Fernley upsets the Greenwave to win state 3A state football championship
LVN Editor Emeritus
FERNLEY 24, FALLON 20
1 2 3 4 F
Fernley 7 7 3 7 24
Fallon 7 0 7 6 20
FAL — Jackson 74 pass to Richardson. Robertson kick.
FER — Steele 65 pass to Halterman. Knodell kick.
FER — Reyes 5 run. Knodell kick.
FER — Knodell 37 field goal.
FAL —McCormick 81 kickoff return. Robertson kick.
FER — Reyes 6 run. Knodell kick.
FAL — Jackson 5 pass to McCormick. Kick blocked.
CARSON CITY — The last 34 seconds of Saturday’s state 3A championship football seemed like eternity for Fallon.
Down 24-20 to longtime Northern 3A rival Fernley, the Greenwave defense was helpless trying to get the ball back for a final miracle shot at the end zone.
It didn’t happen, and time ran out on Fallon’s season. As Fallon’s players hung their heads, Fernley’s team rushed midfield to celebrate their upset win over favored Fallon. The Vaqueros, who dropped a regular season game to Fallon by a touchdown, upset the No. 1 seeded Greenwave at Carson High School to win their first state football championship since 1964. Fallon, 10-2 overall, was seeking its second consecutive state title and third in the past five years.
“They played well,” said Fallon coach Brooke Hill. “No. 1, I have to give it to Fernley. They outplayed us tonight. They played physical. They played emotional, and they played well.”
The Vaqueros kept Fallon’s defense on the gridiron for almost 35 minutes in the game, and Fernley ran 64 plays to Fallon’s 40.
“We had to keep their offense off the field,” said Fernley coach Chris Ward. “We had that one drive in the second quarter that was 8 minutes and we were able to punch it in.”
Fernley, 11-2 overall, spotted Fallon a first-quarter touchdown before rattling off 17 unanswered points. The Vaqueros, which received the opening kickoff, offered a glimpse to their time-consuming drives. Starting at their own 28, Fernley ran off 10 plays before the Wave stopped the Vaqueros on the Fallon 44.
The Vaqueros mixed up their running game with three players. Running back Brandon Reyes barreled for short gains into the middle of the Fallon defensive line, while quarterback Miles Steele called two quarterback keepers, one of which picked up a crucial first own. With Reyes and Steele testing the middle, Steele pitched the ball four times to Anthony Thompson.
Fallon’s defense stopped Fernley on its first drive when Fernley punted on a fourth and 18.
Taking over on downs after the punt, the Wave used four plays in less than 2 minutes to take the game’s first lead. On a third and 4 from their 26, the Greenwave relied on a 74-yard pass play from quarterback Elijah Jackson to his favorite target, Brock Richardson. Sam Robertson’s kick gave Fallon its only lead of the day, 7-0, with 4:56 left in the quarter.
After that long touchdown pass, the Fernley defense continually put the pressure on chasing Jackson out of the pocket or in the backfield, as he finished the game 4 of 14 for 88 yards. Richardson also rushed for 94 yards.
Fernley switched its defense to a three-man front.
“It just got us an extra guy out there on the field, and we could bring some different pressures from other areas,” Ward said. “We were able get enough pressure, (and) we were able to get guys over the top.”
Fernley then showed on its next series it could strike back. Both Reyes and Steele alternated carrying the ball, and the Vaqueros also gambled on a short-yardage fourth down to make a first down. Facing third down at the Fallon 36, Steele took advantage of his pass protection and launched a 65-yard touchdown pass to Lonni Halterman. The Fernley senior streaked behind the Fallon secondary on the Fernley side of the field for the touchdown, and he also kicked the extra point to tie the game.
“We drew that one up this week because we were expecting that two-high and they bring that backside safety down,” Ward pointed out. “And then we saw that free safety rolling out of there, so it was going to be open. We set it up by that run and we go up there and trying to throw a stock block and then slip him and go, and he opened up big. It just shows we can score quick, too.”
The long touchdown caught Fallon by surprise.
“Obviously, we came out hot, but overall, they were more ready than us,” said Richardson, the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Fernley broke the tie with another touchdown in the second quarter. Starting on the Fallon 9-yard line, Fernley relied on the blocking of its offensive line and the running of Reyes and Steele to cap a 17-play drive that consumed 8 minutes. Fallon’s defense couldn’t stop Fernley’s march to the end zone, which didn’t include one pass, by giving up six first downs. The extra point after the touchdown gave Fernley a 14-7 lead.
Steele and Reyes rushed for 123 and 124 yards, respectively.
Fallon had a chance to score before halftime. With the ball on the Vaqueros’ 11, Fallon couldn’t punch the ball including an incomplete pass as time ran out.
Fernley surprised the Greenwave with an onside kick to open the second half, and the Vaqueros recovered the fumbled ball at the Fallon 48. Fallon, though, held Fernley on downs. Likewise, Fernley’s defense stopped Fallon, and Shaw Lee nailed a coffin-corner punt that rolled to the 1-yard line.
The Fallon defense didn’t give Fernley more than six yards, but a roughing the kicker call against Fallon resulted in a 15-yard penalty and first down for the Vaqueros.
Fernley ran 10 plays with Reyes carrying the ball for half of them. The Wave stopped Fernley on the Greenwave 20, but Jack Knodell added a 37-yard field goal with 47 seconds left in the quarter to pad Fernley’s lead to 17-7.
“We didn’t handle the onside kick to start the half,” Hill said. “We gave them opportunities, and they (Fernley) came through with them. “I’m very impressed with Fernley. They did a good job.”
Fallon responded quickly on the ensuing kickoff. Tommy McCormick fielded the ball on the 19 -yard line and like lightning speed, he shifted toward the near Fallon sideline outraced his nearest pursuers for an 81-yard touchdown. With Robertson’s kick, Fallon closed the gap to 17-14.
Fernley scored its final touchdown in the fourth quarter on Reyes 6-yard run.
Fallon had two opportunities to score in the fourth quarter, but the Vaqueros came up with an interception and then a fumble recovery to stop Fallon two drives. With 1:38 left in the season, Jackson completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to McCormick, but Fernley blocked the extra point.
“They knew what they wanted to do and made us shoot ourselves in the foot,” Richardson said. “We couldn’t score a lot, and we shot ourselves in the foot. We couldn’t score a lot. We couldn’t stop their offense.
Richardson said the defense didn’t play terrible because earlier in the year, Fernley scored 35 points against the Wave. The offense, he said, struggled.
Ward said the game showed how good football gets played in about a 30-mile radius.
“They’re a very good team … they’re fast and athletic, good schemes, and they are good,” Ward said. “They are really good.”
The game’s outcome was unreal for Miles Steele.
“It just feels amazing,” the Vaqueros quarterback said. “We been putting in the work for so long, and we finally got what we’ve been working for. It feels like it’s not real.”
Hill said he will miss the seniors, who brought Fallon a state championship last year and two league titles.
“They have been phenomenal,” he said. “These are some of the all-time greats in that senior class … Elijah, Brock, Thomas Steele, (Sione) Otuafi, Tommy. Levi and Ethan Andrews. I could go on and on. They did some phenomenal things for the program. It’s hard to see them go out this way. They are still champions, and I am very humbled to coach them.”