, also lists senior defensive end Ian Price as out with a partially torn MCL; Mario Guerrero, probable, slight concussion; junior kicker Carlos Romero, questionable, sprained ankle; senior linebacker Justin McGrath, probable, broken hand; senior receiver Matt Arzio, probable, slight concussion; and senior running back James “Stump Fabrizio, out, torn ACL.
“Probably at this point, the injuries are hurting us more on defense than offense,” Jaureguito said. “But we’re probably going to be at full strength at some point before all is said and done.”
The winner of Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. matchup likely will go on to win the Division II crown. Wooster is 2-0 in the division with four games left, while STHS is 2-1 with three assignments remaining. Obviously, the coaches won’t need a pregame speech to pump up their players.
“If we win this game, I guess we’re in the driver’s seat in our division,” Sprinkles said. “The goal for the seniors when the year started is we wanted to host a playoff game. That would be just so unbelievable for our town to host a playoff game.”
“This means a lot,” said senior defensive back Matt George, who has been the backbone of a defense that hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 18 points this season. “We’re looking at Fallon and Carson left to play. If we beat Wooster, we’ll have home-field advantage if we make the playoffs.”
George has secured two Viking wins by blocking fourth-quarter field goal attempts and he has made quarterbacks pay for throwing his way with three interceptions.
Despite the onslaught of injuries, several factors are working in the Vikings’ favor to end their misery against Wooster: Joe Sellers, who guided the Colts to six state titles in 24 years, no longer breaks the Colts; and Jaureguito notes that Wooster’s size and numbers are down.
“They’ll come right at you with their running game, they don’t throw the ball a lot and defensively they’ll attack and come at you. They don’t have the depth they’ve had in the past, and it doesn’t look like they suit a lot of players like they have in the past … a lot of them are going both ways,” said Jaureguito, who has rewarded his most-gifted team since 1991 by playing his stars on just one side of the ball.
The Vikings narrowed the gap between the schools in 1996 and 1997, losing the former 13-0 in a physical playoff game that was tied at zero at halftime and the latter 14-7. But they took a step backward last year, and desperately want to rejoin the elite programs in the 13-team conference.
“We’ve gotten real close, but we just haven’t been able to get that one win. We’ve played them real tough from a physical standpoint, but we’ve made some errors and we haven’t executed when we’ve had to,” Jaureguito said.
The horseshoe hasn’t been good luck for the Vikings, but they wouldn’t mind having one in their pocket after four quarters Saturday.
“Our coaches always say the championships are won on the road,” George said. “So far, we’ve won all of our road games, and we especially want this one against Wooster.”
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