Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The Fernley High School football team will get a home game after all. Sort of.
After their entire season had originally been scheduled on the road became of damage to their field from a flash flood, the school has arranged to host this week’s game against Elko at Silver Stage High School.
The JV teams will play at noon, with the varsity game at 3 p.m.
The Vaqueros will be looking to bounce back from a 7-6 loss at Spring Creek last Saturday, where their last-ditch drive ended when the potential game-winning field goal was blocked.
The Vaqueros had taken a 6-0 lead in the second quarter on a one-yard run by quarterback Julian McIntyre, but McIntyre was stopped just short of the goal on the two-point conversion try, which turned out to be the difference in the game, when the Spartans kicked an extra point after tying the game in the third quarter.
Coach Chris Ward attributed the loss to a bevy of mistakes. Some were glaring, like four turnovers, three of them in the red zone, and a roughing the punter penalty in the fourth quarter that nullified a short punt that would have given the Vaqueros good field position for their last drive.
Instead, after forcing another punt, the Vaqueros had to try to drive 80 yards in the final three minutes. After starting the drive with a sack and an incompletion, McIntyre connected on three consecutive passes, two to Carson Kingston and one to Kyle Jones, to get the Vaqueros to the Spring Creek 31-yard line with about two minutes left. They got as far as the 13-yard line with 33 seconds left, but a pass on third down was incomplete, and Ward decided to try a 30-yard field goal rather than going for it on fourth and five, but the kick was smothered behind the line of scrimmage.
“I really debated that,” Ward said. “If it had been from the 5-yard line and in, we would have probably lined up and run it in.”
Other mistakes were a little less obvious to the untrained eye, but Ward said they were just as problematic. In past years, the Spartans have defended the Vaqueros with a three-man defensive front and a single high safety, but Saturday they came out in a three-man front, with the two inside linebackers stacked behind the nose guard to attack the ‘A’ gaps between the center and the guards to defend against the dive portion of the Vaqueros triple option.
Ward said that often left the Vaqueros’ offensive lineman unsure of their blocking assignments. Coaches pulled the offensive linemen from the game one-by-one to show them on the sideline what was happening and remind them of their rules to determine who to block.
“It took us three series before we could get that done,” Ward said. “A lot of the problems we had were just a lack of experience and not understanding what to do.”
The Vaqueros have five new starting offensive linemen. The only one who had ever played offensive line in a varsity game, right guard Dominic Reyes, was injured most of last year, and while right tackle David Sisneros is an experienced player and was an All-League defensive end last season, he played running back on offense and Saturday was his first game on the line.
Still, the Vaqueros managed to run for 210 yards on 38 attempts, a healthy average of 5.5 yards per carry. Anthony Thompson gained 79 yards on his eight carries, while McIntyre kept the ball 15 times for 53 yards.
The Vaqueros attempted only nine passes, six of them on the final drive. Ward said they didn’t try to pass more earlier because they weren’t sure how well their inexperienced offensive line would do in pass protection. McIntyre wound up completing three of nine passes for 58 yards, with all three completions on the final drive.
While the offense has just four starters returning from last year, the defense has eight, and Ward said they played outstanding. The Spartans had just two sustained drives, one resulting in their touchdown, and another ending deep in Fernley territory when JR Reyes forced a fumble that Tucker Hall recovered.
“The defense played real well,” Ward said. “They’re quite a bit ahead of the offense.”
For all of their mistakes and problems, Ward said there were plenty of good signs too. In his first varsity start as a quarterback, McIntyre made generally good decisions piloting the option, and Ward said he was especially good at handling the way the Spring Creek linebackers were crashing the gaps to try to take away the dive.
“Julian handled the mesh charge pretty well and he was able to pull the ball and step around it and make something happen,” Ward said.
Being mistakes of inexperience, Ward said he believes most of the things that went wrong against Spring Creek can be corrected quickly.
“It’s learning, and this is a great time to do it,” he said. “This is kind of a springboard into next year. We’re trying to do two things – to let our seniors play a lot, and to use this season as a springboard into next season.”