The memories of yesteryear are flooding back.
From former coach Tony Klenakis Sr., to former Fallon quarterback Randy Beeghly to Lester de Braga, Greenwave alumni have waited 35 years for another state title.
Fallon’s ride to the Division I-A state championship game has the town — new and old — in a frenzy for Saturday’s tilt against Faith Lutheran at 4:05 p.m. at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno.
“It’s been way too long,” Klenakis said laughing. “I’m thrilled that Fallon is playing for the state championship. Fallon has great tradition and it’s nice to see them back playing for a state championship again.”
This year’s team, though, is itching at the chance to scribble their names down in history along with the likes of the last state title team in 1978. Fallon, in fact, won three consecutive Class AA state titles (1976-78), but has been shut out since.
“I would love to see Fallon win a state title,” Klenakis said. “Every time I call home on Friday night, I ask my wife, “How did Fallon do?’ I’ve just been elated. Nobody is happier than me, trust me.”
Behind quarterback Brooke Hill — now the head coach — and Klenakis’ son Chris, who coaches at Iowa State University, Fallon made a playoff run in 1988 and 1989, but soon the program fell into futility.
The 1990s and 2000s brought blowouts and punchlines before the ship was righted in 2011 under Hill. That year, the Wave lost a heartbreaker, 28-24, to Truckee in the I-A state semifinals.
But the success of this year’s team has Tony Klenakis Sr., fired up. He was on the sidelines for those three titles — 14 years total as head coach — and could not be happier for the school, community, players and coaches.
“I’m very, very proud,” Klenakis Sr. said.
Klenakis, who trains racehorses in Phoenix, said he would not be able to attend the game, although his heart is with the Greenwave. Even though he will not be in attendance, Klenakis recounted his memories of those three championships and the players who made it happen.
Fallon’s streak started in ’76 and was led by a hard-nosed defense and signal-caller Randy Beeghly, who now calls Fallon games as an analyst on KKTU (99.5 FM) radio. The Wave pummeled Boulder City, 34-14, to capture the first trophy and cap an undefeated season.
“They were a very physical football team,” Klenakis said, who decline to mention specific players because he did not want to omit any player. “We always stressed team. They were a darn good team.”
Klenakis said the team was physical on defense, tackled well and the offense — running the double-slot — provided a tough run game and efficient passing attack.
Beeghly, though, remembered the offense as a wide-open attack for that era. Using four wideouts, Fallon threw the ball 10-15 times per game, which was very rare back then.
Most clubs used the wishbone or a fullhouse backfield running the triple-option or a power running attack.
“Football was always 3-yards and a cloud of dust,” Beeghly said. “My sophomore, junior year, Tony started to tweak that a little bit. We were considered really wide open. We threw it more than most teams in that era.”
Beeghly recalled how big the Eagles were, with a pair of 6-foot, 10-inch defensive ends and a 6-4 quarterback. The first half was a battle, he recounted, as Boulder City took a 14-7 lead. Fallon, though, tied the game on a TD pass from Beeghly to Bret Sorensen, and scored 20 points in the second half to claim the championship.
Beeghly completed 7 of 10 passes with four TDs.
“That team was, in a lot of ways, like this team they have now,” Beeghly said. “We had a lot of guys that were fast, they were explosive and could break off big plays. Our team was very athletic also.”
DeBraga, who played on the ’77 and ’78 teams as a sophomore and junior, recalled how tough-minded those clubs were and what it meant to the community.
“Back then, it was something we took pride in what we were doing,” de Braga said. “We had the mental edge on those teams. We worked hard every practice and it was a pivotal point. We had a bunch of kids who refuse to lose.”
In 1977, the Wave’s winning ways continued as Fallon upset undefeated Yerington, 21-13, in Yerington for the second championship.
“We had over 2,000 people travel to Yerington,” Klenakis said. “Back in those days, we had great fan support. We had a great administration, dedicated coaches, a great student body and a lot of good football players.”
But the program’s crowning achievement came in 1978. Dubbed the “Triple Crown,” Fallon slayed Yerington, 28-8, on a cold-snowy day in November at Bradley Field. Six to 8 inches of snow fell before the game, leaving administrators scrambling to clear the field, according to a report in the LVN.
“The kids really, really enjoyed that game,” Klenakis said.
For Fallon, though, some familiar names paved the way. Mike Regan, Keith Meyer, Bruce Corkill, Matt Bonde, de Braga, Wade Workman, James Dorman, James Pritchard, Sonny Zamora and Kenny McClelland bullied their way to a third straight title.
According to a story in the LVN in 1978, Meyer recovered a block punt for a touchdown to give the Wave a 7-0 lead. After Yerington tied the game, Zamora hit Russell Nolen for a 37-yard TD pass. McClelland caught the two-point conversion for a 15-8 lead before halftime.
Bonde then rushed for a 9-yard TD and Zamora hooked up with McClelland for a “short pass” with 30 seconds left in the game. Bonde rushed for 127 yards.
“They started off young and got better as the weeks went on,” Klenakis said. “Later in the year, come around state championship time, it (the offense) became really hard to stop.”