ELKO – If the second football game between the Elko Indians and the Fallon Greenwave is anything like the first – bring a defibrillator.
The Indians came from behind late in the fourth quarter on Sept. 30, thanks to an 85-yard kick return touchdown by senior Kyrin Allen with 2:27 remaining in the game. Allen also scored Elko’s only other touchdown of regulation on a 21-yard reverse in the third quarter.
In the first meeting against the Greenwave, Elko’s offense never found traction until the overtime periods – yes, periods.
Elko clawed to a 30-24 victory in triple overtime, using two rushing touchdowns by Gavin Byington – including the game winner – and an acrobatic receiving touchdown by senior Austin Smith from senior quarterback Eric Klekas.
Senior Angelo Jones made the game-winning run possible by picking off Fallon senior quarterback Conner Nelson on fourth down on a pass to the end zone to start the third extra frame.
The Greenwave mounted 343 yards of total offense (147 passing, 196 rushing) compared to 224 yards by the Indians. Elko picked up 198 yards on the ground, but the Indians only completed two passes for 26 yards.
Allen has been out for the past three games after season-ending surgery on his hand, and the 1st-Team All-State performer’s absence has been notable.
Although playing against two of the top teams in the Division 3A North, the Indians have not scored in the last two games without Allen on the field.
Trotting onto the field Thursday will be a charged up Greenwave team, which gave the undefeated No. 1 Spring Creek Spartans all they wanted and then some two weeks ago in Fallon – allowing the game-winning touchdown from senior quarterback Jon Jund to junior wide receiver Dakota Larson with three seconds remaining for a 42-36 victory.
The Greenwave transitioned Nelson from wide receiver to quarterback midway through the season, and Fallon has been a different team since making the move.
While Fallon still operates from a spread formation, the Greenwave read-option run attack has been its bread and butter – combining Nelson’s scrambling ability with the powerful, north-south running of senior tailback Cade Vercellotti.
Not only will the Indians have to account for Fallon on both sides of the football, Elko must learn how to turn the page after two blowout losses.
Elko was shut out 40-0 on Oct. 14 on the road at South Tahoe, and the Indians were blanked once again Friday in a 34-0 loss to Spring Creek.
“We are on a two-game losing streak, and we have to do something to stop the bleeding. We hit the gauntlet of our schedule. This is not an easy league,” said Elko coach Luke Sellers. “We are two different teams than the last time we meet. There have some been some switches, movements made and injuries. Fallon played really well against Spring Creek. They had them beat.”
Expect the Indians to run their more traditional base defense Thursday.
Elko switched from a zone concept to man-to-man coverage against the Spartans, but Spring Creek’s skill position players simply outmatched the Indians – running wild and at will on carries and pass routes.
“We tried some different things because Spring Creek is so effective at picking apart a zone, but they were really good at winning their matchups one-on-one too,” Sellers said. “We have to control our gaps, take away the run up the middle first and make them run sideways. If we are disciplined, we have to make them run sideline to sideline.”
One area that could also loom huge in Thursday’s first-round playoff game is special teams.
Neither team could make an extra point in the first meeting, with kicks either being blocked or simply missing.
Two-point conversions also failed every time in the contest for both squads.
One of the biggest plays of the first matchup proved to be Allen’s kick return to force overtime, so many questions remain unanswered but will be revealed once the ball is kicked.
“We need to do the things we have done to win six games. Hopefully, we can do enough to slow them down and win No. 7,” Sellers said. “It’s all going to come down to execution.”
Elko enters the game with a record of 6-3 for the No. 4 seed, and Fallon’s mark stands at 5-4 with the No. 5 seed – but the only record that matters is 1-0 in the playoffs – each team kicking off the postseason with a 0-0 record.
Whichever team wins the ball game – barring an unlikely victory by No. 6 Fernley at No. 3 South Tahoe – will advance to the second round to play Spring Creek.
The battle for the chance to pull off an upset in the second round kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday at Warrior Field – the winner moving on, the loser transitioning to the winter sports season.