It was a bittersweet league championship.
The Lowry Buckaroos slugged out a 21-14 win over previous unbeaten Fallon in the Northern Division I-A regular season finale for both clubs on Friday at the Edward Arciniega Complex.
Despite the loss, however, the Greenwave earned the No. 1 seed for Friday’s first round playoff game against Fernley. Lowry, the third seed, travels to No. 2 Elko.
It’s the first home playoff game for the Greenwave in 25 years.
“I thought it was a real good high school football game,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “That’s what high school football is all about. You got to find a way to fight through adversity, and we haven’t had quite a lot of that this year. We’re still the No. 1 (seed). It stings, but I give it Lowry because I thought they played well. We are hosting the first playoff game here in 25 years, that’s a big deal.”
Fallon’s offense was held in neutral by a stingy defensive effort from the Buckaroos. Complicating matters, though, was the Wave’s own struggles with dropped passes, penalties, erratic passing and sloppy tackling.
Fallon quarterback Morgan Dirickson completed 7 of 24 attempts for 171 yards with one TD and two interceptions.
“It’s hard to stop those guys,” Lowry coach Tim Billingsley said. “We manned up on (Cameron) Matzen and Lecumberry had a couple picks and we were pretty happy with it.”
The Wave, though, struck first in the second quarter when Dirickson hit Cameron Matzen for a 69-yard touchdown pass. Fallon’s running game, led by Trent Tarner, moved the chains in the first half.
Lowry’s offense, however, struggled to find any holes in the running game as Fallon’s defense held the Buckaroos scoreless through the first half.
But Fallon’s tackling issues came back to bite the Wave.
Lowry, though, turned to quarterback Calvin Connors in the second half to outscore the Wave 21-7 and notch its third straight win over Fallon dating back to last year.
“We didn’t tackle well,” Hill said. “I noticed that during the game and talked about that at halftime. They came to play.”
The Buckaroos not only handed the Wave their first loss of the season, but held an offense averaging more than 53 points per game to their lowest output of the season.
Lowry’s physical style frustrated the Wave, and the defense picked off Dirickson twice — both by Tanner Lecumberry — to aid in the victory.
“We’ve got some good skill players back there,” Billingsley said of his secondary. “We pressed them a little bit. We did a great job of scouting them.”
But Connors and company turned up the heat in the third quarter. The slippery senior signal caller ran for 83 yards and frustrated the Wave defense with his evasiveness.
“I think we just had momentum,” Connors said. “We came together as a whole and just pounded the ball.”
After Lecumberry’s second interception, the Buckaroos marched 80 yards in eight plays and cut the lead to 7-6 on a 39-yard TD run by Brandon Okuma.
Lowry took the lead early in the fourth quarter when Connors hit Lecumberry for a 28-yard TD pass. Okuma then took a pitch on a fake PAT attempt to give the Buckaroos a 14-7 lead with 10:41 remaining.
Fallon, though, turned up the heat on Connors as Evan Bitter picked off a pass to set up the Wave at the Lowry 25-yard line. After a personal foul penalty pushed Fallon back to the 37, wide receiver Tyler Bagby took a pitch and slung a ball to Matzen for the tying score with 7:43 left.
But Lowry answered with a physical, time-consuming drive capped by a 5-yard TD run by Beau Billingsley. After another personal foul penalty by Fallon, Connors converted a 4th-and-4 from Fallon’s 31 with a 13-yard run with 1:55 remaining.
Fallon, though, had one more shot. As they did all game, Lowry’s kickoffs avoided Matzen — who has seven punt returns for a TD — and found Bagby, who returned the ball to the Lowry 45.
After Dirickson connected with Matzen for 22 yards to set up Fallon at Lowry 25, the Buckaroos defense stiffened. Kerry Buckmaster sacked Dirickson and three incompletions later the upset was complete.
“Guys got to be able to handle adversity,” Hill said. “It’s easy to play when you’re up by 40. It’s a lot tougher when it’s a tie ballgame in the fourth quarter.”
Lowry, though, still had an opportunity to move to the No. 1 seed and drop Fallon to third with another TD. Tim Billingsley, though, said his club was happy with the win and did not want to chance committing a turnover.
The Buckaroos surrendered an interception return for a TD at the end of the first half against Fernley about two weeks ago.
Connors tallied 190 yards on the ground, while Okuma added 96 and Billingsley 63. Connors also completed 4 of 12 passes for 52 yards.
Running back Trent Tarner added 94 yards on 17 carries. Matzen hauled in five passes for 141 yards and two TDs, while Bagby tallied two catches for 55 yards.
“We panicked a little bit,” Hill said. “We didn’t play our best game, but we are still the one seed. We got to turn the page and get after it next week.”
Southern Playoffs: Blowouts were the theme last week as the first round of the Southern Division I-A football playoffs began play.
Moapa Valley, the Sunrise Division No. 1 seed, shutout Cheyenne, 47-0. Faith Lutheran, the Sunset No. 1 seed, crushed Boulder City, 62-7.
Virgin Valley, the third seed from the Sunrise, upset second-seeded Mojave from the Sunset, 27-0. Desert Pines, the No. 2 seed from the Sunrise, dropped Clark, the No. 3 from the Sunset, 30-14.
Moapa Valley takes on Virgin Valley, while Faith Lutheran hosts Desert Pines. Both games are at 7 p.m. Friday.