Football preview: Wave have sights on league title

Fallon junior running back Nathan Heck, left, runs through the line during a drill. The Greenwave finished third last season in the Northern Division I-A.

Fallon junior running back Nathan Heck, left, runs through the line during a drill. The Greenwave finished third last season in the Northern Division I-A.

When injuries wounded the offense depth became an issue, but this year’s Greenwave team is out to make sure last season’s collapse doesn’t happen again.

“There are some good seniors on this team. It’s definitely probably one of the youngest groups we’ve had,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “They’re a pretty talented group. Hopefully they acclimate themselves quickly. If they do, they’re going to be pretty good.”

Fallon, which went to the playoffs for the third straight year since relocating to the Division I-A, began last season with an impressive winning streak heading into the final two weeks. The offense was rolling and the defense shined during the streak, which hit seven wins after Fallon shut out Fernley, which had one of the biggest upsets in the state’s history when it snapped Truckee’s 41-game winning streak on the road.

But, as they say, the rest was history as injuries led to a 10-point loss to Truckee before Fallon suffered back-to-back crushing losses to Lowry to end both the regular season and playoffs.

Another chapter, however, begins for Hill’s squad after it lost 15 seniors from its 48-member team and will be counting on the younger players, including four sophomores, to step up.

“Obviously, our goal is to keep improving from what we have done the last few years,” Hill said. “We have to win our league. It’s not going to be an easy task to win league and get the home (playoff) game. All of that depends on how our young guys come out. We’re going to need those younger guys and receivers to step up. Once we get on the field and they prove that they can do it, that’s important.”

The Greenwave returns several senior playmakers including quarterback Morgan Dirickson, running back and outside linebacker Trent Tarner, fullback and defensive back Bryce Hill, tight end and linebacker Dakota Schelling and wide receiver and defensive end Beau Marshall to lead the senior class.

This year’s team is one of the youngest Brooke Hill has fielded since taking over last decade. Fallon has the talent to help fill in the holes and create depth on the roster.

But injuries weren’t the only cause that fueled Fallon’s losing streak to end 2012. Brooke Hill said Fallon relied too much on the big play and didn’t run the ball as much. He’s making sure that doesn’t happen again as Fallon looks to compete in an open league this season.

“We were more of a finesse team last year more so than the year before. We still have to be a physical team,” he said. “We relied too much on the big play. When it came down to November, you have to be able to run the football and we didn’t do that. We’re going to be a more physical football team. We feel like we have lot of depth.”

And Fallon will need its young players to adjust quickly if the Greenwave wants to make the playoffs and win the division.

Bob Shaffer retired as Truckee’s head coach after the Wolverines won their fourth-straight title last season, which could make the North competitive from top to bottom. Elko looks improved, and Lowry was the second-best team in the North. Fernley had the upset of the century against Truckee and Spring Creek, Dayton, Sparks, South Tahoe and Wooster look to right their ships.

“It’s going to be a competitive league this year, but I feel it’s more open than in the past. If we take care of business and get better every single day, we’ll be right there,” Hill said.

After losing many from last year’s squad, one of the biggest holes for Hill is the offense as Dirickson lost his top receivers to graduation.

Dirickson completed nearly 60 percent of his passes last season as he averaged 195.3 yards per game and threw for 18 touchdowns against five interceptions. Dirickson, who participated in numerous college camps during the offseason, has two returners to target out of the Pistol, including Marshall and Schelling.

Marshall and Schelling combined for 10 receptions, 106 yards and one touchdown last season.

Hill said he plans on using juniors Tyler Bagby in the slot position and Dylan Jabines lining up in the H back. Marshall will start in X and Bradley Porter in Z.

“We lost of a lot production on our receiving corps. Obviously, we lost our top three receivers but we feel like we got some young guys who can come in,” Hill said. “They’re talented and can do some good things.”

Running the ball shouldn’t be a cause for concern despite Tarner leading an inexperienced group in the backfield.

Tarner finished second on the team in rushing with 668 yards on 65 carries, netting an average of 10.28 yards, which was the best on the team. Tarner also scored eight touchdowns. Dirickson picked up some ground yardage as he amassed 124 yards on 41 carries, including a touchdown.

Along with Tarner, Hill plans on using junior Nathan Heck and has alternatives in senior Alex Nelson, junior Charles Fulks and sophomore Cameron Matzen to carry the offense on the ground. Bagby also ran the ball and had the fourth-highest number of carries with seven last year, as he ran for 48 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, Hill will need several players to step up after losing six of the top 10 tacklers last year.

Most of the defensive line, however, returns to help stop the run game and pressure the quarterback.

Orrin Smith, Justin Hatfield, Tarner, Bagby, Schelling return on the defensive side for the Greenwave. Hatfield, Bagby and Smith, though, were the best pass rushers last season as they combined for 17 sacks.

Tarner highlights the secondary as he’s the only returner who had an interception in 2012. Schelling will see action, too, and sophomore Evan Bitter will start at outside linebacker and sophomore Riley Williams and Jabines are competing for inside linebacker.

Special teams shouldn’t present a problem for Fallon as Marshall kicked most of the field goals and kickoffs last year and Hatfield and Dirickson shared punting duties.

Marshall totaled 1,653 yards in kickoffs, including three touchbacks, and was mostly consistent with PATs, converting 17 of 22 but missing his only field-goal attempt.

Tarner will be the primary kickoff returner after finishing second on the team last year with four returns for 108 yards. Along with Tarner, Bagby, Heck and Matzen will returns kicks and punts this season. Matzen was called up as a freshman last year to return for Fallon during the playoffs against Lowry.


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