It was a bitter way to end a magical run.
Eight turnovers crippled Fallon’s hopes of ending a 35-year drought in football. Fumbles and interceptions allowed Faith Lutheran to grind out a 17-0 win in the Division I-A state title game Saturday at Damonte Ranch.
The wave of fan support to start the day including a massive caravan, was not enough to overcome Fallon’s worst offensive performance of the season.
Thousands of fans packed the stadium and were ready to bust loose at any minute. They never got the chance.
The Greenwave’s high-flying scoring machine busted a belt and was stuck in neutral. Even when the best drive of the day landed the unit on the Crusaders’ 16-yard line, a fumble ended the drive.
Once the avalanche of turnovers commenced, there was little the Greenwave could do to get out of their own way. Whether it was nerves, the cold or pressing too much, Faith Lutheran was the benefactor.
The Crusaders’ power run game moved the chains behind Keenan Smith but managed only two significant drives. One drive netted a touchdown in the first quarter, the other for a 28-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
In between, a defensive slugfest ensued and the final score could have been worse if not for an impressive performance by Fallon’s defense.
On the field for much of the game, the unit did yield its share of yards, but held stiff. The Crusaders’, meanwhile, were able to pin Fallon’s offense inside its own 5 twice. The Wave found some success on the ground in the second quarter with running back Trent Tarner. He ripped off a 41-yard run and put the Wave in prime position to trim the 14-0 deficit.
However, a bobbled snap by quarterback Morgan Dirickson threw off the timing and the handoff was late, leaving Tarner helpless as he fumbled and Faith Lutheran dodged a bullet.
Give credit, though, to Faith Lutheran’s defense. They came to play and capatialized on the mistakes. Four interceptions — three in the fourth quarter — left Fallon befuddled.
The Wave’s typically explosive return game was never a factor. Fantastic special teams play from the Crusaders smothered Cameron Matzen and Tarner. The two never had a chance to find the open field.
In the end, it was a disappointment. The experience, though, should leave a feeling of hunger for next year’s club.
Returning most of its core, Fallon will reload, not rebuild as in the past. The offseason will see the team get better and learn from its mistakes.
Now, it’s just a matter of overcoming the mental hurdle of a crushing loss.
Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.