Bishop rides early lead to win over Vaqueros

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Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

As he had several times the week before, Fernley quarterback Gabe Tollestrup pulled the ball on a fake handoff on an option play and motored around the end, breaking free for a 76-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter of last Friday’s game in Bishop, Calif.

Tollestrup went 76 yards untouched into the end zone, but there was just one problem. An official in the middle of the field thought someone else had the football, and blew the whistle when Montano Marciano got wrapped up by a defensive lineman. The ball was brought back to the Fernley 40-yard line, where the officials determined Tollestrup was when the whistle blew, and instead of a 76-yard touchdown, Tollestrup was credited with a 16-yard run.

It may not have been a defining play in what turned out to be a 31-22 loss to Bishop Union, but for coach Anfernee Sloan, how the Vaqueros responded afterward might just be the defining characteristic in what kind of team they ultimately become.

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At the time, the Vaqueros trailed 17-0, and they ultimately trailed by as much as 31-7 at halftime, before rallying to within 31-22. Fernley’s chance to get even closer, and maybe complete the comeback, ended with an interception with two minutes left in the game.

“This is a great experience for them to kind of experience things like this, as far as just the officiating, just the flow of the game and the highs and the lows, it can be transferred over to everyday life in a lot of ways,” Sloan said. “I told them down here, that is Adversity 101, you guys. You guys kept playing, you guys didn’t worry about it, just kept doing what you do, and guess what, we almost squeaked it out.”

Adversity hit the Vaqueros early. Bishop took the opening possession and drove for a 33-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead. But Fernley fumbled on its first offensive play, and just like in the first game of the season at Lowry, the Vaqueros were down 10-0 before the second time they touched the ball.

A penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct put the Vaqueros in a deep hole on their second drive, and they came up a yard short on fourth-and-2.

Bishop wasted no time, needing just five plays to go 60 yards, helped by a personal foul on Fernley, and led 17-0.

That’s when the inadvertent whistle nullified a touchdown, a play Sloan described as a “gut blow.” So when Fernley finally got on the board, on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Tollestrup to Jake Cumming, they trailed 17-7, instead of 17-14.

Helped by a Fernley fumble and a 30-yard punt return, Bishop scored on the last two possessions of the half to lead 31-24.

But the Vaqueros shut the Broncos down in the second half, holding them to a single first down, forcing two punts, two failed fourth-down conversions and a fumble that Joey Machado returned 54 yards for a touchdown with 4:47 left in the game.

That cut it to 31-22, after Tollestrup had scored on a 6-yard run to cap Fernley’s first drive of the second half.

“You give us one more quarter, I think we’re wearing them down,” Sloan said.

Two of Bishop’s first half touchdowns came after Fernley fumbles, and that, combined with the touchdown that got taken away, helped contribute to the Vaqueros’ 24-point deficit. Sloan was most impressed that the Vaqueros kept their composure and nearly got themselves back in the game.

“It’s huge because that right there said so much about our football program,” he said. “I don’t think people realize three quarters of that roster we have out there is all sophomores, and for them to go out there and play the way they did, that should tell you something moving forward just about where the direction of this football program’s going, It’s bright.”

Overall, Bishop outgained the Vaqueros with 260 total yards to Fernley’s 225. Fernley ran the ball 40 times for 183 yards, led by Tollestrup with 63 yards on 15 carries and Marciano Montano with 12 carries for 40 yards. Tollestrup completed two of nine pass attempts for 42 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

“They’re going to learn, I guarantee you,” Sloan added. “I promise you, next week these guys are going to be playing like with their tails on fire because right there, I think they just discovered what it is they can do.”

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