To say that a lot is riding on tonight’s game against Spring Creek would be an understatement.
But for the Greenwave football team, which is riding a six-game winning streak and has clinched a home playoff game, it can still win the league title and receive one of two byes for the regional playoffs next month.
Fallon (6-1), though, will need to beat Spring Creek (5-2) tonight on the road when they collide in Elko County at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on KTUU 99.5 with Larry Barker calling the play-by-play and Randy Beeghly providing the color.
The Fallon-Spring Creek bout is not the only intriguing matchup of the evening. On the other side of the region will be Truckee (6-1) visiting Fernley (7-0) with first place on the line. If Fallon and Truckee both win, it will create a three-way tie for first next week when Fallon travels to Lowry, Fernley heads to Dayton and Truckee hosts South Tahoe.
“Our approach is the exact same as the last week,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “We know there’s more riding on it but it doesn’t change how we approach it. The kids had a good week of practice and they understand the challenge of going up to Spring Creek and playing a really good team.”
The No. 1 task is taking care of the Spartans tonight and letting the rest work itself out afterward.
“There’s still an opportunity for us there,” Hill said. “It’s just us taking care of business this week.”
Spring Creek has lost back-to-back games for the first time this season after suffering a 26-14 defeat at Truckee last week. But the Spartans have several playmakers who have turned in solid seasons thus far.
Senior quarterback Thomas Ledford is third in the league, completing 84 of 140 passes for 1,136 yards and 13 touchdowns, and senior Jason Painter has rushed for a league-best 1,337 yards on 185 carries and 15 touchdowns. Senior Dakota Larson is the league’s best receiver as he carries a 100.8 yard/game average to go with 10 touchdowns.
“The last few years, they’ve branched out offensively,” Hill said. “They’ve been pretty good (defensively) and started facing better competition. They have high-quality kids.”
Hill knew over the summer that this team would be one of his most talented but the inexperience could cause problems with how it responds to adversity. Fallon faced its share of adversity early in the season when it lost a starting lineman in the Hug opener and then its starting quarterback and another lineman against South Tahoe. But it was the Fernley loss, Fallon’s only blemish of the season, that saw the team grow the most.
“We learned a lot from that game. They grew up from that game and the kids responded,” Hill said.
Since coming on as quarterback, junior Sean McCormick has completed 26 of 41 passes for 469 yards and seven touchdowns. McCormick also leads the team in rushing with 639 yards on 62 yards and nine touchdowns but sophomore Brock Richardson has slid in at running back with junior Reid Clyburn to give Fallon three dynamic rushers. Richardson is second on the team with 497 yards on 34 carries and six touchdowns, while Clyburn, who’s missed two of the last three games with an ankle injury, has tallied 455 yards on 58 carries and six touchdowns.
Richardson also has been one of McCormick’s favorite targets in the air as he’s hauled in 499 yards on 25 receptions and seven touchdowns. Senior Clayton Steelmon has been a threat lately as he’s caught 11 balls for 216 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore Tommy McCormick and senior Christian Nemeth also have provided both depth and blocking at the receiving position.
Defensively, Fallon has kept opponents to under 23 points in each of the last three games.
Sean McCormick, who’s turning into a Player of the Year candidate, is the league’s leader on defense with 100 total tackles, including 79 solo, and five interceptions while senior Trent Thorn has 68 tackles (54 solo) and leads the team in tackles for loss with 10. Senior Brenden Larsen is the team’s leader in sacks with three while senior Jacob Weber and junior Gabe Hardy each have two. Larsen and Weber also have two interceptions apiece.