It doesn’t get much bigger for two cross-valley rivals.
Fallon and Fernley collide at 7 p.m. today at the Edward Arciniega Complex in the biggest game to date in the Northern Division I-A. All that’s on the line is the inside track to a No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs and, in Fallon’s case, an undefeated regular season.
Oh, and it’s homecoming.
The Greenwave roar into today’s showdown with a 6-0 record and in first place, while the Vaqueros sit at 5-1 and are tied for second place. In addition, both offense have lit up the scoreboard this season as Fallon averages 53.8 points per game and Fernley comes in with a 41.6 average.
“They are the best team we have faced to date,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “They are a really good football team, put up a lot of points and are a good challenge. It’s going to be a big game.”
Although Fallon has sliced up its opponents this season, it was the same story last year and the Wave eeked out a 12-0 win. That victory, though, came with a devasting, season-ending injury to Micah Manning and Fallon lost its final three games.
Fernley, meanwhile, is no stranger to playing the underdog. The Vaqueros upset Truckee, 7-0, last season to snap the Wolverines’ 41-game winning streak.
“The difference between this year and last is we’ve had a real good consistent approach,” Hill said. “I think they will come out and play well. We feel like if we come out and play our game, we’ll be alright.”
Fallon’s highlight-reel offense is led by quartback Morgan Dirickson, running back Trent Tarner and receivers Tyler Bagby and Cameron Matzen.
Dirickson has 1,121 yards, 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Tarner has rushed for 734 yards and 14 TDs, while Bagby has hauled in 15 receptions for 517 yards and five TDs.
Matzen, meanwhile, has been a triple threat with 14 catches for 391 yards and eight TDs, returned six punts for scores and one interception.
“They have a very good defense and are well coached,” Hill said. “We’re expect to have some multiple play drives. We can’t turn the ball over because those are the great equalizers.”
Fernley’s loaded offense is spearheaded by quarterback Skylar Williams, who has run the Vaqueros triple-option attack with precision. The dual-threat signal-caller has thrown for 614 yards, eight TDs and one interception, while running for 630 yards and six TDs.
Williams’ supporting cast, though, is a capable bunch guided by Erik Wilson and Kevin Montgomery. Wilson has rushed for 361 yards and 10 TDs, while Montgomery has 26 receptions for 420 yards and 154 rushing yards and six TDs.
“He’s (Williams) the best athletic quarterback we’ve this year,” Hill said. “He does pose some problems. We got to make sure we always have somebody on him, somebody on the dive and somebody on the pitch. Both those kids, him and Montgomery are athletic and can make plays.”
Despite the offensive firepower on the field, the defensive units will be key for victory. Fallon is allowing 11 points per game, while Fernley is giving up 16.8.
Fernley is led by Anfernee Sloan (38 tackles), Brian Reyes (37 tackles) and Jarom Arrington (36 tackles). The unit has forced nine turnovers and recorded 14 sacks.
The Wave, meanwhile, have been opportunistic scoring six TDs and six on special teams. The unit is led by linebackers Dakota Schelling (51 tackles, five sacks) and Rylie Williams (44 tackles) and defensive lineman Justin Hatfield (44 tackles, six sacks).
“We are fast and aggressive, but it’s about understanding what they’re trying to do,” Hill said. “We got to make sure we don’t do too much. That’s how we have to approach and defend it.”