After ending the regular season with its fourth consecutive shutout, the Greenwave football welcomes cross-valley rival Fernley on Friday for the second round of the Northern 3A playoffs.
Fallon, which received a bye last week after winning the league title to take the No. 1 seed, hosts Fernley at 7 p.m. at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex. Fernley’s coming off a 33-13 win over Spring Creek last week. Friday’s winner advances to next week’s state semifinal round.
For the Greenwave, last week was an opportunity to rest up and heal in time for the matchup against the Vaqueros.
“We had a good week of practice. We worked on some of the little things,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “It was a chance for us to rest and heal up a bit. We made sure to keep up the rhythm.”
Both teams met in the second week of the season on Aug. 31 when Fallon posted a 40-0 shutout. But Fernley is playing better as it finished fourth in the league after beginning the year with three straight losses. The Vaqueros have won five in a row, including a pair of wins over Spring Creek and wins over North Valleys and Dayton.
“They’re a much more confident team,” Hill said of Fernley. “They’re playing really well. They’re executing better.”
Six weeks ago, though, Fernley floundered on the gridiron, but it took a 42-19 drubbing at Elko on Sept. 21 to right the Vaqueros’ ship. From that time, Fernley has won six straight games — and seven of its last eight — including its first win against Spring Creek, 28-21 on Oct. 5.
“Especially, that Elko game I think was a huge, huge, wakeup call for them,” Fernley coach Chris Ward told The Fernley Reporter. “They were probably a little embarrassed, and they just decided it’s time to play.”
The Greenwave, though, has also been playing better since that August meeting. All but one of the nine league games invoked the running clock mercy rule as Fallon averaged 47.33 points scoring and held the opposition to 6.56 points per game.
“We knew we had a pretty good football team coming in,” Hill said. “They’ve done a great job and they get better every week. There are still things we’re working on executing. We’re trying to play as perfect as we can. It’s a testament to them.”
Junior quarterback Elijah Jackson, who missed the second half of last season with a leg injury, returned to top form this fall, completing 91 of 140 passes (65 percent) for 1,589 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also second on the team in rushing yards with 681 on 56 carries and 11 touchdowns. Jackson, second in the league in yards but with 63 fewer completions, leads the North in quarterback rating at 132.7.
Fernley, though, will need a Herculean effort to derail the Greenwave’s quest to the state championship. In their first meeting, Fallon outpassed Fernley, 224-79 yards, and outrushed the Vaqueros, 239 to 89 yards.
Fernley, which had one of its best offensive games of the season against the Spartans, will rely on balance. During the season, quarterback Miles Steel completed 25 of 46 passes for 499 yards, while Cooper Henderson made 25 passes in 41 attempts for 263 yards.
Last year’s Player of the Year, senior Sean McCormick, led the team with 1,062 rushing yards on 107 carries and 17 touchdowns, while junior Brock Richardson was Jackson’s favorite target as he hauled in 39 passes for 932 yards and 12 touchdowns. Junior Tommy McCormick was second on the team with 27 receptions and 468 receiving and two touchdowns. Richardson is the best in the league in scoring with 21 total touchdowns and Sean McCormick is second with 19.
Defensively, the Larsen twins shined with Brenden Larsen leading the team with 70 total tackles and his brother, Bryce, recording 36. Junior Dominyke Edwards, both McCormicks and seniors Tristan Rodarte and Trey Rooks contributed a balanced defensive effort. Rooks led the team with five sacks and Sean McCormick led with four interceptions. Linemen seniors Ben Dooley and Nick Delgado, and juniors Ben Bake and Benni Otuafi have been solid in the trenches.
The Greenwave defense must be ready to stop sophomore Brandon Reyes, who led the Vaqueros with 695 yards rushing on 113 carries. The Vaqueros’ workhorse average 6.2 yards per carry. Steel scramble for 210 yards on 60 carries, and Anthony Thompson only had eight carries but gained 190 yards for 23.8 yards per carry.
Steel did not play quarterback against Fallon in their earlier meaning, and Reyes gained only 8 yards.
Senior lineman Ricky Dumont leads a talented defense, which has limited its opponents to an average of 13 points per game since the Elko loss.
Steve Ranson contributed to this story.