Galena to face McQueen for Northern 4A title
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – With Nevada and Hawaii playing at the same time, Galena and McQueen may not be the biggest game in town tonight, but it will draw the purest high school football fans.
The defending regional champion Grizzlies, 9-2 overall, will play the High Desert League champion Lancers, 11-1, for the NIAA Northern 4A regional championship at Damonte Ranch High School, beginning at 7 p.m.
Coach Steve Struzyk hopes the Grizzlies team that shows up this time will be different than the one that dropped a 36-10 decision to the Lancers three weeks ago.
Galena has regrouped since then and is coming off a 31-24 victory over Reno last week and a 49-31 win over Hug in the first round of the playoffs.
“After watching film all week, we had our chances (against McQueen),” Struzyk said Thursday. “The game plan our first trip was good. It’s been the little things we’ve had to work on this week. We’re going to focus on running the football.
“We got away from that late in the second half. I think we bit off a bit more than we could chew passing. Instead of going for first downs, we were going for the home run ball. We’re going to work on getting first downs, put together some drives and take some time off the clock. We’re also going to work on eliminating stupid penalties.”
Struzyk will look to Pete Lazarri and Jake Hess to keep the Lancers’ line occupied from the backfield. Lazarri has 766 yards and six touchdowns rushing for the Grizzlies this year and averages 6.18 yards per carry.
Hess has picked up 320 yards and added five touchdowns. He rushed for more than 200 yards in the Grizzlies’ win over the Huskies last week.
The pair will be trying to open up the passing game for quarterback Jacob Anderson, who signed with the Nevada baseball team Wednesday. Anderson has completed 145-of-285 passes for 2,053 yards and has thrown for 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
He will be looking to find his favorite targets in wideouts Jason Parkinson (56 receptions for 755 yards and eight TDs) and Steve Blackhart (30 catches for 611 yards and six scores).
“Parkinson and Blackhart are carrying the load for us out there,” Struzyk said. “In order for us to be in the game, we have to keep (the Lancers) honest with some play-action and drop-backs. Both of them have to have a good game.”
Galena has outscored their opposition 336-176, while the Lancers have outscored theirs 380-148, with their only loss (37-13) coming to Serra, of San Mateo, Calif.
The Galena defense will try and stop McQueen’s top two running backs, Styker Ngongoseke and Tyler York. Ngongoseke has rushed for 774 yards on 127 carries for seven touchdowns and is averaging 6.09 yards per carry.
York has picked up 578 yards on 85 carries and scored eight touchdowns. He averages 6.80 yards per carry.
The Lancers have used two quarterbacks this season – Spencer Downey (31-of-66 for 438 yards, six TDs and five interceptions) and Conner Brandt (25-of-49 for 390 yards, five touchdowns and one pick).
It was Brandt who engineered McQueen’s 20-16 win over Reed last week and he will likely try and find the Lancers’ leading receiver, Kyle Van Noy, who has 31 receptions for 509 yards and nine TDs.
“Defensively, we’re bending but we’re not breaking,” Struzyk said. “We gave up points against Hug, but their four guys were faster than most of ours. Reno scored on a kickoff, but they couldn’t get in field goal position. We played them tough.
“Our linebackers, Jake Hess and Kyle Griffin, have been playing physical ball for us. On our line, you’re talking about guys like Levi Stafford and Max Landis stopping the run, which is important for us.”
Struzyk said his team practiced twice this week on the FieldTurf at Damonte Ranch and is looking forward to a rematch with McQueen.
“They were so excited tonight, I almost couldn’t control them,” Struzyk said. “The closer they get to game time, the more jacked up they get.”
It is the second year in a row that the Grizzlies have had to compete with the Wolf Pack for fans. Last year, in the state semifinals against Palo Verde, Nevada was playing Boise State. But Struzyk isn’t concerned.
“Both schools have a great following,” he said of Galena and McQueen. “It’s a different season. This will be two teams from Reno.”
In particular, one team – Galena – from the south and the other – McQueen – from the north. Either the south will rise again or the Lancers will be the emperors of the north.