Big day for Falcons at Smith Valley |

Big day for Falcons at Smith Valley

by Shelby Jones
Special to The R-C
The Sierra Lutheran Falcons celebrate their first-ever league football victory Saturday at Smith Valley.
Shelby Jones |

Sierra Lutheran battled fiercely Saturday in its 8-man football game against the Smith Valley Bulldogs. It was a tough game, played in the wind and rain at Smith’s home field.

Smith Valley won the coin toss, starting their homecoming game on offense. The Falcons had a great start, with Sterling Funk making many tackles. After the two teams exchanged turnovers, the Bulldogs took their first lead on a touchdown pass and successful conversion.

Sierra’s defense held at midfield and Alex Westre ran well before the Falcons were stopped. Smith Valley made another run for it, but Zach Ferenz managed to tackle them at the 10-yard line. On the next play, however, the Bulldogs gained more yardage and scored a touchdown.

Sierra started to play more aggressively at that point and Jake Cummings caught a pass and ran down for a touchdown. The potential kick was blocked and Sierra switched to defense. Funk tackled the ball carrier and forced a fumble that was recovered by Logan Schinzing.

At the start of the second quarter, Smith Valley led 14-6. Right away, Smith Valley scored another touchdown and conversion. The Falcons turned the ball over again, but Ferenz managed to intercept a pass and carry it to the 36.

The Bulldogs scored another touchdown but the conversion pass was tipped away by Cole Contreras. Unfortunately, Sierra lost the ball and went back on defense. Smith added another touchdown and conversion, making the score 36-6. Even though the score looked grim, the Falcons were just getting started. The teams traded the ball back and forth multiple times, caused by fumbles or turnover of downs. Eventually, Cummings made another fantastic receiving touchdown and Westre completed the conversion to make the score 36-14 at halftime.

It still didn’t look great for Sierra Lutheran. The Falcons started on offense at the 5-yard-line when Contreras shot off and Ryan Salerno threw the pass to him for the touchdown. Again, both teams swapped the ball off before the end of the quarter. Sierra managed to successfully hold the Bulldogs every time, not allowing a single point, and showing persistence thoughout the quarter.

The fourth quarter was crunch time for Sierra. With the score 36-20, the Falcons began to play insanely strong defense. Funk and Ferenz racked up tackle after tackle and then recovered a turnover. On offense, Salerno had an impressive rushing touchdown. After the kickoff, the Bulldogs fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Zach McCullough. Westre ran for a touchdown and Schinzing converted the kick that made the score 33-36.

Sierra’s defense held once again, with Funk and Ferenz tackling players left and right. Sierra got the ball back on offense one last time. There were 48 seconds left on the clock.

Could the Falcons pull it off? They did.

Salerno completed a short pass to Cummings, who ran it down the sideline and scored on a 79-yard touchdown pass … the crowd following him on the sidelines. For the final touch, Schinzing kicked a very impressive PAT, producing the score of 40-36.

With less than 10 seconds left, the Falcons had to hold their excitement until the end of the game. And when the clock ran out, there were screams of excitement and hugs all around. Job well done, Sierra!

Salerno had 179 passing yards and 107 rushing yards. Cummings had an amazing 167 receiving yards, along with three touchdowns, on just thee catches. Ferenz ended up having 22 tackles (15 solo, seven assisted) and one interception. Ferenz also caused one fumble and recovered one. Funk wasn’t far behind with 19 tackles (12 solo, seven assisted), two fumbles caused and two passes defended. Westre had 104 rushing yards, 23 receiving, two passes defended, one fumble caused, one touchdown and one conversion. Nathan Waite and Tyrale Luken both had three sacks. Schinzing made two PAT kicks, recovered one fumble, and did six kickoffs for a total of 185 yards. Seth Houghton defended four passes and had 11 tackles.

Cross Country

On Saturday, Sierra’s cross country team did pretty well at the Bella Vista Invitational in Folsom, Calif. The varsity boys placed 15th out of 30 teams overall. Ricky McNeely placed 24th with a time of 17:17.73, a personal record for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles). Jared Marchegger ran 17:31.85 to place 30th. Steven Flanagan was a minute behind them, placing 85th with a time of 18:38.02 and Tyler Waite finished 112th with a time of 19:12.84.

For the varsity girls, Elaina Marchegger placed 24th with a time of 20:49.79. Emily McNeely placed 65th with a time of 22:09.14. Taylor Davidson finished with a new personal record of 23:11.73 in 96th and Emma Herron finished 106th with a time of 23:45.05.