Facing uncharted waters for the first time this season, the group of gridiron brothers began to slowly sink into the abyss Friday night.
No matter how hard they tried battling back to overcome discipline issues, poor execution and erratic tendencies, that seven-point deficit late in the game felt insurmountable. It was only a one-possession game in the second half but for the Greenwave football team, mistakes made it nearly impossible for Fallon to keep its perfect season alive.
Instead of gunning into tonight’s playoff opener on a nine-game winning streak, Fallon is facing adversity for the first time this season after dropping a 21-14 decision to third-place Lowry last week. The Buckaroos exposed a nerve that needs a root canal fixing if the Greenwave wants to be holding up the state plaque in two weeks.
Fallon played out of its comfort game, scoring 30 points less than its average.
Penalties doomed Fallon, especially with Lowry moving the ball late in the game. Instead of facing a fourth-and-forever, the Buckaroos welcomed an early Christmas gift when a Fallon defender kicked an opposing player on the ground after the play. Hello first-and-goal and a game-winning touchdown.
The penalty, though, was a microcosm of how Fallon battled in its first test all season.
Fallon’s normally accurate gun-slinger was all over the field, under-throwing open receivers, which led to two interceptions. The offensive line couldn’t stop Lowry’s penetration on the final drive as Morgan Dirickson was sacked and then hit on a pass on the last play.
The defense played well for most of the game, except when Lowry’s quarterback executed the read-option with ease at times, especially in the fourth quarter as he tallied multiple first-down runs. And he beat the Greenwave with his arm, which tied the game in the third quarter on a 28-yard pass to the back of the end zone.
The mood on the sideline after Lowry took a 14-7 lead changed drastically. The players were down on each other, expressing frustration instead of encouragement.
The awkward halfback touchdown pass that gave Fallon a 14-7 lead felt like it happened last season. There was no momentum anymore. Lowry had control and felt unstoppable with its offense taking advantage of penalties and a quick, mobile quarterback.
But Fallon will not be remembered this season for how it lost to Lowry. The Greenwave will be remembered how it responds tonight against their cross-valley rival.
A 50-point beating might feel like the end-all, cure-all for Fallon to rid the bad taste of losing to Lowry for the third-straight time. Fernley faced Lowry the week before and now knows the secret to defeating the Greenwave, but it will come down to which team can execute better and limit the penalties. Those pesky yellow flags can be the difference from finishing winless in the postseason to taking home the state championship.
These tests will get harder the next two weeks for Fallon if it takes care of Fernley tonight. With the state bracket beginning next weekend, the ultimate goal is within reach.
Fallon had made it difficult for anyone to doubt its ability to keep the state title in the North again. Fallon needs to prove tonight that last week was a horrible fluke, a bad third date in need of the ultimate proposal and promise that this mistake will not happen again.
The program has climbed back to its successful roots from when it won championships in the 1970s. Fallon has the weapons to make any team nervous and the confidence and swagger needed to overcome the occasional hurdle.
How do you want the 2013 team to be remembered in 30 years? Will the Greenwave be known as the great regular-season club that succumbed to pressure? Or will Fallon rise past the challenge and remind everyone in the Silver State that the championship runs through the Lahontan Valley?
Prove that last week was an isolated incident. Keep your head above the water and send a message tonight to the rest of the division.
The quest for the first state title in 35 years begins tonight.
How do you want to be remembered?
Be remembered as champions or you will be long forgotten.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.