The Greenwave played its best defensive game in a month, yet it was the running game that rolled Friday night under a full moon in an NIAA 3A Northern League football playoff game.
Fallon quarterback Sean McCormick rushed for four touchdowns, while Brock Richardson ran for three more as the Wave, 9-2 overall, upended Sparks 49-13 at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex. Sparks ends its season at 4-7, while Fallon travels to Spring Creek on Thursday for a semifinal regional game.
McCormick began the season as a running back but shifted to quarterback in late September after starter Elijah Jackson suffered a season-ending leg injury. Against Sparks, McCormick rushed for three first-quarter touchdowns of 16, 41 and 31 yards, and Tallon Amezquita booted a trio of extra points as Fallon jumped out to a 21-0 lead before Sparks scored. On the other side of the ball, the defense cut off Sparks’ outside rushing game and allowed only 132 yards rushing and 96 yards passing.
Fallon coach Brooke Hill said the Greenwave, which defeated Sparks 48-23 in mid-October, executed much better against the Railroaders.
“Our kids were focused and executed,” Hill said. “Our weapons were back tonight. Our defense played well, we got some turnovers and the defensive line played better as did the secondary. We had a collective effort on both sides of the ball.”
The Greenwave wasted no time in taking the lead against Sparks, which made its first postseason appearance in nine years. On the Railroaders’ first possession, McCormick intercepted a pass on the Greenwave 38. On Fallon’s fourth play — second down and 10 from the 17 — McCormick cradled the ball to score the game’s first touchdown barely 2 minutes into the game.
On Fallon’s next series, McCormick put Fallon in Sparks’ territory with a 19-yard pass to his brother Tommy. On the next play, Sean McCormick burst through the line and outraced the Railroaders to the end zone. A good drive produced McCormick’s third touchdown of the quarter. Fallon began its third series from its own 28-yard line. On the seventh play, McCormick kept his head down through the defensive line and then slipped past three tacklers to score with 4:58 left in the opening period.
McCormick, who gained a season-high 261 yards on 14 carries, took off from the Sparks’ 27 and headed toward the Fallon sideline before changing course to the opposite side of the field. Once he turned the corner on the Sparks’ side, he sprinted to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the night.
McCormick said his teammates responded well for Fallon’s first playoff game
“We came out to play from the start of the first whistle,” he said. “For the last two weeks, we’ve been slow and sloppy and going through the motions. This week we came out, fired up and read, and we dominated them from the start.”
Not only was McCormick churning up the grass with his running, but Richardson also showed no effects of a pulled groin from last week as he scored on runs of 2, 3 and 6 yards.
Before Richardson scored his first touchdown, Sparks cut the lead on trickery. Carlos Rodriguez faked a punt and snaked his way through the Fallon line 56-yards, and his point after made the score 21-7.
“We played the first half as good a half we have played all year except for that fake punt,” Hill said.
On Fallon’s ensuing series, however, McCormick took the kickoff on the Greenwave 5-yard line and brought it back 28 yards before the Railroaders’ Colby Bowman tackled him. McCormick gained 35 yards on five plays, and he also completed a pass to Christian Nemeth for 14 yards. On a second and 4 from the 13, McCormick ran wide to his left before he was pushed out at the 1. On the next play, Richardson scored from the 1.
Richardson, who rushed for 98 yards on 13 carries, scored two touchdowns within 3 minutes in the third quarter. On a four-play drive, he ran for 30 yards before being dragged down at the 7. Two plays later he barreled in from 3 yards out. McCormick ran the 2-point conversion that gave Fallon a 42-7 lead. Because Fallon had a 35-point lead, a running clock was implemented.
Richardson also scored the final Greenwave touchdown from the 6-yard line with 8:12 left in the game. Fireworks happened after Richardson scored. A Sparks player punched a Fallon lineman who then responded with a punch of his own. Both players were ejected.
McCormick said the Greenwave’s game plan against Sparks worked effectively.
“Our offensive coordinator Coach O (Lalo Otuafi) sees the line and where it needs to execute and block,” he said.
McCormick said the running holes opened, and the running backs were able to punch through the line.
Sparks scored the game’s final touchdown. After Rodriguez ran the kickoff to the 35, an unsportsmanlike penalty called on Fallon placed the ball near midfield. Sparks’ quarterback Vashisth Patel engineered the six-play drive that resulted in a 40-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, wide receiver Alex Choate.
Patel finished the night completing 6 of 11 passes for 91 yards and two interceptions. Choate snared three of those passes for 79 yards.
First-year Sparks coach Brad Rose may have been disappointed with the loss, but he remained upbeat about how the Railroaders progressed this year.
“This is our first year with the program, and we made a lot of progress,’ he said of the players and coaching staff. “But Fallon showed its playoff experience tonight.”
Rose had praise for Rodriguez’s running and kicking, and commended Patel for his final game as a senior.
“He stepped up during the year and became a total quarterback,” Rose said. “Next year we have a strong group coming up with the juniors.”