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Elko moves ball, costs itself dearly

Elko moves ball, costs itself dearly

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WINNEMUCCA — The Elko football team did a lot of good things Saturday in its season opener — running the football effectively, owning the line of scrimmage and dominating the time of possession.

However, the bad things — a multitude of penalties, blown coverages and ill-timed miscues outweighed the good.

At Lowry, the Indians were unable to overcome an abundance of errors and lost the first game of the year by a final score of 29-22.

“We did a lot of good things. We had the ball a lot more than they did and we moved the ball well, but we didn’t execute and capitalize,” said Elko coach Luke Sellers. “We had our chances but the mistakes really hurt us. It definitely looked like the first game with short preparation for both teams.”

The Indians were actually set up early by Lowry mistakes.

After giving up a first down on a facemask, Elko’s defense stiffened with some strong stops by seniors Darin Groen and Brig Johnson and a pass breakup by Manny Alvarado.

The Buckaroos’ snap on fourth down sailed over the punter’s head and rolled backward for a loss of more than 30 yards.

From the Lowry 19, Elko overcame a hold with a couple nice runs by senior Kaiden Cervantes to around the 8.

An option pitch to senior Lincoln Ratliff moved the ball to the 2, and the first offensive drive of the season was stamped by a plunge from Cervantes up the gut.

The point-after attempt from Ratliff was true, giving the Indians a 7-0 lead with around 5:30 remaining in the opening stanza.

Lowry completed a 16-yard pass from senior quarterback Caden Ricci to junior Giovani Sapien to the 40-yard line, adding about four yards on a reception from sophomore Jordan Bills.

A 15-yard carry by Anthony Peterson not only moved the ball into Elko territory, the Indians also committed two 15-yard penalties — a late hit out of bounds and a sideline penalty — marching the rock all the way to the 15.

Johnson made a big stick in the backfield, and Lowry shots itself in the foot once more — botching the exchange in the backfield — Elko senior Gage Steilman jumping on the loose ball.

The squads exchanged bloopers.

After Cervantes picked up a first down on the ground, the snap was sent over his head on 3rd-and-short and grabbed at the Indians’ 42 by Lowry senior Aaron Woolsey.

The Bucks appeared to score their first points of the season on a highlight run by Peterson — hurdling through the hole off-tackle right and dashing down the sideline for a score — but the big play was brought back by a holding penalty.

After an eight-yard run by Ricci, Elko’s secondary had a blown coverage of colossal proportions — leaving senior receiver Anthony Gildone absolutely all alone for a 46-yard strike from Ricci.

The extra point from sophomore Braden Hammargren split the uprights and tied the contest at 7-7 with 10:55 remaining in the second quarter.

Elko’s ensuing drive was killed courtesy of three penalties — two false starts and an illegal shift — ending with a sack by Lowry senior Seth Whitted for a 4th-and-20.

The Bucks wasted no time to cash in.

From midfield, poor tackling was to blame for a 50-yard touchdown pass to Sapien — who took advantage of soft coverage and caught the ball around the 42 on a comeback route — turning up the field and bouncing off a number of should-be tacklers for a race to paydirt.

With just less than nine minutes on the clock, Hammargren’s PAT pushed Lowry to a 14-7 lead.

The kickoff rolled out of bounds, Elko electing to make the Bucks kick again — Ratliff returning the second boot to near midfield.

On 4th-and-4, Cervantes used brute strength and sheer will for a first down.

The Indians broke into their bag of tricks and ran a double-reverse pass, Johnson drawing a pass interference penalty to march the ball to the Lowry 24.

Cervantes toted the rock three times and reached the 2, his fourth-straight carry tying the contest after Ratliff’s PAT with 4:19 remaining in the half.

However, Elko kicked onside and directly to a Lowry player at the Indians’ 44.

Gildone beat his defender for a 25-yard reception down the sideline, Peterson going for about 14 yards with a great run off around the right edge to the 1.

On a play-action pass, Gildone hauled in a slant throw from Ricci for his second TD of the half — Hammargren’s kick opening a 21-14 lead with 3:46 on the clock.

After fumbling and recovering the kickoff, Elko moved the ball into the Bucks’ territory with a 24-yard pass from Ratliff to Johnson.

Cervantes moved the chains twice after six-consecutive wildcat runs.

However, Elko did itself no favors and allowed 18 seconds to roll off the clock before taking a timeout.

Ratliff completed a screen pass to Alvarado — who nearly scored — taking the ball to the Lowry 1.

The Indians hurried to the line and spiked the ball with less than a second on the clock.

