Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Several times the Fernley Vaqueros looked on the verge of breaking open Friday’s game against Lowry.
Instead, the Vaqueros had to recover an onside kick with 12 seconds left to escape with a 31-26 win over Lowry.
Sam Ramirez returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, Willy Pritchard ran for 128 yards and a score and quarterback Zach Burns passed for 217 yards and one score and ran for another to lead the Vaqueros to a 31-26 win over Lowry.
“We made it exciting,” coach Chris Ward said. “We had every opportunity to finish the game early and we kept letting them back in.”
Willy Pritchard’s 2-yard touchdown run with 7:35 left in the third quarter gave Fernley a 28-12 lead, then Fernley got the ball back quickly at its own 23-yard line following a Lowry punt.
But Lowry’s Seth Hornbarger intercepted a deflected pass, Fernley’s fourth turnover of the game, and the Buckaroos drove 64 yards in 10 plays to pull within 28-18 on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ren Mattson to Jedadiah Teichert.
For the second straight game, the Vaqueros turned the ball over five times and committed nearly 100 yards in penalties.
“Sloppy. Very sloppy,” Ward said. “I think we were first and 15 or first and 20 three quarters of the time.”
Lowry never got in a position to truly threaten to win the game, until Mattson and Teichert hooked up for their second touchdown, an 8-yard pass with 12.1 seconds left. Even then it would have taken a miracle, but Fernley’s Chayce Diebler recovered the onside kick.
“This team in the past, they folded,” Lowry coach Taua Cabatbat said. “Today they showed some heart and stuck together like a family and they did a good job of staying in the fight.”
Lowry brought the fight early in the game, marching 60 yards on their opening drive to take a 6-0 lead on a 15-yard touchdown run by Teichert, who started the game at quarterback, before moving to receiver when Mattson came into the game.
With Fernley coaches exhorting players to ramp up the intensity, Sam Ramirez provided the spark.
Ramirez fielded the kickoff at the Fernley 13, found an opening through the left side and ran untouched 87 yards to put Fernley ahead 7-6.
“Sam hit that crease and took off. I think it just kind of woke us up and we started playing football again,” Ward said. “I think we were pretty flat at first, there’s no band, there’s no nothing, it just seemed like a dull flat night.”
The Fernley marching band was not in attendance, instead performing at the University of Nevada football game against Cal Poly.
Fernley then got its option offense. After the teams traded turnovers quarterback Zach Burns capped a 7-play, 49-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown for a 14-6 lead with 10:11 left in the second quarter.
Burns then tossed his first varsity touchdown pass, an 18-yarder to A.C Reyes to make it 21-6 with 4:56 left in the first half.
Teichert came back with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Brady Lange two plays later to cut the lead to 21-12 and keep the Buckaroos within hailing distance.
Burns finished 12 of 19 passing for 217 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran 21 times for 94 yards.
“We couldn’t get a hold of that guy,” Cabatbat said. “He’s awesome on the run and throws a pretty good ball. We did have some shots on him, and that was our whole game play, try to wear him out physically, and they got the best of us.”
Pritchard carried the ball 13 times for 128 yards, doing most of his damage between the tackles and ripping yardage in big chunks.
“Those two work together, Zach read the option well again, he threw the ball well, and we do have a couple threats out there at receiver,” Ward said. “Ren (Arroyo), especially after the catch, he’s pretty tough.”
Two of Fernley’s first-half turnovers came after long pass completions. Reyes fumbled at the Lowry 40 after an 18-yard reception in the first quarter and Reyes was stripped of the ball at the Lowry 17 after a 20-yard catch.
The Vaqueros also failed to score on their last drive of the half after reaching first and goal at the Lowry 4 with 18 seconds, Burns was sacked for a 12-yard loss, and on the last play of the game, his throw into the end zone was incomplete.
“I think in the first half alone we left 21 points on the field, easily, that we should have had,” Ward said.
Ward said the Vaqueros might have been misled by Lowry’s 45-7 loss to Spring Creek last week.
“We came in and watched the film, this is not that bad of a team,” Ward said. “They aren not bad. They’re not 45-7 bad, that’s for sure.”
Cabatbat said the Buckaroos made significant improvements from their opener, and agreed they are a better team than the score against Spring Creek showed.
“Spring Creek is a good team,” Cabatbat said. “I didn’t think they were 45 points better than us. They’re still a better team than we are. We expected Fernley to do what they did and we just wanted to improve and show the league that we aren’t a stepping stone for nobody.”
Lowry faces Truckee next week, while Fernley will face South Tahoe in its first road game of the season.
Truckee was hosting Fallon on Saturday, while South Tahoe lost 51-21 to Spring Creek Friday night.
Ward said the Vaqueros have shown their potential in the first two games, and just need to eliminate the penalties and turnovers.
“I think when we start clicking better, we’re going to be really tough,” he said. “We’ve just got to get to that point.”