Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
After winning one game they had to have, the Fernley Vaqueros now face the defining matchup of their season Friday night when Spring Creek comes to town.
The Vaqueros beat Lowry 21-14 last Friday, setting up Friday’s matchup with Spring Creek in what will most likely determine the fourth playoff seed in the Northern 3A. Spring Creek comes into the game with a 3-2 record in the Northern 3A and 3-4 overall, and would clinch the fourth seed with a win, while a Fernley win would mean Fernley would own the tiebreaker over the Spartans and would thus clinch the fourth seed by beating Sparks on Oct. 20. Fernley is 2-3 in league and 3-4 overall. Spring Creek finishes the season at Elko on Oct. 20.
“In the end, we’re going to do what we have to do because we have a rich history of being able to go and get those kinds of games,” Fernley coach Anfernee Sloan said. “I think we’ve proven that in the years past, so this is right up our alley.”
Spring Creek comes into Friday’s game off a 40-8 loss at Fallon last week, but Sloan said with the stakes that are on the line, this is essentially a playoff game.
“I’m not going to let them believe just because Fallon’s giving Spring Creek the business that this is something that we’re going to roll over, because guess what, they’re being told the same exact thing – you guys need to win this football game,” Sloan said.
The Vaqueros put themselves in position to play for the fourth seed by beating Lowry last Friday, 21-14 in a game that Sloan said was much closer than it should have been.
After putting up 21 points in the first half, the Vaqueros came up empty in the third and fourth quarters. Sloan particularly lamented Fernley’s first drive of the third quarter, where they matched from their own 40-yard line to the Lowry 8. But two illegal shifts in a row moved them back to the 18, and after two incomplete passes, a 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
“I think we left too much out there to where that football game could have gone a completely different way,” Sloan said. “You score that one right there, the first drive we get in the second half, it’s 28-7, those guys are done. Then you go to kick the field goal and we don’t do our job, we let a guy through and he smokes the football.”
The Vaqueros looked on the verge of blowing the game open in the first half. A 43-yard run by Keeshawn Love down to the Lowry 1 set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Love to put Fernley up 7-0 with 5:53 left in the first quarter.
After Lowry tied the game at 7, the Vaqueros scored on their next two drives, on a 9-yard run by Love and a quarterback sneak by Bryce Stephens to take a 21-7 lead into the half.
After coming up empty on their first drive of the second half, the Vaqueros saw Lowry drive 83 yards for a 3-yard touchdown run by Jesse Jeronimo to make it 21-14 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
Fernley got the ball twice in the fourth quarter, but was only able to gain 34 yards on 11 plays and then 20 yards in seven plays. But each time the defense bailed them out with interceptions, first by Gabe Leija and then by Garrett Harjo. Meanwhile, it was the fourth consecutive game without committing a turnover for the Vaqueros.
“You’re looking at three weeks in a row, four weeks in a row that we haven’t turned the football over and we’ve been able to create turnovers,” Sloan said. “For us to be successful we have to value the football, we have to play good defense and again just be consistent.”
The Vaqueros ran for 302 yards, led by 225 and the two touchdowns by Love. Harjo added 36 yards on three carries and caught two passes for 45 more yards. Marciano Montano led the defense with 13 tackles.
Despite the missed opportunities, it all added up to a win for the Vaqueros, and it means the Vaqueros still have a lot to play for in the last two weeks of the regular season and a chance to make noise in the postseason.
“The way it’s kind of looking, if we do what we have to the next two weeks it’s going to be hitting this thing on a high note and I think we’re going to be playing really good football,” Sloan said. “I’m excited for next week, I’m excited for the week after that and I’m really excited about the weeks to come after that, because hey, it’s all or nothing.”