FERNLEY – It was the loss of 25 seniors that posed most of the questions facing Fallon’s quest for a repeat this season as state champions. It was a handful of returners that had most of the answers as the Greenwave opened the Northern 3A season with a 26-13 win at Fernley on Friday night.
Cade Vercellotti carried the ball 30 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns and Conner Nelson caught eight passes for 91 yards, including a pair of touchdowns, from new quarterback Christian Nemeth to lead the Greenwave in the season opener for both teams.
Fallon forced five Fernley turnovers, intercepting Fernley quarterback Zach Burns four times, two of them leading to Greenwave scores.
“We did a pretty good job defensively,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “In the second half, we established the run better. We’ve just got to establish a rhythm.”
Nemeth’s first varsity pass went for 41 yards to sophomore Sean McCormick, and his second completion, on his fourth attempt, was a 45-yard touchdown to Nelson that put the Greenwave ahead 6-0 with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
“Offensively, it was very important to get the first score,” Nemeth said. “Once we got the first touchdown, everyone relaxed and played football.”
The Greenwave got a break on the next possession, when a roughing the punter penalty gave them the ball back at midfield after they’d gone three-and-out. Vercelotti had runs of 25 and 7 yards to set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Nemeth to Nelson that made it 12-0 with 11:02 left in the second quarter.
“Being a junior quarterback, there’s a lot of pressure,” Nemeth said of his first varsity start. “When you have guys like TJ Mauga and Conner Nelson, it’s nice to have them pick up my mistakes.”
Fernley cut the lead to 12-7 on an 80-yard touchdown run by quarterback Zach Burns, but the Greenwave got it back just before half. Brock Uptain intercepted Burns at the Fernley 34-yard line and returned it to the 10, and Vercellotti punched it in from 5 yards out two plays later for a 20-7 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Dalton Kaady picked off Burns for the first of two times at the Greenwave 36-yard line.
Fallon then went to the ground, driving 64 yards in eight plays, all runs by Vercellotti, the last a 3-yard touchdown with 11:35 left in the game that essentially put it out of reach at 26-7.
“That’s what we want to do,” Hill said. “We want to wear teams down in the fourth quarter.”
Fernley got a 1-yard score from Burns with 4:39 left in the game, but Kaady intercepted Burns again, and although his return for a touchdown was nullified by a penalty, the Greenwave took a knee to end the game.
Thomas Ranson contributed to this story.