Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
After a pair of losses to open the season, things don’t get any easier for the Fernley Vaqueros this week.
The Vaqueros host Fallon at 7 p.m. Friday in a rural version of a crosstown rivalry, in search of their first win of the season. But, coach Chris Ward said, the Vaqueros will be facing a team that is probably better than their first two opponents, and may be as good as any recent Fallon team, including its state championship team of a few years ago.
“I think they’re kind of like us last year,” Ward said. “They have a quarterback, a running back, receivers, an offensive line and a defensive line.”
The challenge will be particularly daunting, considering the Vaqueros again looked like an inexperienced team in their 20-7 loss to Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco, Calif. last Friday. Ward said the Vaqueros played much better defensively against the Fightin’ Irish than they did a week earlier against Truckee, but struggled on offense, particularly on the offensive line.
“Offensively we just played like we were confused,” Ward said. “We weren’t attacking, we were being attacked, and you can’t do that.”
Ward said the Vaqueros’ blocking scheme doesn’t require linemen to block blitzers, just to redirect them, but Sacred Heart blitzers were frequently in the backfield before quarterback Cooper Henderson could even make his first read on the option, or, on pass plays, were in his face before he even completed his drop.
“We couldn’t even get to our stuff, because every time, they were right there,” Ward said.
Still, the Vaqueros were very much in the game, tied 7-7, going into the fourth quarter.
“If we could have done anything offensively, I think we could have won the game,” Ward said.
Sacred heart Cathedral scored first, on a 69-yard pass from quarterback Tim Sweeters to running back Anthony Heard. Sweeters dumped the ball off to Heard, who appeared to be bottled up near the line of scrimmage before breaking free up the middle and outrunning the defense to the end zone.
“I can’t say anything about that, because the defense played real well,” Ward said.
The Vaqueros tied the game on an 18-yard touchdown run by Henderson, after he scrambled away from pressure and found open field around the left end with 2:37 left in the second quarter.
Sacred Heart Cathedral regained the lead at 13-7 on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 7:23 left in the game, and put it away on a 16-yard touchdown run by Heard with 4:47 left.
Now Fallon comes in with an explosive offense and a 1-0 record, having beaten Spring Creek 48-6 on Aug. 24.
The good news for the Vaqueros is that, unlike Truckee and Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Greenwave do not typically play a blitzing defense, but instead one that calls for its defensive line to engage blockers and allow its linebackers to pursue the ball.
“Defensively, they look pretty good on film with what they do,” Ward said.
Offensively, the Greenwave put up 467 yards against Spring Creek, running for 232 on an average of 8.6 yards per carry, while quarterback Elijah Jackson completed 11 of 17 passes with two touchdowns. And, the Greenwave could get back its best player, Sean McCormick, from an injury. McCormick has been a standout in his career at both receiver and quarterback.
“He’s good receiver and a good quarterback,” Ward said. “He’s a good football player.”
To win, Ward said the Vaqueros will have to play well defensively, and control the ball offensively.
“Hopefully we can get a couple turnovers,” he said. “The best thing we can do is get a few first downs and keep their offense off the field.”