Yellow dog, 4:30 a.m. departure give Vikings added hope vs. Elko
They’ll depart Elko at 4:30 a.m. Saturday on a “yellow dog,” not even remotely close to the travel-friendly MCI bus the Elko Indians make most of their 700-mile roundtrips in.
That’s the way the first month of the football season has gone for Elko football coach Bob Milligan, who brings one of the Nevada’s most talented Class 4A teams to South Lake Tahoe.
If the heavy underdog South Tahoe Vikings were looking for edges, they certainly have a couple before the game even starts at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I know whoever made the schedule didn’t care where we were going. There’s no one close to doing what we’ve had to do,” said Milligan, whose team has traveled to Wooster and Reed in the two weeks prior to this game.
“It’s a ton of miles. We’ve gotten used to it, but it still wears on you. We’ll have to bring some oatmeal.”
STHS coach Eric Beavers is glad that he’s isn’t making the early morning trip.
“That is to our advantage, but I think they are quite used to that type of trip,” he said. “They make that trip four or five teams a year.”
But once Milligan leads his unbeaten football team off the bus, that’s where the disadvantages end. His speed-laden team is perhaps the best collection of athletes he’s coached during his 10 seasons at Elko.
“We knew for a number of years that this group was a real exceptional group,” Milligan said. “They’re good players, but the biggest thing about them is that they really enjoy playing the game. They like each other, and they have fun when they play.
“There’s not a whole lot you have to do to motivate them, not even in practice.”
After what the Indians did to the Raiders last Friday at Reed, it’s easy to understand why the Indians have fun together. They rolled up 332 rushing yards in a 47-0 rout of the Raiders.
“They are in the same class as (defending state champion) McQueen and they are going to play for the championship certainly late in the season. They’ll play for the Northern Nevada championship, if not the state championship,” Beavers said.
Leading the list of Beavers’ concerns is the breakaway ability of all-purpose back Kyle Eklund. Last week, Eklund only carried the ball four times but still rushed for 105 yards. He also returned a punt 96 yards for a score and brought back the second-half kickoff to the Reed 6. If that wasn’t enough, he burned the Raiders on a 49-yard scoring pass.
“Bob’s smart enough to put (Eklund) in situations where he gets the ball in open space like punt and kick returns,” Beavers said. “He’s quite dangerous when you give him a little space to run.
“If you can kind of keep him running sideways and not let him into the second level of your defense, you have a chance to contain him some. Our mission is to attempt to eliminate those 80-yarders.”
STHS’s improving defense did that at Reno for three quarters of its division opener last Friday, but the solid effort was lost in the 34-0 final score.
“The good core of our kids are realizing that you can only do what you can do,” Beavers said. “That’s the game of life that we all talked about the other day. You go out there to learn, learn to play the game right … there are some things you can control, and some you can’t. But you have to keep going.”
By containing Eklund, though, doesn’t mean you’ll shut down the Indians. Fullback Joel Williams is coming off a game where he scored two touchdowns and reserve fullback Dallas Boyer collected 139 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the second half at Reed.
“They have a number of kids and they all look the same kid,” Beavers said. “They can run, they’re pretty strong and they just have a good core of guys like that who allows them to hurt teams in many different ways.”
So does that mean that Beavers will see that the Viking Bowl gets some extra water Friday night.
“I’m afraid it would slow us down more than them,” he said.
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