Leaving one last play in the half, the snap was fumbled and the Bucks escaped what should have been the game-knotting play.

At the break, the Indians trailed by seven at 21-14.

On a short kick to senior David Heard at the Elko 40, the Indians rode Cervantes — moving the chains twice — converting a 4th-and-1 with a huge push and hurdling multiple players on another carry to inside the Lowry 20.

Facing 4th-and-3, Elko attempted to rush senior lineman Calvin Burden — the Bucks having none of it for a turnover on downs at the 10.

Elko’s defense came up with a huge play, as junior Andoni Fesenmaier applied huge pressure and knocked the ball loose.

Lowry jumped back on the football, but the play closed in the end zone for a safety.

Heard collected the free kick at the 47, but the Indians killed their drive with penalties and actually punted the ball on third down — the ball only traveling to the Lowry 44.

The Bucks obliged, also ending their momentum with penalties — the drive closing with a sack by Johnson and junior Kason Lesbo.

From the Lowry 49, Cervantes reached a first down on three carries and benefitted from a facemask call — moving the ball to the Bucks’ 15.

Ratliff then became the workhorse and carried four times for a first down and a one-yard touchdown.

On the point-after, Elko faked the kick — reversing the ball from the placeholder to who looked like junior Pete Romero.

The ball carrier appeared to reach the ball across the goal line at the pylon, but the officials ruled he was stopped short of the end zone.

With 11 seconds remaining in the third, Elko took the lead at 22-21.

The game was ultimately decided on the ensuing kick.

Peterson reeled in the ball on the move at the Lowry 30, made a nasty jump cut to his right and squirted free — outracing all defenders down the sideline for a 70-yard house call.

The PAT on the last play of the third quarter opened a 29-22 lead.

Elko’s next possession was both successful and disastrous.

From the Lowry 40, Cervantes carried for seven and 11 yards running for six more before being stuffed — setting up 4th-and-4 — the Indians extending the drive with a nice run to the left side by Ratliff for about five or six yards.

A false start pushed Elko back five yards, Heard running for four yards on an inside give from a reverse.

Cervantes rushed for six yards and the chains were moved as he broke numerous tackles for a six-yard carry.

One step forward, five steps back — another false state stopping momentum — the play ending with a fumble and a recovery by Elko.

Senior Brayden Barnhurst went for about 10 yards on a pitch play, Ratliff adding three more and Cervantes carrying for a first down on 3rd-and-2.

From the Lowry 8, Cervantes was dropped for a loss but the Bucks committed a facemask penalty and marched the Indians to the 4 with a fresh sets of downs.

On the next play, Cervantes bulled up the middle for a touchdown but a holding penalty nullified what could have been the game-tying or go-ahead score if Elko would have gone for two.

A bad snap went over Cervantes’ head and rolled back to the 30 and a carrier slipped and fell for a loss.

Elko went from 1st-and-goal at the 4 to 4th-and-goal at the 36.

A deep chuck down the right side of the field was tipped incomplete, turning the ball over on down to the Buckaroos.

After a false start of its own, Lowry faced 3rd-and-6 — Johnson getting the defense off the field with a tackle for a loss.

Elko’s final drive began horribly, dropping the snap on first down at the Indians’ 38 and a collision between teammates on the handoff resulting in a 3rd-and-15.

A shovel pass to Barnhurst went for six yards but — on 4th-and-9 — Elko’s loss was sealed as Barnhurst was drilled in the backfield on a toss to the left.

Lowry ran out the clock and improved to 1-0 with a 29-22 victory, dropping the Indians to 0-1.


Cervantes carried the ball an insane 53 times for 247 yards — which included a loss of 19 yards — rushing for two touchdowns/

Ratliff finished with 32 yards on 10 carries with a TD of his own, completing two of six passes for 30 yards.

Johnson led the defense with six tackles (five solo) and a half-sack.

Senior Shawn Sessions added five tackles, Romero and senior Dillan Burden each finished with four stops and junior Cohen Chapin closed with three tackles.

Fesenmaier forced a fumble and made a sack, Steilman notching a fumble recovery.

Elko ran 90-something offensive plays and limited Lowry to 36 plays, but the Buckaroos’ plays were more explosive and resulted in more touchdowns.

Up Next

The Indians will play another game on the road, set to face Fernley — Sellers saying the game will likely take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, in Silver Stage.

GALLERY: 2019 Elko Indians Football Season


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Related to this story

Elko football is back, but the Indians' season opener versus Lowry at 3 p.m. Saturday will take place in Winnemucca. The contest will be livestreamed at and audio is available online at or on the radio at 95.9 FM and 1240 AM.