SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Facing a school almost four times his school’s enrollment, Brooke Hill knew his team would be in for a fight.
Opting out of a scrimmage to face a Bay Area team to open the season, the Greenwave struggled in the trenches against California, falling 25-12 on Saturday. Fallon opens league play on Friday when it travels to Spring Creek. The first home game is Sept. 6 against Fernley.
While Fallon almost matched California’s offensive totals, it was the Grizzlies running game that kept the Greenwave in check.
“They’re a good football team,” Hill said. “The key is we didn’t sustain drives. We competed against a pretty good football team but we’ve got to learn to sustain drives and make stops. We can’t rely on the big play. We’ve got to get stops on third down.”
Daniel Desoto had a game-high 137 rushing yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns as California controlled the clock for 28 minutes, running almost double the number of plays (60-36) with 56 plays coming on the ground to the tune of 341 rushing yards and three touchdowns. California also converted 7-of-11 on third down, keeping Fallon’s defense on the field for most of the game.
“Their skill guys are better than ours and we knew that going in. We put a lot of pressure on our offensive line and defensive line and running backs,” California coach Eric Billeci said. “They were going to be the difference makers. We had to control the ball and the clock.”
Penalties hurt the Fallon offense and special teams.
“They made a lot of plays. Who knows if we get a couple of those plays back,” Hill said. “That type of team, the way they churn it out, it’s tough. They kept our playmakers off the field.”
After the Grizzlies scored on the opening drive, Brock Richardson broke free on the return and raced into the end zone, but the touchdown was called back. Instead, Fallon had to punt on its first series.
Elijah Jackson passed efficiently, completing 9 of 13 for 218 yards and two touchdowns, including strikes to Richardson in the second quarter and a last-second drop to Avery Strasdin to end the game. Levi Andrews ran for 44 yards on 11 carries while Richardson carried for 17 yards on four carries but hauled in three passes for 100 yards. Jackson was kept in check in the run game, averaging 1.8 yards a carry. Tommy McCormick also caught three passes for 40 yards.
Fallon’s defense stepped up later in the first quarter and forced California to punt multiple times, including midway through the second quarter to set up the Greenwave’s first score. On the fourth play of the series, Jackson found Richardson for 85 yards down the left side as he raced in front of the Fallon bench and crowd to cut the deficit to 7-6 with 4:22 left in the half.
California grinded out another drive, which was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left. A two-point conversion gave the Grizzlies a two-possession lead heading into the locker rooms with Fallon set to receive the second-half kickoff.
“They’re physical up front. That’s a school that plays in a pretty high division,” Hill said. “We’ll be all right. They beat us up physically.”
Fallon couldn’t get anything going until the fourth quarter after the Grizzlies added their final touchdown, a 4-yard run with 21 seconds left in the third to increase the score to 22-6. After Jackson found Andrews for a 15-yard completion to open the series, he scrambled on the next play and heaved a deep pass to McCormick in the end zone. Another penalty – ineligible receiver downfield – wiped out the score for the second time.
“Everybody’s competitive and we have to keep it in perspective. We’ll learn more from this game than any game we’ll play this year,” Hill said.