A calm and steady focus lifted the Fallon football team to its second playoff win in three years with a 20-12 victory over Fernley on Friday.
The Lahontan Valley rivals slugged it out in a riveting high school tilt, but Fallon’s experience and depth proved to be a little too much.
Now the Greenwave turns their attention to perennial powerhouse Moapa Valley, the lone undefeated team in Division I-A, at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Edward Arciniega Complex. The Pirates (11-0) have raided the state title game in seven of the past eight seasons and tallied three state titles.
In the past four seasons, though, Truckee beat Moapa Valley in the championship game, leaving the Pirates frustrated and without another championship.
Moapa Valley presents another tough mental challenge for Fallon. A team with a winning pedigree knows how to navigate the postseason.
The Greenwave, meanwhile, made huge strides Friday in a back-and-forth battle with Fernley. Despite trailing most of the game, spirits were high and confidence never wavered.
Those same traits will be necessary on Saturday. The Pirates are no pushover and one of the best teams in the state.
Led by lineman Mathew McDermand, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound Division I recruit with offers from UNLV and UTEP, according to the Las Vegas Sun, the Pirates boast a physical brand of ball.
Fallon, meanwhile, presents its own physical challenges, yet has a full compliment of athletes, some of the fastest in the North.
It will take another team effort to get past Moapa Valley and into the program’s first state championship game since 1978. The Wave seniors must take control, bring excitement and confidence, especially to the recent call-ups.
Two years ago, Fallon was in the same position it finds itself now, up against a perennial power with hopes of winning a state title. While that game ended with a pass of the fingers on an untimed down, this year has the makings of something different.
Throwing that pass was quarterback Morgan Dirickson, whose toss just glanced off the outstretched hand of Frank de Braga. Dirickson still holds that play and moment with him as a reminder of how close a title was.
As a senior, he looks to lead his club into Fallon history, a memory and moment that will stay with him forever.
Fallon has the physical tools, and now the confidence to play when trailing. Hopefully, the spark that will end the years of fruition came last week.
Steve Puterski is the sports editor of the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at email@example.com.