RENO - It was cold and Bob Shaffer was soaked, but the Truckee High School football coach didn't mind in the least after being doused by his Wolverines at the end of their 37-23 victory against Virgin Valley in the NIAA 3A State Championship game, presented by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, on Saturday night at Mackay Stadium.
"I don't mind that now," Shaffer said, flashing a smile. "It's been a great ride."
The Wolverines scored touchdowns on three successive possessions bridging the third and fourth quarters to pull away for a 37-23 victory against Virgin Valley at Mackay Stadium. Ben Tonon scored on a 7-yard run for his second of three touchdowns with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter and Truckee (9-2) never looked back en route to the first state football championship repeat in school history. The Wolverines have won eight Nevada state titles since 1983 and five in the last 10 years.
"That was a well-played state championship game, just like it should be," said Shaffer, who is 107-17 in 11 years as head coach at Truckee.
Virgin Valley (6-7), which had won five of its last six games to reach the final, made it a close contest by scoring on back-to-back drives to end the first half and start the second.
Trailing 16-0 late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs got a break when senior cornerback David Henderson intercepted a Robert Jones pass and returned the ball 21 yards to the Truckee 28. Nine plays and two fourth-down conversions later, Henderson caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Frehner with 12 seconds remaining before halftime. Cas Zarate swept his left end, behind a lead block from Stewart Carboni, for a two-point conversion that cut Truckee's lead to 16-8.
Virgin Valley's momentum carried over after the intermission with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock to start the third quarter, capped when Frehner completed a fourth-and-7 pass to Zarate over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown pass, then the Bulldogs again went for two points on their conversion, but Zarate's run to tie the score was stopped well short of the goal line.
"When they scored right before the half and then scored again on that long drive, our kids could have folded at that point," Shaffer said. "We called our offense together on the sideline before the kickoff and told them, 'We have to change the momentum We have to stop this tidal wave. And that's the character of this team - they responded."
The Wolverines wasted little time in their answer, as took the ensuing kickoff and drove 72 yards in five plays. Three plays later, Brandon Peterson caught a pass from Jones that deflected off Virgin Valley's Henderson for a 36-yard gain to the 7. Then, on first-and-goal, Tonon swept his right end behind a block from pulling guard Devin Peterson for the touchdown.
Needless to say, the score was huge.
"That kind of got our crowd fired up," Shaffer said, "and on that drive, I think you saw some tiredness on their part. Even though they had momentum, I think that long drive took a lot out of them. They had to spend a lot of energy on that drive. And to their credit. They didn't fold at that point, either. They're a good team and they came right back after us."
The Bulldogs moved from their own 27 to the Truckee 26 - keyed by a 31-yard pass from Frehner to Cass Overman - but then turned the ball over on downs after Frehner's fourth-down pass fell incomplete at the goal line on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
With the momentum clearly back on their side again, the Wolverines marched 74 yards on nine plays and punched the ball in the end zone on Tonon's 6-yard sweep around right end. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior broke a tackle in the backfield at the 12 and rambled in for a score that made it 30-14 after Matt Klesken's PAT kick.
After the Bulldogs punted on their next possession, Truckee cashed in again on an 11-yard touchdown run by Lopez. Andrew Stewart, who led all rushers in the game with 94 yards on 11 carries, broke a 45-yarder on the drive.
The Wolverines were hot to start the game, too, as Lopez returned the opening kickoff 34 yards to midfield. Seven plays later, Tonon caught a 23-yard pass from Jones on a slant over the middle for a 7-0 lead.
Truckee's defense came up big later in the first quarter when Freddy Brenes led a charge that stopped Frehner on a fourth-and-inches play from the Virgin Valley 20. The stop paid off, as the Wolverines scored four plays later on a fourth-and-7 pass from Jones to Brandon Peterson for a 17-yard touchdown.
An interception by Paris Tenorio set up a 28-yard field goal by Klesken to extend Truckee's lead to 16-0 with 5:40 left in the second period.
Truckee rushed for 200 of its 257 yards and picked up seven of its 12 first downs after the intermission. In all, eight different backs carried the ball for the Wolverines.
"When you look at our stats, we have a lot of role players," Shaffer said. "We don't ask any one guy to carry us. We have a lot of guys, which means you can't expect to stop just one guy to stop us."
Pershing County (Lovelock) saw its streak of 24 successive victories over the past two seasons fall by the wayside as Lincoln County scored 37 unanswered points in the second half to capture a 37-16 victory in the 2A state championship game.
Lincoln County was down 16-0 when D.J. Lucchesi returned the second-half kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown to start the comeback in motion. Lucchesi caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eric Bernal later in the third period to tie the score and Bernal scored on a 2-yard keeper to put the Lynx ahead to stay.
Lincoln County ended the season 7-4. Pershing County finished at 12-1.
Pahranagat Valley, ranked No. 9 in the nation among 8-man football programs by Maxpreps.com, capped its 12-0 season with a 52-8 victory against Eureka to kick off the NIAA's state championship tripleheader at Mackay Stadium.
Six different players scored touchdowns for the Panthers, who led 32-0 at halftime and 52-8 at the end of three quarters.
n Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220