Historic win for the Muckers
Appeal Sports Writer
VIRGINIA CITY – “Tradition starts now.” It’s the catch phrase of the newly minted Virginia City Muckers football team, a 21st-century squad reviving the sport from the past, a time of sepia-toned photographs and six-man ball.
With the ghosts of all but one of the players on the 1943 Muckers team swirling around the new artificial field Saturday at Virginia City High School, the 2007 squad – now playing eight-man ball – merged with its gridiron brethren from the past when it notched a 43-20 victory over Lee Vining (Calif.) in a nonleague game.
A new generation of fans looked on from the sidelines, where many reclined in lawn chairs, and some recorded their team’s every play not with flashbulb photography but with digital technology.
It was a day of many firsts, many of which belonged to senior tailback and cornerback Zack Ullom, who put on a performance that may remain in the VCHS record books for years to come.
Ullom scored the first Virginia City touchdown since 1942 (the 1943 team was shut out in its only game), taking a second-quarter Lee Vining kickoff 94 yards in for the score.
Not only did the TD cut the Tigers’ lead to 7-6, it served as a harbinger of things to come for Ullom, who picked up more than 300 total yards (including 200 rushing on 17 carries), scored four touchdowns, snagged an interception and kicked an extra point.
“It’s awesome. I’m totally excited,” said Ullom, who also attempted a pass (it was incomplete). “I can’t wait for league to start. I want to take the West (Division of the Northern 1A). They were a tough team. They played hard. We gave it our all.”
The Muckers outgained the Tigers 327-158 offensively and recorded six sacks and forced four turnovers.
Senior linebacker/running back Jared Craig notched 3 1Ú2 sacks and two fumble recoveries, while sophomore defensive end Colt Dotson and junior noseguard David Grey each picked up a second-quarter sack of Lee Vining quarterback Sky Greytak.
Sophomore defensive back Joe Ladd added 1Ú2 a sack and freshman cornerback Zach Shell had an interception for Virginia City, which erupted for 31 fourth-quarter points after trailing 14-12 after three.
“It’s a sweet one,” said Muckers head coach Ron Presley of the win. “We got our first home victory in our first home game. I think we were in a little better shape (than the Tigers). We hung in there. They got tired. We didn’t. Playing at 6,000 feet – we’ll take any advantage we can get. That’s one very good team over there.”
Presley was nodding his head in the direction of Lee Vining, which was coming off a 7-3 season in which it finished second in the Southern Section of the Hi-Lo League and playing its first game of this season.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers got on the scoreboard first when Greytak connected with junior running back Anthony Gonzales for a 42-yard score 1 minute, 50 seconds into the second.
After Ullom’s score drew the Muckers within one, Virginia City took a 12-7 lead into halftime after senior quarterback Matt McDougald hit Craig for a 41-yard TD. The Muckers failed on all six of their 2-point attempts.
On a fourth-and-1, Landa busted through the middle of the Muckers defensive line for a 47-yard touchdown run for a 14-12 Lee Vining lead. It was the only score of the third quarter. Landa led the Tigers with 129 yards on 17 attempts.
With the Tigers driving, Craig fell on a Greytak fumble on the Muckers’ 4. Two plays later Ullom swept around the right side for a 95-yard touchdown, giving Virginia City an 18-14 lead with 9:52 to go in the game.
The Muckers defense stopped the Tigers cold on it next possession and after an 11-yard punt from Lee Vining, Virginia City took over on its own 31, from where Ullom once again took off around the right side for the score.
Momentum was clearly on the side of the Muckers and Craig pounced on the ball after Greytak fumbled it on his own 4.
Two plays later, McDougald took it in from the 1 and Ullom added the PAT for a 31-14 lead with 5:57 to go.
“He’s definitely the player of the game,” Presley said of Ullom, who scampered around the left end of the Tigers’ line and scored from 61 yards out to make it 37-14. “He had a great game.”
After Greytak hit Plake Parker for a 63-yard touchdown, Virginia City rounded out the scoring when Cory Monroe picked up a Craig fumble and took it 45 yards to the house on what amounted to a 55-yard play (Craig dropped the ball after gaining 10 yards).
“I think we definitely got some respect,” Ullom said of the win. “We held Carlin pretty good (in a 27-0 loss to open the season a week earlier). They told us we would win the West if we played like we did against them.”
Presley wasn’t looking that far ahead – or for that matter, that far behind.
“It’s just today. I told them one day at a time,” he said. “I’m really proud of our guys. They never gave up and kept plugging away. We had some guys go down (running backs Danny Millim and Kris Eaton) in the third quarter.
“Justin Bigelow, our (freshman) third O-lineman, ran a couple of times and gave us a breather. He’s our fullback on our offensive scout team. He did a great job. A lot of our kids stepped up who normally don’t start in that (their respective) position.”
Virginia City will play another non-league game Saturday at 1 p.m., when it hosts Pyramid Lake.
“That will be another physical game,” said Presley, a former freshman and junior varsity coach for Manogue. “From what I’ve seen, eight-man ball is an extremely physical game. We’ve got to be more physical – that’s the key. All the teams we’ll be playing will bring the wood every time.”
Even so, with a new team in a new century, Virginia City will try and keep alive its newfound tradition.