History on Fallon’s side in title chase
In the midst of the ongoing Cold War and battle for nuclear supremacy, the Greenwave used to be one of the most dominating schools in the Silver State.
State titles were common every season as schools across the region feared the green and white. Banner after banner, Fallon accumulated its share of celebratory hardware during the 1970s when the Greenwave ruled the land.
But arguably one of the greatest runs in the school’s long history came on the old Bradley Field when Fallon won three consecutive state championships and lost only two games during that three-year stretch.
Coaching great Tony Klenakis Sr. commanded those teams with NIAA Hall of Famer Jack Beach as his offensive coordinator and Bob Dudley guiding the defense. Bert Serrano, who coached the JV team, had a strong hand in the program and helped with the varsity’s success during the state run.
The Greenwave was the best football team in the Class AA during a decade that featured the birth of disco, Watergate and Star Wars. Fallon dominated state’s second-largest league that featured teams from Douglas, Yerington, Elko, Lowry and White Pine, along with California school North Tahoe, which didn’t belong in the NIAA yet.
Like its cross-valley rival with Fernley this decade, Fallon battled another rival in Lyon County as Yerington and Greenwave traded jabs. After a one-loss season capped off with a state title victory over Boulder City in 1976, Fallon met Yerington for the next two championships, winning both.
The playoff format, though, was not structured how it is now. The top two teams with the best recorded faced off for one more game and the winner was declared the state champion. No divisional, no regional — just one final game to determine the state’s best team for that year.
The 1970s teams were similar to this year’s Greenwave.
They didn’t lack talent and had many skilled-position players. Most of the players played either offense or defense, not like a majority of the schools outside of Division I that saw them play both. But one thing this year’s group possesses that hasn’t been seen is speed.
“We had some good athletes; the kids were athletic. Our kids didn’t have near the speed as these kids,” said Beach, who was also a standout athlete for the Greenwave before turning to coaching. “I haven’t seen speed like this in Fallon and I’ve been around for a long time. We had tremendous depth back then. We had great skilled people but not the speed they possess.”
The 1978 state championship team and the 2013 squad also had another thing in common: They both lost their final regular season game.
The 1978 Greenwave accumulated 23 straight wins during their stretch before Ken Dalton’s North Tahoe team upset the Greenwave. Fallon bounced back from its first loss in two years to upend Yerington for the state title. The loss couldn’t have come at a better time as it helped return Fallon to mortality and remind the players that anything can happen.
“It was a good loss for us. It got us focused and settled the nerves,” Beach said. “I think we were a little full of ourselves.”
To open this month, Fallon came into the final regular season game with an unblemished record after outscoring opponents by an average of four touchdowns. Lowry, though, gut-checked Fallon on a cold November night two weeks ago, giving the Greenwave their first loss of the season.
“You have to play tough games to experience that,” Beach said. “Lowry matched with them and were athletic.”
How did Fallon respond after the loss? Instead of sulking in the locker room, Fallon went back to work and came back the next week, gutting out a tight victory over rival Fernley.
“They seemed more willing to ground it out,” said Beach, who has also worked with the chain crew during the home games for the past six seasons.
While this year’s group has a longer road to the state championship than the 1970s teams, the Greenwave is one win away from reaching that plateau. A win on Saturday against Moapa Valley will launch Fallon into next week’s title game against either Lowry or Faith Lutheran.
“Just savor the moment and enjoy it while you can,” Beach said. “I know the coaches are preaching the same thing. It’s a pretty special time in a person’s life.”
Fallon’s resurgence on the football field since being reclassified to a smaller division continues to strengthen the school and community. Fans pack the high school complex on Friday nights in the fall and for the first time in 35 years, the Greenwave has the opportunity to bring history back to the Lahontan Valley.
The Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex could see the biggest crowd in its 20-year history thanks to the overwhelming community support that saw the 1978 team win the last football championship.
“Football was very important in Fallon back in these days like it is now,” Beach said. “I expect a lot of people and enthusiasm. Everyone’s excited and I hope it carries over into the game on Saturday.”
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.