RENO - In some ways, the 24th annual Sparks Sertoma Classic on Friday night looked like a summertime all-star high school football game. Just consider that the opposing Blue and Silver teams combined to turn the ball over six times and missed a number of other scoring opportunities.
In other ways, it was played with the intensity of a November playoff game - with frigid weather conditions to match - as the Silver squad took an early lead and then used a late goal line stand to preserve an exciting 17-14 victory against the Blue at Mackay Stadium.
Tahoe-Truckee's Jamison Maehler caught a 25-yard touchdown pass to give the Silver a 10-0 lead and teammate Nathan Wrenn returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-7 later in the third period.
In the end, the Silver held on a fourth-and-inches play from inside the 10 with 1:47 left to play to seal the victory.
Dayton defensive end Kevin May was part of a key play in the final minute before halftime when he combined with McQueen's Mitch Solano to sack Blue quarterback Mike Van Gorden for a 10-yard loss on a second-and-eight play from the Silver 30. McQueen's Steve Oscar sacked Van Gorden for another loss on the next play to effectively take the Blue out of scoring position - Matt Bobman's 64-yard field goal attempt failed as time expired.
"That was an extremely good defense," May said. "We had a great line, great linebackers and a great secondary. When it got down to the end of the game, we knew we could do it."
The Blue pulled to within 10-7 when Bishop Manogue's Ken Viser, a University of Nevada signee, burst through the right side for a 32-yard touchdown run with 5:22 left in the third quarter.
The Silver fumbled the ball away on its next possession then went three-and-out on the possession after that before the defense came up big again. On a halfback pass attempt from Reed's Zack May, Wrenn stepped in front of the ball for an interception and returned the ball 43 yards for a touchdown, aided by a downfield block from Fallon's Josh Mauga.
Mauga, another Nevada signee who is looking forward to playing many more games at Mackay Stadium, received the Classic's MVP award afterward. The inside linebacker was part of the Silver's late defensive stand.
The Blue began the last-ditch drive on its own 44 with 4:37 showing on the clock. Manogue's Joe Tutson made a diving catch of a third-and-two pass from South Tahoe quarterback Van Gorden to give the Blue first down at the 19. After a pass incompletion, Ryan Lammle ran for gains of 5 and 4 yards to make it fourth and inches.
After a time-out Blue coach Ernie Howren decided to pass on the field goal attempt to tie the score and went for the touchdown to win. The exchanged from center was mishandled and Van Gorden was stopped for no gain giving the ball back to the Silver squad.
"It was pretty nerve wracking," Mauga said. "We knew they would go for it. We just knew we had to stop them. We had to get that win."
Galena's Tyler Ewald gave the Silver a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 28-yard field goal.
The Silver increased its lead to 10-0 at the outset of the third quarter when Maehler caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from McQueen's Nick Nistler. Spike Agosta ignited the drive with a 27-yard return on the second half kickoff.
It was the final football game for Dayton running back/wide receiver Zane Walker, who is headed to UNLV in the fall.
"This was my last game and it was awesome," Walker said. "The talent on this team is so amazing. It's just been great having these guys as teammates."
And it was the final game for Carson quarterback Kyle Bacon, who saw action for one series at quarterback in the third period.
"I had such a good time all week," said Bacon, who will focus on academics at the University of Nevada. "After competing against these guys all these years, it was a lot of fun to play on the same team with them."