One team needed to come from behind in the second half to pull out the victory. The other blew a two-touchdown lead in the second half, losing its season opener on the road.
Both teams meet tonight at 7 p.m. when Fallon hosts cross-valley rival Fernley for the 3A North opener after the Greenwave edged 4A Hug and the Vaqueros dropped a heartbreaker to Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“They’re very athletic. They had the lead in that ballgame and just didn’t hold it,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said of Fernley. “They have some talent and a returning quarterback. They’ve got some size up front. They present a very stiff challenge and, of course, it’s a rivalry game.”
Unlike last year when Fernley and Fallon opened the season against each other, both played non-conference opponents to open this year and Hill said that was important to get a head start on attacking the flaws from the Hug game. Fallon opened with a non-league opponent two years ago — albeit a loss — but never looked back, winning the rest of its games for the state title.
“I think it’s huge. It’s a luxury we didn’t get last year,” Hill said about the schedule. “You can practice all you can and scrimmage but it’s a whole different story for 48 minutes. (The Hug game) is definitely going to help us as we go into league this week.”
As the league season begins tonight when both teams battle at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex, Fallon’s hoping to start its campaign toward playoff seeding in the right direction. The game will be broadcast on KKTU 99.5 with longtime announcer Larry Barker calling the play-by-play and 2017 Greenwave Hall of Fame inductee Randy Beeghly providing the color.
Fallon relied on its defense last year to help win the season opener at Fernley but the Vaqueros have more experience on the offensive side of the ball this year. Led by quarterback Zach Burns running the veer option, Fernley dominated most of last week’s game in San Francisco, racking up a 26-14 lead in the second half.
“They’re going to give us some different looks than Hug,” Hill said. “They’re going to use the option. Defensively, they’re more of a team like us. They’re an even-front team. They’re going to stop the run and they are very aggressive.”
After a defensive score put Fernley on the scoreboard, running back Aaron Proctor ran in an 8-yard touchdown and Burns found Cameron Bertok for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Burns also had a 1-yard touchdown run in the second half, which gave Fernley the 12-point lead.
The Fernley offense spotted Sacred Heart Cathedral multiple times, giving the defense a short field to protect. After the defense surrendered a two-play touchdown drive with 11.2 seconds left in the first half, Fernley was stopped on its own 31-yard line on 4th and 2, which immediately led to a 31-yard touchdown pass. Burns lost the ball on Fernley’s next possession, resulting in a 43-yard return touchdown; then the offense stalled for the second time in three drives when a fake punt was botched on Fernley’s 42.
This week, though, could be a different story with not only tonight’s game beginning the league schedule, but it’s also a rivalry between the two schools only separated by a 30-minute drive.
“We don’t try to play it up as a rivalry game but the kids know it is,” Hill said. “We’ve got to let them know this is the first league game. We don’t want to go overboard with it. The quicker they put that aside and play football, the better.”
Like Fernley, though, Fallon had its own problems against Hug but was still able to prevail.
The Greenwave had an interception called back because of a penalty, which led to a Hug score. Fallon fumbled in the first half although it didn’t result in any Hug points. The defense was solid for most of the night but the biggest setback was a deep touchdown pass in the first half. Fallon did sustain one injury when Tyler Word left in the second half; he will also miss tonight’s game. Tristan Rodarte, who didn’t play last week after an injury during the scrimmage, will be back tonight.
“We were going to make some young mistakes. We knew that going into that game,” Hill said. “We’ve got to get better. We’re going to make young mistakes but we’ve got to make fewer. It’s not that we don’t understand, we just have to be consistent. We’re going to be pretty good on the offensive side and pretty good on the defensive side.”
The offense showed promise with sophomore quarterback Elijah Jackson at the helm. He connected with junior Sean McCormick for a touchdown and McCormick also scored from the ground. On special teams, sophomore Brock Richardson ran back a kickoff for a touchdown, proving to be a pivotal point in the game.
The goal, though, is to continue to improve each week and allow the experience to mold the new Greenwave into a state competitor. In time, Hill said Fallon will be a threat but the focus right now is Fernley and staying unbeaten in league.
“You want to win the league so you can get that bye and host playoff games,” Hill said. “You want to start off well and not play catchup from the get-go. Every game is important. As long as you focus on the opponent one step at a time, everything will take care of itself.”