The quest to end Fallon’s 35-year drought without a state championship begins today.
Two longtime rivals square off as the Greenwave host Fernley in the first round of the Northern Division I-A playoffs at 7 p.m. at the Edward Arciniega Complex. Gates open at 6 p.m.
Fallon (8-1) captured its first league title in 25 years — and home playoff game — despite a 21-14 loss to Lowry last week. In the other matchup, No. 3 Lowry visits second-seeded Elko at 7 p.m. Fernley, meanwhile, shredded Dayton, 52-21, to earn a second consecutive postseason berth.
“We’ve come out and had a little discussion about what happened,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said of the loss. “It really so much as what they were doing, but how we were playing. We didn’t dwell on it … and are the one seed and can host throughout. That should be motivation enough.”
The cross-valley rivals hooked up on Oct. 18, a 49-6 Fallon victory. Fernley, however, has a key player back in the lineup who did not face the Wave three weeks ago — quarterback Skylar Williams.
A dual-threat QB, Williams (810 passing yards, 735 rushing yards and 18 total TDs) was injured in the Vaqueros’ previous contest against Truckee and missed two games, losses to Fallon and Lowry. The senior, though, returns and provides another weapon for Fallon to defend.
“He’s an athlete and runs their system real well,” Hill said of Williams. “You have to account for where he is at all times. They are going to run their veer and there is a lot of option responsibility.”
Despite a disappointing loss to Lowry, where mental mistakes took their toll, Hill said it was a lesson for his team. Each of the Wave’s first eight games were blowouts, as Fallon’s offense ran up about 53 points per game.
Against a tough-minded Lowry club, though, the offense sputtered and frustration mounted. Hill said his club must adapt in a tight game, keep their composure or risk a loss and any hopes of a state title.
Although the loss is fresh, Fallon still has a bevy of weapons on offense and defense. Quarterback Morgan Dirickson aims to rebound from a rough performance against Lowry.
He only completed 7 of 24 passes for 171 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Despite the rough game, Dirickson has thrown for 1,817 yards on the season and has plenty of weapons at his disposal including running back Trent Tarner and wide receivers Tyler Bagby and Cameron Matzen.
“They (Lowry) did some things against us that we haven’t seen,” Hill said,”but as coaches and players we have to understand that a 5-yard run is a good football play. When we get in this time of year, in the playoffs, you have to grind it out.”
Fallon, meanwhile, has been hit by injury as defensive lineman Hunter Holcomb suffered a concussion last week after a vicious hit to the head. Hill said Holcomb is out for at least two weeks and perhaps the rest of the season. In addition, 6-foot-5 wide receiver Beau Marshall is out for the season due to an illness and lineman Brennan Lewis has been battling a knee injury, but is expected to play.
Holcomb tallied 31 tackles, three fumble recoveries and three sacks from the weakside position. Hill said a rotation of players, notably Kenny Keyes and Carson Rigney, will take over Holcomb’s responsibilities.
“We lost a good player, but we got other ones too,” Hill said.