Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
A football team that has the ball for eight possessions in a game without having to punt will walk off the field celebrating a win more often than not. But Friday night was one of those “nots” for the Fernley Vaqueros.
Fallon converted six Fernley turnovers into 25 points, rolling to a 45-14 win in Fernley. The loss knocked the Vaqueros to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the Northern 3A East, leaving the Vaqueros battered, frustrated, and, considering they’ve had two league games, and five games overall, canceled, unsure of where they might stand in the playoff picture.
While the Vaqueros were left only to lament what went wrong, Fallon, meanwhile, gathered for a team photo at the south end of the field for a team photo to celebrate coach Brooke Hill’s 100th win.
“It is (a special milestone,) but I’m more happy we played so well tonight. That’s the key for us,” Hill said. “I think our kids executed and played physical tonight too, which is great to see.”
As they had in each of their previous three games, the Vaqueros were clicking offensively in their first two drives. But just like in their loss in the season opener to Bishop (Calif.), they couldn’t sustain a hot start and were undone by turnovers and penalties.
In all, the Vaqueros turned the ball over five times on offense and once on special teams. Their eight offensive possessions resulted in a missed field goal, two touchdowns, three fumbles and two interceptions, which were both returned for touchdowns.
The first turnover was a fumbled kickoff return, just after Fernley had tied the game at 6-6. Fallon recovered at the Fernley 11-yard line, and at first, the Fernley defense stiffened. With the help of a holding penalty against Fallon, the Vaqueros forced the Greenwave into 4th-and-17 from the Fernley 18-yard line. But Fallon quarterback Keaton Williams connected with Reese Kincaid on the 18-yard touchdown to go up 12-6.
On the second play of its ensuing drive, the Vaqueros fumbled again, this time on an option pitch, again setting Fallon in prime position at the Fernley 23. Again the Fernley defense forced Fallon to face a fourth down, but Williams found a hole to run through and took it 16-yards for a score and an 18-6 Fallon lead.
Fernley struck back quickly. A late hit on Fallon after a 21-yard run by J.R. Reyes set Fernley up at the Fallon 25, and four plays later, Austin Hobson scampered in from six yards on an option pitch, then he scored a two-point conversion to make it 18-14.
The rest of the night was all Fallon. The Greenwave went 65 yards in seven plays, all runs, to take a 25-14 lead on a 1-yard run by Brody Jacks.
Trying to stay within striking distance, the Vaqueros drove to the Fallon 40 with less than a minute left in the half. Quarterback Julian McIntyre lofted a pass downfield toward Traven Cassinelli, who was running straight down the field between the right hash marks and the numbers from his position in the slot, with no defender covering. But as McIntyre released the ball, Kincaid saw the play developing from his free safety position and came all the way from across the opposite hash marks to intercept the pass. Kincaid then broke back to his right, away and never even came close to being touched as he went 80 yards for a touchdown with 1.9 seconds left in the half.
“Big play right there, absolutely, but that’s a senior making a play for us,” Hill said.
Adding injury to insult, McIntyre was hit just as he released the pass and was hurt on the play, and unable to finish the game.
When Fallon took the first drive of the third quarter 64 yards in nine plays, the game was all but over at 39-14.
“This is as good as we’ve played so far, but we can still do better,” Hill said.
With their three second half possessions, the Vaqueros drove 52 yards to the Fallon 22 before fumbling, drove 48 yards to the Fallon 20 and fumbled, and drove 47 yards to the Fallon 9, where Steven Moon picked off a pass in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for the final touchdown of the game.
Fernley controlled the ball for half the first quarter on its first drive, but after getting to the Fallon 7, a holding penalty and a sack pushed them back to the 22, and the drive ended in a missed field goal. On their second possession, Reyes broke through a hole on the right side on the dive portion of the option and ran 40 yards for the first score of the game.
Before the game, Ward had lamented that because the Vaqueros have had five games canceled this season, the Vaqueros hadn’t played enough to even know how good they are. The turnovers made any kind of evaluation impossible. Offensively, the Vaqueros piled up 406 yards on 52 offensive plays, averaging almost 8 yards a carry in rushing for 327 yards, compared to 267 yards in 44 plays for Fallon. But the interception returns and short fields after fumble recoveries limited the amount of yards the Greenwave needed to gain.
“When we had the ball in our hands and stuff we were moving it, we just didn’t take care of the rock like we should have,” Fernley coach Chris Ward said.
At 1-1 in league play, the Vaqueros have played the fewest number of games of any of the six teams in the East division. They are scheduled to host Dayton Friday to end the regular season, and a win would leave them at 2-1 in league play and they would be one of the top three teams in the division by winning percentage. The top three teams in the East and West divisions advance to the playoffs.
But every other team in the division will have played either four or five games, so Ward isn’t sure how the schedules and records will be weighted to determine the playoff teams.
“I hope we can be in one of those three spots,” he said. “I don’t know how they’re going to be doing this.”
Either way, Ward said the Vaqueros need to beat Dayton and play well while doing it. They will likely have to do so without at least a couple of the several players who were injured against Fallon.
“Just get this bad taste our of our mouth and hopefully we can get back on track,” Ward said. “We’ve got to get some kids ready to roll.”