The best teams in the Nevada 3A face each other this weekend in what may be another historical game for Nevada prep sports.
Truckee and Fallon played one of the most competitive high-school football games of the season more than two months ago, yet each team knows the stakes are higher on Saturday afternoon for the Nevada 3A championship game at Carson High School. Fallon has put together a perfect season, going 11-0 overall and 9-0 in league, and except for an early 32-29 loss to Fallon, Truckee is 11-1 overall and 8-0 in league. Fallon and Truckee also played well on the road, posting 5-0 and 6-0 records, respectively.
The Wolverines return to the state-championship stage for the first time since 2012, while the Wave seeks its second 3A title since 2015 when Fallon defeated Moapa Valley. Game time is at 5 p.m., and KKTU FM radio (99.5) will broadcast the game live. The LVN will update the scores on its Facebook page. In 2013, Fallon played in its first state football game since the 1970s, but the Wave lost to Faith Lutheran.
Fallon coach Brooke Hill said this season comes down to what should be another game for the ages between two storied teams.
“It’s between the best two programs in our division playing for it,” said Hill, a 1990 CCHS grad who’s now the Greenwave’s winningest football coach. “It will be a battle. The team that makes the most adjustment will have a shot at it.”
Truckee had the hardest road to advance to Saturday’s game against Fallon. The Wolverines’ traveled to Overton and rallied in the second half for a 23-16 win against Moapa Valley, the Southern 3A’s top team. Truckee’s defense forced five turnovers and score on a 30-yard touchdown after Sean Kelly’s interception and Marcus Belton’s 80-yard punt return.
The Wolverines’ defense also made another big play when Derek Laferriere intercepted the ball late in the game to preserve Truckee’s win.
Fallon, on the other hand, led from start to finish against Pahrump Valley, the Southern 3A’s No. 2-seeded team. Sean McCormick ran for 334 yards and scored three touchdowns to give Fallon a convincing 58-20 win at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex.
The Greenwave offense turned on the faucet against the Trojans, amassing 479 yards on the ground and scoring eight touchdowns. Fallon led 22-0 before Pahrump scored its first touchdown. Fallon’s defense kept Pahrump to 214 yards offense and kept leading rusher Nico Velasquez to 93 yards.
Truckee coach Josh Ivens knows Saturday’s game will be another good battle against the Greenwave.
“We’ve got our hands full,” Ivens told the Sierra Sun. “Fallon is very good. It should be a good matchup, (and) I have a ton of respect for Coach Hill and what they do.”
Truckee and Fallon have had a remarkable history between them as Northern 3A foes. Fallon has won its last two games against Truckee and five of the last six. Truckee, though, leads the series, 11-9. Truckee won the only two previous playoff encounters, 47-14 in 2010 and 28-24 in 2011, both at Truckee.
Football fans, though, may argue that Truckee’s win in 2011 may have been the best matchup of the series. In what the Sierra Sun newspaper described as a tense roller-coaster game of emotions with a state championship berth awaiting the victor, Truckee and Fallon twice swapped leads in the final 4 minutes and almost had another lead change as time expired.
Truckee had taken the lead with 8 seconds left in the game when junior Erik Holmer caught the game-winning touchdown pass with 8 seconds. Fallon almost upended the Wolverines on the game’s last play when a touchdown pass grazed off the fingertips of an open Fallon receiver that preserved Truckee’s 28-24 win. Truckee went on to win the state 3A championship. Records don’t mean a thing for the next chapter.
The Sept. 8 win against Truckee, though, came early in the season when Fallon was still adjusting to its offense.
“Like Truckee, we’re a better football team than we were in September,” Hill said of the Greenwave’s nail-biting victory. “That was Sean’s first game back (fractured ankle), and he wasn’t 100 percent. We had lost Reid Clyburn before that game, and we didn’t have our offense gelling.”
Clyburn, who spent half of the 2017 on the sidelines, injured his leg in the second game of the season against Fernley. The Fallon senior had rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Spring Creek. He suited up against Pahrump on Saturday — his first game back — but did not carry the ball.
Hill said Truckee played a good game against the Wave, but he felt the green and white wasn’t “hitting on all cylinders” in September. Hill said the during the second half of the season, the Greenwave clicked.
“I feel we’re a better team offensively and defensively,” he said. “We had four straight games with shutouts but gave up the big plays in the last two games due to more adjustments.”
Ivens said the Wolverines gave the ball away.
“That’s what’s frustrating,” he said. “We had a chance to get ahead of this team. We had a chance to beat them, and when you come up short, it’s tough to swallow.”
No doubt both coaches will make adjustments for Saturday.
McCormick said Truckee has always been a nemesis.
“They’re the toughest team we’ve faced,” McCormick said. “They’re a good team, but we’ve gotten better. We can handle them like Pahrump. We have a good team.”
Sean’s younger brother, Tommy, said Fallon didn’t play its greatest game of the year at Truckee.
“I know we can take it to them,” he added.
Each team can score … Fallon averaged 48.9 points per game, while Truckee average 43 points. The 2018 Wave, now the all-time leading team by scoring 536 points, after last weekend, can run and pass the ball with one of its most talented group of players. McCormick has scored 21 touchdowns and lead the team in rushing with 1,559 yards (155 carries), and quarterback Elijah Jackson has 846 yards (69 carries). The Greenwave junior also showed his passing side to the game, completing 109 of 173 passes for 1,912 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Jackson is looking forward to a dream season.
“Truckee will be a fun game, and we’ve had a good week of practice,” he said. “The guys know going in we need to keep our composure. We’ll be fine.”
Brock Richardson is Jackson’s favorite target, hauling down 47 passes for 1,093 yards and 14 touchdowns. The junior has also rushed for 323 yards and crossed the goal line for nine touchdowns. Tommy McCormick snared 33 passes for 589 yards and six touchdowns.
While the offense has received the majority of accolades this season, Hill said the defense is just as potent.
“When the ball is in the air, the defense has 23 picks this year,” Hill pointed out. “They’re just executing the game plan and doing a good job.”
Hill said his players are more confident of what they do on the defensive side of the ball, and he has relied on his senior leadership …. plus Richardson.
“Ben (Dooley) is good defensively and offensively,” Hill said. “He’s a big, strong kid and pretty athletic.”
Hill said defensive end Brenden Larsen is the quarterback for the defense and calls out the alignment.
“When he’s there, he makes the plays,” Hill said.
Also making the big plays in the middle is Tommy McCormick, who had a key interception against Fernley two weeks ago. Trey Rooks brings versatility to the defense. Not only can he play defensive nose, Hill also said his senior can go toe-to-toe with opposing receivers.
“He does a good job of chasing the quarterback out of the pocket,” Hill added.
And in the secondary, Hill relies on Jackson, Richardson and Sean McCormick.
“They’re my ball hawks … they want to get the ball,” Hill said.
Truckee also has an explosive offense. Bellon has completed 113 of 178 passes for 1,869 yards and 23 touchdowns, but the rushing game depends on a committee of seven players. Kevin Malo has been the Wolverines’ top rusher with 626 yards and six touchdowns, while Marcus Trotter has 576 yards and seven touchdowns. Trotter leads all receivers with 324 yards and two touchdowns.
Truckee’s defense is also stingy and has recorded 12 interceptions.