The Fernley Vaqueros are expecting big things this season. But they were last season, too.
After a miraculous 36-30 comeback win over 2A Lovelock in the 2000 season opener, Fernley ended up 5-4 overall, missing the playoffs for second-straight season and for only the third time in 11 years.
So Vaquero coach Dave Hart and his players want to use tonight's season opener at home against Lovelock as a springboard for the upcoming season. One that could be filled with good things, instead of how it all turned out a year ago.
"Lovelock gave us all we could handle last year," Hart said. "I think we came in a little cocky because we believed some of the stuff the papers wrote about us. And we had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win. So I'm just glad the game is at our place this year."
Tonight's 7:30 p.m. game will also be the unveiling of Fernley's new press box. It'll have three booths and a wrap-around deck for filming. And the best part, Hart admitted, was it didn't cost the football program a penny.
"The community raised the money for it and we'll share it with our youth football league," Hart said. "We're excited about it because the last one was pretty rickety."
Hopefully, they'll be plenty of highlights to be filmed from the new press box. But when Matt Lambeth, who's entering his third year as the school's starting quarterback, is on the field, that's to be expected. Last season, Lambeth passed for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also rushed for 437 yards and three touchdowns.
But perhaps the biggest threat the Mustangs pose for Fernley is their option offense, which the Vaqueros don't see in the 3A. So that means that all-state defensive end James Barnes and Kyle Davis, one of the best linebackers in the Northern 3A, might end up stealing the important highlights away from Lambeth.
"They run the option, so if you're not disciplined, you'll be in trouble," Hart said. "We should be physically a little tougher. But you never know. Traditionally, the home team plays a little tougher, so hopefully that will happen again."
Davis sure hopes so. Last season, he didn't get to play against the Mustangs, along with the graduated Mike Hudgins. Both sat out the game with injuries. Not this year. Davis, a senior, is ready to play.
"I think it'll be fun because everyone's going to be excited for the first game," said Davis, who was the catcher on the Vaqueros' Nevada 3A State Champion baseball team. "But this is my last season, so I'm really excited to play because I haven't played them yet."
One thing is certain. Hart doesn't want to rely on 22 fourth-quarter points to pull out a win.
"The kids have been working hard and gearing up for this game," Hart said. "We don't want to come from behind in the fourth quarter this time."
If Fernley wants to have the season it thinks it could, it probably can't afford to.