Green and white pennants crisscross over South Taylor Street — the city’s main gauntlet to 1 Greenwave Circle — to serve as a subtle reminder that Fallon is hosting a 3A state semifinal football game on Saturday against Pahrump Valley.
Fallon, which comes into the game with a 10-0 (9-0 league) record after defeating Fernley last week in a playoff game, is seeking its second state title since the Wave defeated Moapa Valley in 2015. Pahrump (7-3 overall, 5-0 league) won its first playoff game in 40 years, holding off Boulder City, 32-30, to become the No. 2 seed from the Southern 3A.
Fallon hosts the Trojans at 1 p.m. with the winner advancing to play the winner of the Moapa Valley-Truckee game on Nov. 17. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on KKTU FM radio, 99.5, with Larry Barker doing the play by play and Randy Beeghly offering analysis.
Fallon coach Brooke Hill, who surpassed the legendary Tony Klenakis, Sr., this season as the winningest football coach in Fallon history, has nothing but respect for Pahrump.
“They’re a very physical team, they got a lot of size and have some good backs who run hard,” Hill said. “They’re not really a passing team, but they’re the type of team who will pound it out against you.”
The Greenwave defense hasn’t seen a running back who can punish a front line. Against Boulder City, Pahrump running back Nico Velazquez gained 180 yards on 34 carries. Velazquez, one of three senior rushers, comes into Saturday’s game with 1,320 yards on 194 carries, Casey Flennory rushed for 788 yards and Joey Koenig added 279 yards. Velazquez can also give special team defenses headaches as he returned a kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown against the Eagles.
“They try to keep possession of the football,” Hill pointed out. “What they do is not elaborate, but what they do is well executed.”
Sophomore Dylan Wright is not flashy with his stats but steady as the team’s quarterback. He completed 14 of 31 passes for 525 yards and seven touchdowns, enough to keep opposing defenses honest in their coverage. He also rushed for 145 yards and scored six touchdowns on the ground.
To run against Fallon, Pahrump will have to create holes around 6-foot-5, 295-pound Ben Dooley and another 290-pounder, Benni Otuafi, and if they run outside, the Trojans will contend with defensive end Brenden Larsen, Trey Rooks or Thomas Steele. The Trojans match up with 303-pounder Zach Trieb, 298-pounder Jakob Landis, Armani McGhee at 6-2, 287, Caleb Sproul at 6-3, 270 and Brandon Bunker at 6-4, 268.
Both teams have a common opponent. Earlier in the season Lowry edged Pahrump, 41-40, in Winnemucca. Lowry’s passing game accounted for 225 passing yards and four touchdowns, but the running game netted only 129 yards and one touchdown.
Flennory and Rodriguez, who had 257 yards rushing, each scored two touchdowns against the Buckaroos.
“They execute their offense really well, and we have to as well,” Hill said.
Since the beginning of the season when Pahrump struggled, the Trojans have put together a five-game winning streak that included a 66-0 win over Western.
“Their offense allows them to be in ball games, and they have won the close games,” Hill said.
Fallon, on the other hand, blanked Lowry, 43-0, for its fourth straight shutout to end the regular season last month. The Greenwave defense stymied the Buckaroos with 7 yards passing and 58 yards rushing. The Wave had 220 yards passing and 209 yards rushing, but the starters gave way to the reserves and a running clock in the second half.
“We put together our own report on them,” Hill said of Pahrump. “We’ve evaluated film … and we have a pretty good grasp of what they do. They don’t pull any punches. They line up and use their size to move the ball.”
Hill said Pahrump’s goal is probably trying to keep the ball out of Fallon’s hands.
“We always knew their team has speed, but we have speed ourselves. Our versatility is to our advantage,” Hill pointed out.
Hill said Pahrump is a much better team from the mid-August season opener.
“We’re expecting a dogfight … two great football teams here on a Saturday,” Hill added.
Fallon, though, has outscored the Trojans, 480 points to 381, but the defense may be Fallon’s ace. The Greenwave allowed only 72 points while Pahrump yielded 227. Fallon, nevertheless, scored 66 touchdowns during the season. The offense’s running game gained 2,498 yards with Sean McCormick leading the team with 1,187 yards and 18 touchdowns. He carried the ball 127 times for an average of 9.3 yards per carry.
McCormick played in Fallon’s state championship game in 2015 and feels the experience will help him and his teammates.
“I got to see how a state champion team practices, plays and handles business,” said McCormick, who verbally committed to play college football at the University of Idaho. “We have that same type energy for Saturday’s game.”
During practice, he said the team has been staying as consistent as possible.
“No mess around, stay focused,” he said.
Although Fallon’s four-game shutout streak ended with the Fernley win last week, he said Fallon played well in its 54-13 shellacking of the Vaqueros.
Quarterback Elijah Jackson, who spent half of 2017 on the sidelines with injuries, is a double threat. He scrambled for 761 yards on 61 carries and scored 12 touchdowns. Leading receiver Brock Richardson also doubled as a running back and gained 253 yards on 32 carries, good for eight touchdowns.
Jackson threw for 21 touchdowns and completed 104 of 159 passes for 1,856 yards. Richardson was his favorite target, and the junior receiver hauled in 47 passes for 1,083 yards and 18 touchdowns. Tommy McCormick snared 32 passes for 577 yards and five touchdowns.
Richardson sat in the stands during Fallon’s 2015 run.
“I’m excited to play in the daylight against a Southern (Nevada) team,” Richardson said. “I saw my brother’s team beat Chaparral, and we want to do the same thing.”
The 2018 defense recorded a total of 557 tackles and sacked opposing quarterbacks 19 times. Larsen, who had an interception as did his brother Bryce against Fernley, said the Wave will be ready for anything against Pahrump.
“Having homefield advantage will help us,” he said. “It’s hard to come up here and play us. We’ll work hard in practice and not make any mistakes, and we’ll be ready for Saturday.”
Seniors Gabe Hardy and Tristan Rodarte know the season is on the line this weekend.
“The coaches will push us to get this win and keep going,” Hardy predicted. “Our defense is pretty sharp.”
Rodarte said Fallon should have an advantage with its special teams. The Fallon defensive end, defensive back and punter, who averaged 38 yards, said the Wave will be ready.
Rodarte was a few freshmen when he was called up to practice and play on the state team. Now, Rodarte is a team leader.
“The younger kids look up to us,” he said. “They see where we’re working hard to win another state championship.”