Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The Friday night lights go on tonight for the Fernley Vaqueros, as they open the season at 7 p.m. in Bishop, Calif.
The Broncos are a new opponent for the Vaqueros, and one that has coach Chris Ward feeling a little uneasy, because he says he can’t judge from film how good they are compared to the teams the Vaqueros are familiar with in Nevada’s Northern 3A.
“That’s when I get all stressed out,” coach Chris Ward said. “That’s when I don’t sleep good, because I don’t really know.”
The Broncos return most of their offensive production from the team that went 7-4 last year, including a 13-7 loss in triple overtime to Yerington.
Both quarterbacks, junior Clay Omohundro and senior Luke McClean, return from last year after combining to complete 65 of 160 passes for 903 yards. The Broncos also return seven of their top nine rushers from last year, who accounted for 373 of the team’s 379 rushes and 2,231 of 2,249 yards, as well as seven of their top 10 receivers.
The Vaqueros, unlike last year, when they were replacing most of their starting lineups on both sides of the ball, also return lots of varsity experience, led by senior quarterback Mason Steele, who took over the starting job midway through the season and completed 31 of 56 passes for 548 yards.
The Vaqueros also return a host of running backs, both at the fullback and slot positions, led by Brandon Reyes, who emerged as the team’s top fullback in the second half of the season and ran for 749 yards on 127 carries.
Anthony Thompson, who led the team with 17 receptions, for 218 yards, and Lonnie Halterman, who topped the team in receiving yards with 328 on 15 catches both return.
Coach Chris Ward said the returning players have been providing good leadership throughout both summer conditioning and the two weeks of practice.
“I’m pretty proud of our older kids,” he said. “We haven’t anyone miss or anything like that, but we can’t really say that for our JV kids and our freshman kids.”
The Vaqueros also have a couple of players back in the program who didn’t come out for the team last year.
“At least on the offensive line we’re ahead of where we were last year, at least as far as our assignments and things like that,” Ward said.
The Vaqueros flexbone offense requires strength in the middle of the offensive line, and Ward thinks the Vaqueros are solid there, with senior Frank Morser (5-11, 280) winning the starting job at center, flanked by guards Setriano Piroddi (6-0, 245) and Jordan Franklin (6-2, 280).
“Those guys have to be our best drive blockers, and I think we have a couple of good ones right there,” Ward said.
At tackle, which requires more athleticism in the Vaqueros’ scheme, Ethan Bacock (6-3, 195) is back to man the left side after a knee injury kept him out last season, and Logan Kibbe (5-8, 185) is moving to right tackle from fullback.
Among the skill players, Thompson is expected to be among the headliners, while Ward said Kyle Jones has looked good and sophomore Carson Kingston adds athleticism. Ward said David Sisneros has had some good runs in practice and will see time at fullback, while John Owens is learning fullback after playing quarterback on the JV team last year.
Jesse Sapien, a 5-7, 140 transfer from Carson, is learning both the fullback and slot positions.
J.R. Reyes and Halterman are among the returning slotbacks, while Khryii Prevost is back for his senior season after not playing football the last couple years.
On defense, Alec Carr, Franklin and Piroddi will rotate at the tackle positions, while Bacock, Owens and Sisneros are the top defensive ends.
Ward said the Vaqueros also have several guys who can play in the secondary, including Jacob Dwyer, who is playing cornerback for the first time after being a defensive end at the lower levels and sitting out last year.
Ward said he has watched some film of Bishop, but doesn’t have a good read on how good they will be. The Broncos run a spread offense with a lot of 2-by-2 and 3-by-1 formations and are playing mostly a 4-2 and 3-3 stack defense.
“It might be a pretty good game, we’ll see,” Ward said. “I don’t know anything about them, to be honest. All I know about Bishop is that it’s halfway to Disneyland.”