It was a tale of two prep football games, a defensive struggle in the first half and an offensive shootout in the second half.
When the smoke cleared from an exciting, yet nail-biting second half, Fallon (4-1 overall, 3-1 league) had held on for a 35-34 Northern 3A wild finish against visiting South Tahoe (1-3 overall and league) Friday night at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex.
The second half didn’t surprise either coach.
“Both coaches probably wish their defenses played a little bit better,” said South Tahoe coach Louis Franklin. “I was a bit surprised with the low scoring in the first half, but it was more of each team feeling out the other.”
Once each coach made adjustments at halftime, Franklin said the fans saw some good plays.
Fallon coach Brooke Hill shook his head after the game about the wild third quarter, a game within a game.
“Neither team couldn’t stop anybody,” Hill said. “Both teams made adjustments. They saw some things … we saw some things.”
The Greenwave, which won its third consecutive game after an upset to Fernley on Sept. 1, led 7-6 at halftime before each team’s offense heated up the first autumn night of 2017. After receiving the second-half kickoff, Fallon put together a six-play drive that resulted in a 38-yard run by Fallon quarterback Elijah Jackson, who rushed for a total of 74 yards in the game.
Kicker Tallon Amezquita, who was perfect for the night, kicked the extra point for a 14-6 lead.
The Vikings stormed back with a big play of their own when quarterback Peyton Galli hooked up with Tyler Wattanchinda for a 70-yard pass play to cut the lead to 14-12. Galli then tossed a short pass to running back Jakob Costley for the conversion to knot the score at 14.
Costley led all rushers with 102 yards on 19 carries.
Galli’s passing frustrated the Fallon secondary for most of the second half if not the entire game. Overall, he completed 17 of 34 passes for 446 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Wave suffered a big blow to its offense on the next series. On the fourth play of Fallon’s drive, Jackson kept the ball and ran toward the South Tahoe sideline. Several coaches thought Jackson may have hyper-extended his knee, and with him unable to play, Hill moved Sean McCormick from wide receiver to quarterback.
Lineman Nick Delgado also suffered an apparent knee injury on another play and did not play for the rest of the game.
Reid Clyburn, who didn’t rush for much yardage in the first half, gained 4 yards, and on a third and 6 from the Vikings’ 30. The Fallon junior found a seam on the right side and outraced South Tahoe’s secondary for his first touchdown of the game. Amezquita gave Fallon a 21-14 lead with 7:22 left in the quarter.
Fans barely had enough time to take a stretch before Galli lit up Fallon’s secondary with a bomb.
On the first play from the Vikings’ 34, Galli ran a play-action and looked deep for a 66-yard strike to Matt Cain. Fallon’s Brenden Larson denied Galli’s 2-point conversion by intercepting the ball near the end zone. Cain emerged as Galli’s favorite target, hauling in eight passes for 216 yards.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Greenwave’s Christian Nemeth fell on the ball at the Fallon 40. After the Vikings’ stopped Clyburn for a loss, McCormick focused on Brock Richardson, who caught a 66-yard pass for Fallon’s fourth score of the night and subsequently added to its lead, 28-20.
Richardson and McCormick each led Fallon with five receptions. Richardson finished the night with 83 yards, and McCormick had 56 yards.
South Tahoe went from its lightning speed of scoring touchdowns to mount an eight-play drive that ended in a 9-yard pass from Galli to Wattanachinda. Galli tried the 2-point conversion, but the attempt fell short as the Vikings trailed 28-26 with 2:44 left in the quarter.
The Wave finished the quarter with its final touchdown, an 18-yard pass from McCormick to Christian Nemeth. Fallon, which outscored South Tahoe 28-20 in the third quarter, took a 35-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
Hill said he was pleased with how McCormick came in and ran the offense.
“He did a really good job,” Hill pointed out. “We worked with him this summer a little, but he had a lot of reps at quarterback. He’s a good athlete, a smart kid who knows the offense. He made some big throws for us.”
McCormick completed 3 of 4 passes for 78 yards.
“I think it was great,” McCormick said of the Greenwave’s second half. “We started running the ball well, and it opened the pass. I had to make the throws because they (South Tahoe) were making the plays out there.”
McCormick said Fallon had to figure out the third quarter and execute, which it eventually did in the final quarter.
If the third quarter was a free-for-all on the ground and through the air, the fourth quarter became a grind-it-out game for both teams.
Near the end of the quarter with 2:33 left in regulation play, Galli completed a 14-yard pass to Kody Griffis, and then connected with Cain for the 2-point conversion to cut Fallon’s lead to 35-34.
Franklin praised Galli, who didn’t play last week against Fernley because of injuries. He also lamented the second straight week of not having tight end McCallan Castles in the lineup due to an injury. The 6-foot-5 Castles has verbally committed to play at Cal.
“If we would have had our big guy, he would have been a key difference-maker,” Franklin said, “but it was nice to see the guys step up with the big plays.”
The Vikings’ defense stuffed Fallon in its next series before taking over with more than a minute remaining.
Galli kept the ball for an 8-yard gain, and then threw an incomplete pass. On third down, Larsen intercepted the South Tahoe quarterback on the 40-yard line.
Fallon grabbed the game’s early 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Jackson teamed up with McCormick for a 66-yard touchdown. Near the end of the first half, South Tahoe relied on an 83-yard pass to Caleb Moretti who slipped several tackles before reaching the goal line. The 2-point conversion fell short when the Fallon defense tackled James Knudson before the end zone.