After running through the league with dominant force, the Greenwave football team is not taking Chaparral for granted.
As matter of fact, Fallon must dominate the Cowboys quickly to avoid a second-round loss, which the Wave suffered one year ago.
The Wave’s semifinal game is at home Saturday at 1 p.m. against the No 2 seed from Las Vegas after a convincing win against the Fernley Vaqueros, 49-6 last week.
“Obviously our kids played well,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said of the game against the Vaqueros, “and we played good on both sides of the ball. So when our kids are playing well on both sides, we’ve had some pretty dominating performances. But I think that was one of our most dominant of the year.”
The Cowboys, 5-1 in D1-A and 9-2 overall, advanced in the playoffs after beating Faith Lutheran Crusaders, 21-20. The Crusaders ended their season at 7-0 in the D1-A regular standings and 9-2 overall, a team that shut out the Wave two years ago in the state championships.
Hill said that Chaparral is a very strong up-and-coming program, evident in their play this season.
“They’ve gotten a lot better in the past few years, as you can see in the way they play,” Hill said. “So we have to be on our ‘A game’, and we have to have our best practices yet, as I say every week. It’s a one week season all over again and we have to do everything we can to try to win it.”
Fallon quarterback Connor Richardson has more focus on his passing game than Chaparral quarterback Andrew Solis, with Richardson passing for 2,262 yards and 30 touchdowns, and Solis passing for 1,200. Both Hill and Chaparral coach Paul Nihipal said, however, that their quarterbacks are improved leaders who have grown throughout the season. Among other Wave leaders, co-captain Johnny Mayo is currently at 62 tackles and five sacks, while co-captain Evan Bitter is at 60 tackles, three sacks. Co-captain Riley Williams has 57 tackles. These four captains help make up the 24 total seniors on the team that benefit the leadership of the Wave, Hill said.
“When you have that many seniors that know how to win,” Hill said, “it just permeates throughout the team and hopefully the program. The guys below them learn how to do it that way and that kind of carries on. Every year the last five years we’ve had some really strong seniors.”
Hill said a reliable leader is not solely made by seniority, however, and work ethic is part of the equation that has carried the Wave to an undefeated regular season and allowed them to press on through the playoffs.
“The guys that are ‘Yes coach’ guys that do what we ask, they believe and buy in,” Hill said. “But they also have to perform, and know they’ve got to be productive. It’s tough for a guy to lead who is not productive so you’ve got to have that mature approach. In our senior leaders, it’s not the same every year. Some are vocal, some are not so vocal and do it with their play and how they carry themselves. When that filters down to everybody else and they take on that attitude, that’s what we want our leaders to do. We have four captains but we have a lot more leaders than that.”
Also in the playoffs, the Desert Pines Jaguars, a team that shut out Fallon last year in the semifinals and were the No. 1 team in Southern Nevada, were upset by Moapa Valley Pirates last week, 13-12.
While the theme of the playoffs for other teams seems to be upsets and close wins, Hill said that the Wave will depend on its adjustments in game to win.
“The kids do a really good job offensively and then also defensively of doing that too,” Hill said.
“Because you go in with a game plan, but obviously they’re planning too, so you’re going to have to be flexible and versatile in what you’re trying to do. The kids have done just that, and they’ll keep doing that.”