Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
With the game, and possibly the Vaqueros’ playoff hopes, on the line, Fernley football coach Chris Ward needed a minute to consider his options.
Ward’s choice turned out to be the right one, and as a result, the Vaqueros clinched at least a tie for a playoff spot, with an edge in tiebreakers.
A.C. Reyes scored on a two-point conversion, after Ward eschewed a potential tying extra point and possible overtime in favor of going for the win after Zach Burns’ 3-yard touchdown run, to give the Vaqueros an improbable 15-14 win Friday night.
“Actually I was kind of thinking about going for one, tie it up, playing in overtime, but then, I was talking it over with the coaches real quick, and you know what, you don’t want to get into overtime with something like that because we were just lucky to get back down there,” Ward said. “They were pounding us up the middle. It probably wouldn’t have been very smart to get into overtime, that short field and everything like that.”
Fernley rallied from a 14-0 deficit with two touchdowns in the final 7:12 of the game, after being stymied offensively most of the night.
The Vaqueros drove 68 yards in four plays and 1:08 for the winning score.
Fernley got the ball with 1:23 on the clock on their own 32-yard line, and on first down, Burns connected with Ren Arroyo for a 47-yard completion to the Wooster 21. Arroyo made a leaping catch along the right hashmark at about the Wooster 45-yard line, then raced down the sideline before being knocked out of bounds by Phaezon Wright.
“Ren’s a very good receiver and he wasn’t going to let that bypass him,” Ward said. “He was going to go up for that ball and he did, and that was awesome.”
Burns hit Arroyo on a slant pass for 17 yards, to the Wooster 4, on the next play, where the Vaqueros got the kind of break that had eluded them all season. With a time out left, the Vaqueros decided to run the ball, but fumbled, but Garrison Harjo recovered, and Burns scored on the next play.
“It seemed like a lot of stuff was happening this year that wasn’t going our way, and finally got something that kind of went our way,” Ward said.
The Vaqueros got their first score, cutting the lead to 14-7 with 7:12 left in the game, on 25-yard touchdown run by Willy Pritchard. That capped an 83-yard drive, which was kept alive by a 15-yard pass from Burns to Sam Ramirez on fourth-and-8 from the Wooster 40.
“I was hoping it wasn’t too late, but good to see that we’re not giving up, we’re not rolling over, and it was good to see at the end that there was still fight left and ready to go,” Ward said.
The Vaqueros’ two scoring drives accounted for 155 yards of offense, after having just 129 up to that point. However, they also had close to 100 yards in gains negated by penalties, including a pair of big pass plays on their first drive of the game.
“We had a hard time bouncing back from that, but they did at the end, so that was good,” Ward said. “We started off good, we were moving the ball then we got those three penalties right off that just killed us. It kind of took the life right out of us a little bit.”
Wooster controlled the ball for long stretches at a time, scoring first on a 12-play, 81-yard drive that was made even longer by four false start penalties and one holding call. Romeo Okorie scored on a 12-yard run with 7:57 left in the first half for a 7-0 lead.
Wooster went ahead 14-0 with 5:22 left in the third quarter on an 8-yard touchdown by Chosen Gbenjo, capping a 9-play, 70-yard drive.
Fernley looked poised to answer, driving to the Wooster 20, but a sack put Fernley in a hole, and on fourth down, Arroyo was tackled for a 4-yard loss while he was trying to throw a pass on a reverse.
With the win, the Vaqueros improved to 3-4, while Wooster fell to 1-6. A Wooster win would have put the two teams in a tie for sixth place, and given Wooster a tiebreaker advantage.
Instead, Fernley has a two-game lead for the sixth playoff spot, with two games left. Wooster, Lowry and Sparks are all 1-6, and Fernley has beaten all three teams.
Fernley plays at Truckee next Saturday, then finishes the regular season Oct. 21 against Dayton. Truckee is second in the league at 6-1, after losing 63-34 at Spring Creek Friday night, in a game that was tied at 34 halfway through the third quarter.