The road to reaching state gets tougher for the Greenwave football team.
They proved last week against Elko like they’ve done in previous seasons with their backs against the wall that Fallon will not make it easy.
After blanking the Indians on the road last week in the first round of the 3A Northern playoffs, the Greenwave travels back to Elko County to face the undefeated Spring Creek Spartans tonight. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the game can be heard on KTUU (99.5) with Larry Barker calling the play-by-play and Randy Beeghley providing color commentary. The winner advances to next week’s state semifinal game.
“I think that’s kind of been our mentality, my mentality, even back when I was a player, we were always the underdog,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “We’ve been the favorite the last few years. It’s a great position to be in. The kids are embracing this. We are the defending state champs and to be underdog, there’s a chip on your shoulders. We don’t shy away from who we’ve played. We’ll get it one way or another. That’s our philosophy.”
Fallon presented the most difficult challenge to Spring Creek last month when it took a fourth-down conversion and touchdown completion with less than 5 seconds left for the Spartans to stay undefeated. The 42-36 margin of victory was the closest for Spring Creek in the season.
The objective tonight is trying to limit the potent passing attacked helmed by senior quarterback Jon Jund, one of the premier passers in the state. It helps that Fallon saw what Jund can do in that October loss but Hill’s goal is damage control.
“I don’t know if you take it away. He’s such a good quarterback,” Hill said. “He’s very similar to (ex-Greenwave’s) Conner Richardson. If you take Conner away from our football team, it’s not the same. I don’t know if you try to stop him, but you minimize the damage he’s going to do.”
Spring Creek, though, presents a challenge in the running game to complement Jund’s pass attack.
“They’re a good run team. They move a bit,” Hill said. “(Tanner) is a legitimate weapon for them. We definitely have to be better against the run than last time even though Jund got 300-something yards last time. We didn’t necessarily do bad job last time. They’re still a good football team.”
Like Hill’s preached all season, especially in the second half, Fallon needs to worry about itself and let everything else fall into place. Tightening up the pass coverage and getting pressure on Jund is a start for the Greenwave but it ultimately comes down to basics – tackling.
“We’ve got to do a better job in the pass coverage, and that’s tough to do,” Hill said. “They have a lot of weapons. You can’t really double anybody a lot. You’ve got to be sound in space. I don’t think we’ve tackled them well in space.”
Fallon is not your typical No. 5 seed and has been playing like its old self lately. The Greenwave’s been averaging more than 400 yards and 30 points on offense since switching to quarterback and senior Conner Nelson. Throw in the league’s top running back, senior Cade Vercellotti, and receiving weapons of seniors Brock Uptain and Dylan Ernst and juniors Christian Nemeth and Anthony Freeman, and Fallon’s just as potent as tonight’s foe.
“I think Conner is becoming more comfortable as a quarterback,” Hill said. “Brock Uptain had a big game last game. Dylan Ernst is coming up as a big receiver in the last couple games. We’re getting back to some balance that can help us out.”
And aside from the Spring Creek game, Fallon’s defense has been dominant in the second half.
“Definitely, this team has found their niche,” Hill said. “They found out who they are. The 2011 team had similarities. There really are some parallels to that team. Those guys wanted it when playing those games on the road. They embrace that, too. These guys are kind of along that line.”