Wave fell short to return to 3A championship
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
But after each challenge presented itself, the Greenwave football team needed to adjust its goals but couldn’t reach the ultimate task — making it back to the state championship and bringing back another trophy.
Nevertheless, Fallon had to replace a heavy senior class from last year’s state championship team and progressed through growing pains this year, especially on defense. The offense struggled until a quarterback switch midway through the year and Fallon avenged a triple-overtime loss to beat Elko in the playoffs.
“Our goal was to get back there and we didn’t do that,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “As the season goes on, we had to reassess. Overall, I’m happy with what happened with our season. We’re not satisfied by any means.”
A year removed from losing only one game (to a California school), Fallon finished 6-5 to qualify for the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. In three of the five losses, Fallon was one possession away from winning, including completing a miraculous comeback against South Tahoe and a stunning upset over Spring Creek, the only two teams to advance to state.
Hill said the focus this offseason will be getting stronger.
“We’ve got to make strides in the weight room,” Hill added.
The Greenwave didn’t go unrecognized in the postseason accolades.
Senior running back Cade Vercellotti, senior linebacker Brock Uptain and senior lineman TJ Mauga were named to the 3A North First Team, while senior quarterback Conner Nelson, senior cornerback Jack Swisher, junior safety Dalton Kaady and Uptain (receiver) were named to the Second Team. Freshman lineman Penioni Otuafi was an honorable mention.
Vercellotti rushed for 1,597 yards on 231 carries (6.9 average) and 23 touchdowns, breaking both the school’s single-season and career rushing marks for yards. Vercellotti was the consistent force driving the offense.
“He had a really strong season,” Hill said. “He had a tremendous career for us.”
After starting the year with junior Christian Nemeth at quarterback, Hill went to his senior, Conner Nelson, to take over the reins in October.
Nemeth struggled, completing 47 percent of his passes for 580 yards and four touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 53.6. Nelson, though, provided a spark to the offense with his dual threat capabilities, completing 58 percent of his passes for 761 yards and eight touchdowns. He finished with an 88.9 quarterback rating after rushing for 530 yards on 88 carries and seven touchdowns.
“That was pretty good for him because he didn’t play a full season there,” Hill said about Nelson’s accolade. “He really was a true run and pass threat.”
Mauga followed in his brother’s footsteps at Fallon, adding to the family legacy for the Greenwave. Mauga, who has been receiving Division I offers like brother Josh, who ended up going to Nevada, tallied 73 total tackles, including 18 for loss, and eight sacks.
Uptain was the only player to receive honors on both sides of the ball. The Fallon senior led the team in receiving yards (539) and catches (45) and he also hauled in three touchdowns. Defensively, Uptain was second with 76 total tackles, including 20 for loss.
“He didn’t catch as many balls as his junior year but he had a solid season,” Hill said of Uptain.
Kaady had a breakout year on defense after an injury sidelined sophomore Sean McCormick for the rest of the year. Kaady led the team with seven interceptions, including a pick-6 against Sparks. Swisher had 61 total tackles, including six for losses and one interception.
“Dalton had a solid season, a really strong season for us playing safety,” Hill said. “Jack Swisher came to us and had not played in a game since his freshman year.”
Otuafi’s selection reassured Fallon’s future as he’ll be back as sophomore next season as Fallon tried to rebound.
“Our young guys got some good experience and I’m happy with that,” Hill said. “I like the fact that we had young kids get some playing time.”