Vikings lose as a team
Entering the South Tahoe High locker room late Saturday afternoon, I braced myself for one of the worst scenes in sports: Thirty-something teen-agers crying and babbling that the football gods would never allow them to win a game.
If there were tears, the Vikings did their crying in private. From the collective group of long faces, what resonated from that quiet dressing room was the belief that the next chance they have of winning a football game, it won’t slip through their fingers.
South Tahoe squandered a 17-point third-quarter lead to Bishop in their season opener Saturday, losing 42-38 in one of the wildest openers in school history.
What made the aftermath special was that everyone was assuming responsibility for the school’s 20th straight defeat. There wasn’t any finger-pointing and there could have been. The Vikings defended their sidelines like they were running with the bulls on the streets of Pamplona. The offense was sluggish after a scintillating 18-minute display and the coaching staff made several debatable calls that stirred up fans like any close defeat does in any community.
“I think this team is starting to come together,” said STHS junior linebacker/offensive lineman Nick Garratt. “We’re teaching ourselves not to get down on one another and recuperate from losses like this.”
If you think STHS coach Todd McIntyre made a poor choice by going for a first down on fourth and eight from Bishop’s 48 with less than 5 minutes left and his team trailing by four — which I don’t — consider that the Broncos had scored the last three times they had the ball.
No, when I want to see an example of bad coaching, I push a copy of “All the Right Moves” into the VCR and watch Craig T. Nelson ask his quarterback to make a handoff inside his 2-yard line during a downpour with his team holding on to a four-point lead in the waning seconds.
The Vikings mismanaged their time-outs, but those mistakes happen when new varsity players start out with a tight game. They’ll be ready for that situation the next time around.
“I can look at them and tell them we have to stay as a team and continue to improve. I think we can fix some of the problems, I really do,” McIntyre said.
“As a group, although it’s the first year they’ve played together, I thought they played well.”
They handled the loss well, too, especially the accountability part. Garratt, one of several Vikings playing offensive and defensive positions, admitted that the two-way players may need extra conditioning in the coming weeks.
“Some of us are gonna get together,” Garratt said. “I think we’re gonna have to step it up in the conditioning part of practice, too because I go two ways and Richie (Giesen) goes two ways, so it’s kind of hard on us.”
Garratt said he’d even run after practice if that is what it takes.
“The best team is the team that can handle adversity and that’s how we should be and how we want to be,” he said. “I take this game as more of a step to where we want to be. This shows the community we want to be good and shows them we are gonna be good. We learned a lot from this game.”
Offensive lineman Jose Rodriguez, one of many STHS seniors who have yet to win a football game, also believes fatigue played a part in the outcome.
“I think we got a little tired. We got really winded and I think we were just overwhelmed about winning,” he said.
The good thing for the Vikings is that their season only started on Saturday. They can quickly make their supporters forget the disappointing loss to Bishop by winning at Reed on Friday.
Bishop coach Bill Egan, who took his team to the CIF sectional semifinals last year, says the wins will come.
“South Tahoe is very good. Obviously, they are gonna be good this year,” Egan said. “I knew coming in that this wasn’t a team that had lost 19 in a row and was just gonna go get killed this year … no way. I know it was gonna be a test, but I didn’t know it was gonna be a wild game like this.”
The next time I walk into the Vikings’ locker room, I hope to see some tears — tears of joy.
— Tribune sports editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or firstname.lastname@example.org