Two familiar foes go head-to-head in the Northern Division I-A’s premier game.
Fallon and Elko, both 3-0, tangle at 7 p.m. today at the Edward Arciniega Complex in a key matchup.
The Greenwave’s three-game streak comes on the heels of a trio of blowouts, outscoring their opponents 168-26 in the process. Elko, meanwhile, has rebounded from a 4-5 campaign last year to rush out to an undefeated record including a quality win over Fernley (27-6) two weeks ago.
Last season, the Wave crushed Elko, 42-6, but Fallon coach Brooke Hill expects a much tougher, physical contest today.
“They’ve got a much better grasp on their scheme,” he said. “They’ve got a group of juniors this year who know how to win. They’re a good football team.”
Elko, meanwhile, has returned to its previous form as a smash-mouth team led by a bruising running game. The Indians’ defense has only allowed 20 points, but they have yet to see an offense as fast and talented as Fallon’s.
Boasting a 5-2 defense, Elko has allowed 153 total yards per game and held Fernley — a playoff team from last year — to 91 yards.
“They are going to try and stop our run and make sure we connect in the passing game,” Hill said.
Fallon, though, is averaging 279.3 yards per game on offense, but has the added bonus of an opportunistic defense and special teams.
While the Wave’s offense has sputtered at times, Hill is confident his group can use its talent and speed to get past the Indians.
“They are going to power run you, and you got to stand up to that,” he added.
Hill said it is key to get senior running back Trent Tarner going, which in turn will open the passing game for senior quarterback Morgan Dirickson. Dirickson completed 5 of 16 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 54-7 win over Dayton.
The running game only accounted for 96 yards, but was not needed in the second half against the Dust Devils due to the running clock. Tarner (319 yards, six TDs), though, is one of the league’s most explosive backs and has the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
Dirickson, meanwhile, has not had as many opportunities to display Fallon’s aerial attack due to nine touchdowns scored by the defense and special teams. Nevertheless, he’s found a connection with junior Tyler Bagby (five receptions, 134 yards, two TDs) and sophomore Cameron Matzen (four catches, 139, three TDs). For the season, Dirickson has thrown for 308 yards with six TDs and one interception.
“We’ve seen improvement every week,” Hill said. “Our offense will get there. Once we start clicking on offense, we feel like we’re going to be a really good football team because we haven’t yet. And maybe that’s good because we clicked early last year.”
Defensively for Fallon, the Wave’s young, yet fast and physical unit has been impressive through the first three weeks. Led by linebackers Dakota Schelling (19 tackles, two interceptions), Rylie Williams (20 tackles) and a ferocious defensive line.
Fallon has tallied 14 sacks, forced 16 turnovers (nine interceptions) and scored nine TDs. Although the pass rush may be limited due to Elko’s heavy reliance on the run, the defense’s speed and physical play has stymied Fallon’s first three opponents.
“We have executed our game plans and we have to continue to do that,” Hill said. “We still are young at places … our kids don’t shy away from a physical game. They like that.”