Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
When the Fernley Vaqueros opened up last Friday’s game against South Tahoe with a trick play on the first play of the game, coach Anfernee Sloan wasn’t bothered in the least when the pass landed harmlessly incomplete.
Even in a play that didn’t work, Sloan saw enough to know that the Vaqueros were starting the game the way he wanted, and as it turned out, they finished it that way too.
The Vaqueros dominated on both sides of the ball and rolled to a 42-0 win over South Tahoe for their first Northern 3A win of the season on Homecoming.
In a performance that Sloan called “flawless”, the Vaqueros scored on their opening drive for the first time all season, didn’t lose a turnover for the second straight game, and defensively, held South Tahoe to just 49 yards of total offense and three first downs.
“Really good, dominating, fast, physical win,” Sloan said. “That was probably the most flawless game that we’ve played in a long time midway through the season. You compare it to last year, by this point we would not have played a football game that flawless.”
Sloan normally prefers to defer to the second half if the Vaqueros win the opening coin toss, but with the goal of starting out quick offensively, he instead chose to receive the opening kickoff. On the first play from scrimmage, the Vaqueros ran their version of the Philly Special, a reverse where the slotback taking the reverse handoff throws a pass. Johnnie Williams took the handoff going from his left to his right and as he wound up to throw, both receivers on that side of the field had badly beaten their coverage and were wide open. Williams’ pass was slightly underthrown and incomplete, but Sloan had seen exactly what he wanted.
“I told you guys there’s going to be some intensity from the start, and guess what, it was there,” Sloan said. “I think it kind of set the tone, like, oh man, these guys are not messing around right now.”
Seven runs later, the Vaqueros had moved from their own 38-yard line to the South Tahoe 35 and on the 11th play of the drive, Bryce Stephens connected with Ulises Hernandez for a 22-yard touchdown, and before South Tahoe even touched the ball, it already seemed like the Vaqueros were in control.
Fernley’s second drive ended on a failed fourth-down attempt, but on their third possession, they needed just one play, a 47-yard touchdown pass from Stephens to Riley McCullar, to go up 14-0.
Keyshawn Love added two first-half touchdowns, on an explosive 30-yard run and a 22-yard reception from Stephens, then another in the third quarter from 61 yards. Marciano Montano wrapped up the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown jaunt.
It was exactly the kind of effort Sloan was looking for, coming off losses to Elko and Truckee the previous two weeks and with a game in Fallon coming up this week.
“Those kids weren’t down after we lost to Truckee, they were really, really hungry,” Sloan said. “One thing about this program, we definitely know how to rebound, we know how to continue to go and we continue to just improve, day in and day out.”
Making it all the sweeter for the Vaqueros was they did it all in front of a packed and rollicking house on Homecoming.
“I told those guys, you guys are going to walk into a party,” Sloan said, pointing toward the home grandstand. “I look over and I see that’s full, I see people starting to wrap like this. That’s a good thing and it tells you how strong this community is and how fortunate we are, how blessed we are to have something special like that here.”
Next up for the Vaqueros is Fallon, and this time, it will be the Greenwave celebrating Homecoming, and also trying to bounce back from a loss to Truckee. Fallon is 3-2 overall, and third in the Northern 3A at 2-1. Fernley is tied for fifth with Lowry at 1-2, and is now 2-3 overall.
“I think with Fallon we have to be able to mix it up and do things that they’re not used to us doing. It’s like another Truckee football game to me. They’re going to be one of those exciting teams that we gotta kind of match the energy.
The Greenwave is averaging 160.6 passing yards per game and 185 yards rushing, and scoring 30.6 points per game. Quarterback Bryce Adams has already thrown nine touchdown passes, and leading rusher Roland Grondin has had four 100-plus yard games already and has six touchdowns on the ground and another on a reception.
“I think with Fallon we have to be able to mix it up and do things that they’re not used to us doing,” Sloan said. “It’s like another Truckee football game to me. They’re going to be one of those exciting teams that we gotta kind of match the energy.”