The game of the year, at least for now.
Two long-time rivals and two of last year’s co-champions tangle today to determine the inside track for home-field advantage in the Northern Division I-A football playoffs when Fallon visits its old nemesis Elko.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“They are a power run team and a physical team,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “We have a lot of respect for them.”
Both clubs sit at 4-0 in league play, while Dayton, Spring Creek, Fernley and Lowry are each 3-1. The winner of today’s Fallon-Elko matchup, meanwhile, will rest atop the league and be in prime position to claim the No. 1 seed.
Fallon, though, appears to have the tougher strength of schedule down the stretch with games against Spring Creek, Fernley and Lowry, who are all 3-1. Elko, though, has Lowry, Spring Creek and Dayton (3-1) remaining.
“Our approach is we move from one game to the next,” Hill said of tempering emotions. “I think our kids understand that and have had a really good week of practice. We can’t get too high or too low and just have to go out and play the game.”
Elko does one thing and does it really well — run the ball. The Indians pound the ball and don’t mind eating the clock in the process.
Throwing, meanwhile, is only in desperation, but so far this season Elko has been anything but desperate. The Indians’ closest game this season was a 20-point thumping over Wooster on Sept. 5.
Fallon, meanwhile, is finding its groove and once again destroying anyone in its path. The Greenwave has outscored their last two opponents 110-28.
History, meanwhile, does not favor the Indians. Fallon smoked Elko, 48-20, last season and holds a three-game winning streak over the Indians since 2011.
Despite the recent history, the Wave is finding their groove, especially on defense.
“We feel like our front eight is a pretty good front eight,” Hill said. “We like the challenge … that’s what high school football is about.”
While Elko is a run-first, second and third team as the Indians have attempted 44 passes all season and only 23 by starting quarterback Jacob Conklin.
The run game, however, is led by Jason Wilson, who has racked up 426 yards and seven touchdowns. His running mate, Alex Puentes, has gained 325 yards and scored four TDs as Elko’s No. 2 option.
If and when the Indians throw the ball, Nate Klekas is Conklin’s favorite target. The all-state basketball player leads the team with nine receptions for 207 yards and three TDs.
“Wilson is a good, speedy back and one of the best in the league,” Hill said. “They use a lot of play-action … and throw it up to him (Klekas). We will know where he is every time on the field. He’s a matchup problem for teams. He understands how positioning … obviously carrying over from basketball.”
Fallon relies on its balance and playmakers to move the chains. The Wave struggled early this season with their passing game, but senior quarterback Joe Pyle has been more relaxed and comfortable that past two weeks.
The timing with the receivers is on point and Connor Richardson, Dylan Jabines, Cameron Beyer and Jordan Schultz give Pyle four options in the passing game.
“We’re prepare to do both,” Hill said. “If they are going to try to stop our run game, then we’ll have to put it in the air a little bit. Obviously, he (Pyle) had a big week last week. Hopefully, we can get plays either way.”
The steady force, though, has been the three-headed rushing attack of Nathan Heck, Charles Fulks and Trae Workman. They run hard and fast and have allowed Pyle to find his comfort zone under center.
Each back has the skill and speed to break off a big run and each has. But the physical nature of Elko will be a test the backs have not seen since the opening game against Cardinal Newman (Calif.).
“We are pretty good up front,” Hill said. “This is one of those games were we might not get the big plays and we have to be satisfied with moving the chains. I’m sure that’s what a little bit of what they are going to do to us, so we have to match that.”