Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Badly in need of a victory, and with momentum having swung against them, the Fernley Vaqueros needed someone to step up and make a big play when Lowry reached the 2-yard line in a last-gasp effort to tie the game Friday night.
Lonnie Halterman delivered.
Halterman intercepted a pass by Lowry quarterback Brendan Domire in the end zone on the last play of the game to seal Fernley’s first win of the season, 29-21 Friday night.
“It was like, thank God. It was about time,” coach Chris Ward said.
The Vaqueros used two defensive scores to help build a 29-7 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Buckaroos began to find success running the veer portion of their offense. Preston Snow rumbled for 31 yards on a veer dive to the Fernley 3-yard line, then scored the next play to cut the lead to 29-13.
Lowry’s next possession reached the Fernley 12 before stalling, but ended with a missed 29-yard field goal with 10:33 left in the game.
A false start penalty thwarted Fernley’s next drive, and Lowry marched 50 yards in eight plays, to pull within 29-21 on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Domire to Dorsey Naveran with 5:29 left in the game.
Trying to run out the clock, Fernley got one first down, but was forced punt the ball back to Lowry, which took possession at its own 20-yard line with 2:50 left in the game.
Domire connected with Naveran on 27 and 10-yard passes, then kept the ball for three runs to the Fernley 10-yard line. On third-and-1, Domire scrambled away from pressure to the Fernley 2 with 22.4 seconds left.
Snow was stopped at the line of scrimmage on the next play, and the Buckaroos, who had called timeout on the previous play, had to scramble to try to get one final snap. Domire took the snap with 1 second left on the clock, rolled to his right, and just before he reached the sideline, threw the ball, where Halterman stepped in front of the receiver and picked it off.
Lowry coach Taua Cabatbat said being out of timeouts cost the Buckaroos the game.
“I wasted a timeout there at the end,” Lowry coach Taua Cabatbat said. “I wasn’t too sure if we made the first down, I was out of position, and I screwed that up. That’s on me.”
For two and a half quarters, it didn’t look like any last-second heroics would be needed.
The Vaqueros took their first lead of the season, 3-0, on a 40-yard field goal by Jack Knodell with 17.1 seconds left in the first quarter, after an 11-play drive.
On Lowry’s next possession, A.J. Kuha scooped up a fumble and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 lead with 8:30 left in the second quarter.
Lowry answered quickly, with a 15-yard touchdown run by Domire with 4:34 left in the half, but Fernley went to the half with a 16-7 lead after a 40-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Henderson to Anthony Thompson with 1:31 left in the second quarter.
The Vaqueros took the opening drive of the second half 68 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by sophomore Brandon Reyes, to stretch the lead to 22-7. Seeing his first extended varsity action because of injuries to other running backs, Reyes led the Vaqueros with 86 yards on 17 carries.
Jared Caulk made it 29-7 when he jumped a route from his deep safety position to intercept a pass from Domire and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
But from there, things went Lowry’s way the rest of the game, until Halterman’s game saving pick.
“When you’ve got someone down like that, you’ve got to be a finisher and finish what you started,” Ward said. “I just think that comes with experience. When they get that chance in there, they’ve got to step up and finish it. They’ve got to realize that a team is going to come out swinging after halftime.”
For many of the Vaqueros’ players, it was their first time playing with a lead in a varsity game, and Ward said he wasn’t sure if they relaxed or let down too soon. But after three straight losses to open the season, Ward said the Vaqueros needed a win, and were relieved to get one.
“Winning I think helps to build confidence,” he said.