Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
With three weeks left in the season, the Fernley Vaqueros find themselves in the position of needing to win each of their last three games in order to earn the fourth seed and a first-round home game in the Northern 3A playoffs.
The stretch run for the Vaqueros starts Friday night when they take on Lowry. Both teams enter the game with identical records of 2-4 overall and 1-3 in league play.
It’s a position the Vaqueros, or at least coach Anfernee Sloan, didn’t expect to be in when they boarded the bus to Fallon last Friday, but one Sloan was resigned to by the time the Vaqueros got the ball for what turned out to be their final drive of the game Friday night in Fallon.
The Greenwave used big plays to break open a competitive game in the third quarter and cruise to a 36-15 win, a score that was only as close as it was because the Vaqueros put together a 63-yard touchdown drive on that final possession.
“As far as the football game goes, I will never be upset with our kids because they always find a way to just continue to play and finish the football game,” Sloan said. “Am I disappointed that we lost the football game? Without a doubt.”
Coming off their best game of the season in a 42-0 win over South Tahoe the previous week, after a highly competitive loss at Truckee the week before, Sloan said he thought the Vaqueros were primed to come to Fallon last week and pull off surprise. That feeling was only amplified when he watched film of Fallon’s loss at Truckee the week before, 35-22, a game that Truckee led 35-8 after three quarters.
“This is a good football program and maybe I just had a little bit different expectation after watching the Truckee film because for once, I finally saw a Fallon team with a little bit of a crack in the ice,” Sloan said. “Again, maybe that’s just where that rich history of being so successful for so long, you got to give those guys kudos for that and I’ve always had a lot of respect for those guys.“
Fallon broke the game open with two scores in the third quarter, coming out of halftime with scores on the first two drives to turn a competitive 14-3 game into a 28-3 advantage. Roland Grondin led the Greenwave with 184 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 19 carries, many of them on stretch plays where he was able to get to the edge. Two of them came on the first two plays of the third quarter, runs of 29 and 32 yards, when Fallon asserted its physical dominance.
“To stop stretch you have to be physical, you have to shut down gaps, you have to control the line of scrimmage.” Sloan said. “It’s a tier system. They get to that third tier, it’s not good.”
Sloan said Fallon’s physicality was the difference between the two teams.
“You got a much more physical, little bit more mature team over there, and again I think the physicality was the thing that kind of took us out,” he said. “They got good football players that play physical that have been up on varsity for a couple years. It’s something that we all wish we had, but again, we’ve got to get those guys there and that’s the big thing moving forward.”
Needing wins in their last three games in order to earn a home game means the Vaqueros will have to move forward quickly. If they do that, they would host the sixth seed, which would also mean facing a team they would have beaten in the regular season.
“I think the next four weeks are going to be good football for us,” Sloan said. “I think we’ve got a little bit more level playing field that I think our kids can kind of gain some confidence week after week after week and it sets you up to go do something pretty cool.”
Lowry opened league play with a win over Sparks, but has since lost three straight, to Spring Creek, Elko and Truckee.
“Do your job and be more physical, that will be the message,” Sloan said.