Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
At some point, whether it happens this season or next, when the Fernley High School football team turns into the team that coach Anfernee Sloan envisions them becoming, it will be nights like last Friday they’ll point to as they look back on the moments that led them there.
As they had three other times this season, the Fernley Vaqueros found themselves facing a double-digit first half deficit last Friday night in Spring Creek. This time, the Vaqueros found the answers they hadn’t been able to find in their first three losses. And although the scoreboard showed them two points short when it was all over, it was the response to the adversity they overcame, and not the numbers on the scoreboard, that mattered most to Sloan.
“I was very impressed with how those kids responded,” he said. “Earlier in the year if something like that would have happened, those kids would definitely not have responded the way that they would have. They answered the call, they rose up and they made big plays.”
The Vaqueros rallied for 26 consecutive points in the second quarter, but their last ditch try at a game-winning drive came up short, as they lost their first game in Northern 3A East Division play, 41-39 at Spring Creek.
This week, the Vaqueros will host Elko in their Homecoming game, Friday at 7 p.m.
In Spring Creek, the Vaqueros fumbled on each of their first three possessions, each leading directly to a Spring Creek touchdown and a 21-0 deficit with 11:45 left in the second quarter.
Then all of a sudden, the Vaquero offense became a juggernaut.
“This right here just shows what happens when you let someone kick you in the teeth early on,” Sloan said. “Are you going to respond, are you going to sit there and let it happen some more, or are you going to get up and fight, and they did. They got back up and they fought.”
Gabe Tollestrup connected with Jake Cumming for a 60-yard touchdown to get Fernley on the board. After recovering a sort of onside kick, where Johnnie Williams blooped the kick over the front line of Spring Creek blockers, Tollestrup broke off a 40-yard touchdown run, and the Vaqueros were suddenly within 21-12.
Fernley stopped Spring Creek on 4th-and-11 on Spring Creeks’ next drive, then proceeded to march 75 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 3-yard run by Keeshawn Love to get within 21-18.
Spring Creek fumbled at the Fernley 14-yard line, and the Vaqueros marched 86 yards in less than two minutes, scoring on the last play of the half on a six-yard touchdown pass from Tollestrup to Garrett Harjo. Tollestrup’s two-point conversion run completed the stunning turnaround with Fernley on top 26-21.
But Spring Creek scored three times in the third quarter and led 41-32 going to the fourth.
Tollestrup found Cumming for a 10-yard score with 3:59 left in the game, and the Vaqueros were able to get one last stop, but Fernley’s final drive ended in an interception. An earlier 61-yard touchdown pass was wiped away by a penalty for an ineligible receiver downfield.
Even so, Sloan was more buoyed by the Vaqueros’ comeback than he was dejected by the loss.
“Without a doubt,” Sloan said when asked if seeing his team respond to adversity meant more to him than whether they won or lost. “That’s a beautiful thing about football. It teaches you so many different lessons, which you can take and run with for the rest of your life, and I definitely take pride in being able to reiterate it whenever I have the opportunity.
“You get knocked down, how are you going to respond? Let it happen or are you going to do something, make the best of it of what you can?” Sloan said. “They made the best of it they could, and they needed just a little bit more.”