RENO — The quest for the Holy Grail of high school sports came up empty on a frigid, cold night in south Reno.
The Greenwave football team’s high-powered offense turned the ball over seven times — and once on special teams — in the school’s most important game in 35 years as Fallon was shut out for the first time since dropping to the Division I-A three years ago. Faith Lutheran, which was reclassified to Division I-A two years ago, won the school’s first championship after a 17-0 win at Damonte Ranch High School.
But aside from the season-ending loss, the Greenwave still exceeded expectations and posted video game numbers.
Fallon tied the record for most games won in a single season with 10, defeated a Southern Nevada school for the first time since 1976 and finished as one of the top four teams in the state in two of the three last seasons. The Greenwave also scored at least 47 points in their first eight games of the season, beating opponents by an average of four touchdowns, while scoring on all three sides of the ball — offense, defense and special teams. The offense amassed more than 4,000 total yards, the defense recorded 28 sacks and 23 interceptions, and the special teams was solid all year with a plethora of touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns.
And the town was there for every step.
“It was amazing. I knew waking up this morning that I was going to be playing the last high school football game of my life,” Fallon senior quarterback Morgan Dirickson said. “To have the whole town kind of rally — and we had the entire stands filled — that was amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough for their support for the last three years and especially this year.”
The school and community packed every home game this season and sent massive caravans all over the region, including Elko County. The city of Fallon sent off the Greenwave with a massive escort that had upwards to four miles worth of followers as the buses exited city limits. The Damonte Ranch home stands were nearly packed beyond capacity, forcing late arrivals to stand along the fence to cheer on the North’s best team.
“It was amazing. We really want to thank the community for coming out and giving us that support,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “It was a great feeling. It was great for our kids. I hope we brought a little community pride.”
Second-best in the Silver State is not bad for a team that struggled to win games for two decades before the NIAA finally dropped Fallon into a more competitive and smaller-school size division after the 2009 season. And while it still stings that the Greenwave were one win away from winning a state title, Fallon will be back as 12 seniors graduate, leaving 38, including several playmakers, ready for the center stage in 2014.
“There are young guys coming up,” said Dirickson, who’s still mulling over options to continue playing in college. “They’ve had experiences that a lot of people will never have and that will especially help them carry that out for the rest of their high school careers. They’re a great bunch of guys and can do great things.”
Without Dirickson, who won the starting job as a sophomore, and the rest of the 11 seniors, including running back Trent Tarner and sack specialist Dakota Schelling, Fallon might have missed out on the state tournament completely, let alone finishing in the top six to qualify for the regional playoffs.
This year’s senior class produced 17 wins in two seasons with only five losses, including three against Lowry, one to Truckee and Faith Lutheran.
“That’s a heck of a job by those seniors,” Hill said. “You can’t say enough about them. There’s only 12 but they came to work every single day and they kind of reflected the toughness we want on this football team. I appreciate every last one of them.”
The foundation was built four years ago when the Greenwave faced a more balanced and fair schedule after the realignment. Each season continues to add a solid layer of experience with the 2013 team’s success putting the program on the brink of being a regular in the state playoffs.
Inheriting an undefeated (against Division I-A teams) junior varsity team along with the 38 varsity returners, next year’s Greenwave will be out to prove that this year’s memorable and unforgettable run to the state championship is a prelude of success to come.
“The future of Greenwave football is good,” Hill said. “We’ve got a lot of kids coming back off this football team and we’ve got to get faster and stronger. We’ve got to get better and if they commit to do that, then we have every chance to get back here.”