Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
It was mere inches that stood between Fernley and a victory the first time the Vaqueros faced Spring Creek. This time, it was about 300 yards, the number gained by Spring Creek junior Taiten Mogensen in carrying Spring Creek to 36-16 win in the first round of the Northern 3A playoffs.
Mogensen ran for five touchdowns, three of them in the second half as the Spartans turned a close game into a rout. He had gained just 49 yards on 13 carries in the first meeting between the teams, and Fernley coach Anfernee Sloan said he plans to study the film to figure out what the difference was this time.
“Obviously Mogensen got the better of us, but there’s got to be something up front that we’re not doing right that they took advantage of, they exploited,” Sloan said. “We’re obviously doing something that’s feeding right into their ability to get almost 10 yards a carry.”
Mogensen exceeded his output from the first game on the opening drive, carrying the ball 10 times for 58 yards and cashing in a 15-yard touchdown.
But Fernley’s Riley McCullar returned the kickoff for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7, but that was the high point of the evening for the Vaqueros. Mogensen added a 13-yard touchdown on the third play of the second quarter, then after Spring Creek led 14-10 at the half, they blew the game open by scoring on four consecutive drives in the second half.
“Yeah it sucks, but I told them this is just part of life, that’s why they call it the game of life,” Sloan said. “It’s not the outcome we obviously wanted but in the end you have to roll with it and do what you have to do.
It was an emotional postgame huddle as the Vaqueros gathered in the end zone, their season over much more abruptly than they’d expected, and the tears continued as the players gathered their belongings.
“I guess it kind of shows the culture we have here,” Sloan said. “We have a pretty tight-knit family environment that we ask a lot of these guys, day in and day out, and the amount of growth that we’ve had from Year 1 to Year 2 since I’ve been here has been insurmountable.”
After missing the playoffs last year, Sloan said making the postseason this year was one step forward, and he’s excited about the potential next year’s team has.
“It makes me excited for next year for sure, because I’m bringing back about close to 30 guys,” he said. “I think the biggest thing moving forward is that we have to digest everything. The biggest thing is the offseason. We have to lift and lift and lift, that’s the bottom line.
And for the group of seniors who won’t be back next season, Sloan said their work will make it possible for the returning players to succeed.
“Those guys last year laid the foundation, these guys settled the foundation for us, and now we’re going to be able to build now,” he said.