Offense always a threat to bust loose
Prolific and opportunistic are just two ways to describe the Fallon football team’s offense.
Fallon’s high-flying unit lit up the scoreboard most of the season. Led by three-year varsity starter Morgan Dirickson running the Pistol, the Greenwave’s offense was unstoppable through most of the regular season.
Now, the offense must produce as it has all season to claim the Division I-A state championship. Fallon takes on Faith Lutheran at 4:05 p.m. at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno.
“They’re going to be a good team just like Moapa,” receiver Tyler Bagby said. “We have to stay mentally tough and we will come out on top.”
The unit is averaging 44.9 points per game this season. In the playoffs, though, the offense has been limited to 21 points per game, as the special teams and defense accounted for two touchdowns against Moapa Valley.
Nevertheless, the offense is full of playmakers and game breakers.
Running back Trent Tarner has shredded opposing defenses, while wide receivers Tyler Bagby, Cameron Matzen and Beau Marshall have given secondaries fits. The problem, for the opponents, was how to stop such an athletic corps.
Some teams focused on Tarner, but Dirickson and company would play pitch-and-catch carving up their foes through the air. If the game plan called to focus on the aerial attack, Tarner busted loose for big yards.
“Everyone knows Tarner is our guy,” offensive coordinator Lalo Otuafi said. “There for awhile we were hitting those big plays. I was getting greedy. If teams are going to key off Tarner, we’ll take our three or four yards.”
“I think at the beginning of the season, we expected to have big plays,” Dirickson added. “Now we realize we are playing a lot better teams … and have better defenses. We had to mentally adjust and realize that every drive we’re not going to score.”
Adding to Fallon’s leverage, though, was the number of athletes compared to its opponents. The Wave’s depth also provided headaches for opposing coaches.
That depth also features fullback Dylan Jabines, wide receiver Bradlee Porter, who made a key 24-yard reception against Moapa Valley, and tight end Dakota Schelling.
Calling the plays for the past several years has been offensive coordinator Lalo Otuafi. The former McQueen running back has made a home in Fallon and for the past decade has been on the sidelines for the Wave.
“The great thing about the other guys (receivers) is they’re there,” Otuafi said. “Whatever it is, they are willing to be that guy. No one complains about it. No one wants to be greedy, everyone just wants to win state.”
Dirickson’s maturation, meanwhile, has impressed Otuafi. Having been through a brutal loss to Truckee in 2011, the senior gunslinger has become a leader.
“There’s time he makes mistakes, but he turns the page and comes back,” Otuafi said. “It’s his third year, so there’s not another year. He’s going to make plays. He remembers his sophomore year … and I’m sure he thinks about that. Now he has his chance.”
Lowry, though, was one team with the athletes to keep pace. The Buckaroos stymied both Fallon’s running and passing game in a 21-14 win.
Throughout the game, frustration was noticeable as players pressed to come up with the big play they were accustomed to.
“We learned that we can’t turn time around,” Otuafi said. “That Lowry game woke us up. We’re not that untouchable team. Coach (Brooke Hill) told them it’s going to be a grind, and that’s what championship teams do.”
Since the Lowry loss, however, the unit has become a sustainable force working its way downfield. Dirickson and the unit have let the game come to them and keep calm even when trailing, as was the case twice against Fernley in the first round of the playoffs.
“At this point in the season, you want to get stats out of your mind and get the job done,” Dirickson said. “If each of us do our jobs, we’ll be alright.”
For Dirickson, though, the arsenal of weapons along with a strong offensive line makes his job easier. Matzen, Tarner and Bagby all have the ability to break off a big play, while Porter, Schelling and Jabines provide another layer of security.
“It makes my job incredibly easy,” Dirickson said. “They do the hard part. It makes the game more comfortable.”
As for Bagby, the speedy wideout has also been used in the running game as a fullback. With quick dive plays designed for short-yard situations, Bagby, along with Jabines, has added another nuanced dimension to the offense.
“I was back at my natural position,” Bagby said. “It was just second nature.”