Vikings on short end of shootout
With Fallon and South Tahoe’s running games grounded on Saturday afternoon, both teams resorted to other means to reach the end zone.
The high schools combined for four touchdown passes, but it was Joe Leon’s 99-yard kickoff return for a score to start the second half that pointed the Greenwave to a 35-19 nonleague football win.
“Fortunately for us, we know our special teams are pretty good,” said Fallon coach Ray Holladay. “We spend a lot of time working on them.”
Leon barely avoided an automatic touchback by catching the kick on the 1 and then shifting outside to outrun South Tahoe’s pursuit down the sideline for a 21-7 Fallon lead. South Tahoe (0-2) twice pulled within a touchdown of tying the score in the third period, but each time the Greenwave had an answer.
“I thought I was out of bounds, but I guess I was in,” Leon said. “They were coming after me, so I just had to keep going.”
Reto Gross’ 11-yard touchdown reception from Fallon senior quarterback Jory Weisenberg and a 2-yard TD run by Thad Cornu in the final quarter kept the Vikings at bay.
South Tahoe first-year head coach Mike Gorman was pleased with his Vikings’ progress following a 47-0 opening loss to Galena.
“Every week we build,” Gorman said. “Last week we scored none, this week we scored three. That means we’re doubling every week, so next week we score six.”
With Leon unable to break away any runs on the perimeter of the Vikings’ defense, Weisenberg passed 17 times against South Tahoe’s six-man front. Leon, who was limited to 35 yards on 14 rushes, caught a 21-yard score on a corner route, giving the Greenwave its first lead at 14-7.
“The fact that we couldn’t get outside was their speed. They were a little quicker outside than we thought they were,” Holladay said.
South Tahoe frustrated Fallon’s offense for most of the first half, using a Elliot Pekar fumble recovery near midfield and several fourth-down stops deep in its territory to keep the Greenwave off the scoreboard. Charlie Hejny’s blocked punt, which was returned by Leon to the Viking 15, gave the Greenwave an early chance to go on top. But a combined sack by Cesar Ortega and Miles Wallace and a misdirected pitch by Weisenberg led to a change of possession.
“Mike’s doing a good job with these guys in a short period of time, but we let them in (the game),” Holladay said. “We block the punt and go in and score, the momentum is on our side and they might never get it back.”
The Vikings struck first early in the second quarter as Tony Stagnaro rolled out to his left and slipped a 58-yard pass into Chris Klug’s hands despite defensive pass interference. That big pass play to the Fallon 10 set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Chris Diana. South Tahoe tacked on a Jose Luis Ramirez extra point for a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes, 28 seconds to go before halftime.
“Our deep passes worked for us today,” Klug said. “Short passes are what we usually use are momentum on, but they weren’t working as well.”
South Tahoe missed a great chance to build on that momentum on its next defensive series. After holding the Greenwave to three short runs, the Vikings were whistled for running into the punter. The 15-yard penalty moved Fallon to midfield and eight plays later Weisenberg lunged into the end zone from a yard out to tie the score at 7.
An interception by Trent de Braga preceded Fallon’s go-ahead score. De Braga dealt Stagnaro his first varsity interception and returned the pick 15 yards before being forced out at his 45. A 14-yard keeper by Weisenberg, a 12-yard reception by Lyle Gardner and an 11-yard run by Hejny highlighted the six-play drive capped by Leon’s 21-yard TD catch.
Klug’s 16-yard touchdown reception from Stagnaro trimmed Fallon’s advantage to 21-13 with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter, but Fallon again stole the momentum from South Tahoe by executing a third-and-16 play from its 39.
When receiver Shaun Edwards turned inside on a slant pattern, there was broken coverage, allowing Edwards to roam to the Viking 11. With a hot hand, Weisenberg wasted no time punching it in, finding Gross open in the corner of the end zone for a 27-13 lead.
“(Jory) played much better in the second half,” Holladay said. “He missed some open guys early, but Jory didn’t play much last year as a junior and he’s just learning to be the leader of the offense.”
Fallon hurt its cause on STHS’s next possession, committing three 15-yard penalties. As a result, the Vikings marched from their 15 to paydirt in 12 plays. An 18-yard pass from Stagnaro to Diana completed the long drive and made the score 27-19. South Tahoe tried to pull within six points but a conversion pass failed.
A block in the back penalty wiped out a 67-yard scoring jaunt by Fallon’s John Robertson and South Tahoe actually had a chance to go in for the tying score. But a key fourth-down sack by Gardner gave Fallon the ball on STHS’s 40 with 8:16 left. Leon’s longest run on the day – a 16-yarder – and a 10-yard scamper by Doug Newman set up a game-clinching 2-yard TD run by Thad Cornu with 5:45 remaining. Trevor DeBraga added a two-point run for the final points.
“We’re not afraid of anybody,” Leon said. “I believe this is the year we can win more games. We can’t compete with everybody.”
Weisenberg finished with 125 yards passing and two scores, while Stagnaro threw for 124 yards and two scores. Fallon outgained South Tahoe 251 to 229.
“We’re playing as a team, and that’s what our goal was for this game … to play as a team and not get down on each other,” Klug said.
First downs 14/15
Passing yards 156/151
Kick return yards 3-121/5-47
Punt return yards 1-10/2-28
Passing: Fallon, Weisenberg 9-17-0-125, Leon 1-1-0-31; South Tahoe, Stagnaro 6-12-1-124, Diana 1-1-0-27.
Rushing: Fallon, Leon 14-35, Waller 6-34, Newman 2-17, Hejny 2-9, Weisenberg 10-2, Cornu 1-2; South Tahoe, Diana 13-73, Fonken 4-12, Klug 9-8, Stagnaro 9-(-15).
Receiving: Fallon, Edwards 4-100, Gardner 3-19, Leon 2-26, Gross 1-11; South Tahoe, Klug 3-78, Diana 2-37, Stagnaro 1-27, Fonken 1-9.
JV: Fallon 36-6.
Frosh: Fallon 27-20.
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