Falcons celebrate home debut
Talk about a long road trip! After playing nine games away from home during its first official season in 2015, the Sierra Lutheran High football team is understandably excited to have an opportunity to play in front of a home crowd.
Sierra Lutheran opens its new season under first-year head coach Billy McHenry Saturday with a non-league eight-man football contest at home against Tonopah. A 1 p.m. kickoff is scheduled at the school’s newly constructed Falcon Field.
“We are looking forward to this,” McHenry said. “What a special opportunity this is to open on a brand new field.”
The Falcons, 3-6 overall (2-5 league) last season, have come a long way since their program began with two scrimmage games in 2014. Eight players remain from that original group that organized under coach Jacob Schumacher.
“I think back to when we were (practicing) at James Lee Park,” said Austin Stone, a junior lineman. “I’m amazed at how much we’ve grown.”
The Falcons also have some momentum to build on from the end of last season when they won back-to-back games, 40-36 against Smith Valley and 41-38 against Coleville.
“We still have a long way to go, but I think we have a chance to improve,” Stone added. “We just want to improve our skills.”
The Falcons have four third-year veterans returning at the offensive skill positions. Start with first-team all-league wide receiver Jake Cummings (6-2, 185) and second-team quarterback Ryan Salerno (5-8, 150). Both are seniors.
Cummings had 26 receptions for 665 yards and eight touchdowns. His top highlight came on a 79-yard TD pass from Salerno in the final 30 seconds in the win over Smith Valley.
Salerno rolled up 1,831 yards in total offense last year — 999 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air and a team-high 832 rushing yards. He ran for 221 yards and four touchdowns in Sierra Lutheran’s season-ending win at Coleville.
Senior tailbacks Alex Westre (5-8, 165) and Cole Contreras (5-10, 170) put up good numbers last season. Westre rushed for 316 yards and eight TDs and Contreras 187 yards with one TD. Contreras also had 13 receptions for 121 yards and one TD.
Stone (6-0, 185) is now set to start at center on the offensive line, flanked by sophomore Rocky DiMartino (6-4, 215) and junior Peyton Hedwall (6-4, 265), while seniors Tyrale Luken (6-2, 195) and Caleb Klubben (6-1, 170) have experience at tight end. Hedwall, Luken and Klubben are third-year veterans and DiMartino saw action as a freshman last year.
The Falcons are facing a difficult assignment against the Tonopah Muckers. Tonopah compiled a 7-3 record in 2015, including a 55-26 season-opening win over Sierra Lutheran.
Tonopah opened its season Friday with a 68-22 win at home against Mineral County. Vincent Bagarose rushed for 142 yards and three TDs while Kade Bunker rushed for another 80 yards and three scores. Quarterback Tanner Otteson was 14-for-19 with 147 yards and two TDs.
“They have a really good team and they’re well coached,” McHenry said. “They’ve been to the playoffs something like 10 of the last 11 years and they’ve won a state championship (2007).”