ELKO — For the Elko football team, Friday’s season opener will serve as a number of firsts.
First game of the season, first game at home, first varsity game for a number of Elko’s players.
The Indians are coming off a 6-4 season last year — earning the No. 3 seed of the 3A North regional playoffs — losing their first-round postseason game by a lopsided margin at home to Lowry.
As Elko sets for its first test of the season, the Indians will face a dangerous South Tahoe squad.
The Vikings (1-0) have already played and dominated a contest — racking up more than 600 yards of offense — blowing out Arcata (California) by a final score of 49-28.
Last season, South Tahoe struggled to a 1-9 overall record and a 1-8 mark in league play — the Vikings fielding an entirely-new team — possessing loads of talent but consisting primarily of sophomores.
With a year of varsity ball under their belts, the Vikings are talented and more experienced — the Indians now playing the newcomer role.
“We have to take care of ourselves, but I’m sure we will need to play at another level,” said Elko coach Luke Sellers. “Those guys are good, they’re experienced and they have a lot of weapons.”
Against Arcata, South Tahoe’s balance was on full display.
Now-junior quarterback Jake Tarwater (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) completed 17-for-26 passes for 368 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Sophomore running back Jordan Adams carried the rock 28 times for 248 times and two scores, including a 48-yard TD gallop.
In the passing game, junior wide receiver Gio Medina Morales was a big-play machine — taking five catches for 170 yards — scoring two touchdowns, one going for 62 yards.
Junior Mason Hage also destroyed the Tigers, shredding Arcata’s secondary for a team-high nine catches for 159 yards with a team-best three touchdowns, including a 75-yard shredder.
In the kicking game, Medina Morales was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra points.
The Vikings didn’t record defensive stats, and Arcata did not post their offensive numbers for the contest.
As for the Indians, Sellers said Elko’s secondary must bring its A-game.
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“To be in a game, we’re going to have to play at a different level,” he said. “Our secondary will have to improve. In our scrimmage, we never faced anyone who can throw the ball like this kid (Tarwater).”
In the meeting last season, Elko fended off the Vikings with a 13-point fourth quarter — winning by a final score of 26-14 — in South Tahoe, California.
Then-senior Christian Quintana picked off Tarwater three times — making two picks in the end zone — but Tarwater finished 20-of-38 for 315 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
Sellers said ideally, the Indians will need to keep the Vikings off the scoreboard or put up points if South Tahoe scores.
“They can strike quick. If they score, we have to be able to answer with our offense,” he said.
Elko’s offense consists of basically a brand-new lineup.
Running the controls at quarterback will be junior Jake Zeller, taking snaps from senior center Max Shurtz.
Along the front, the Indians will start junior Shawn Sessions at left tackle, junior Calvin Burden at left guard, senior Cameron Christensen at right guard and junior Gage Steilman at right tackle.
Juniors Darin Legrand and Brigg Johnson will split time at tight end, the outside receiver positions manned by seniors Damon Jardine and Corbin Notestine.
Elko’s backfield will be “by committee,” a number backs receiving carries — tailback duties delegated to seniors Cameron Marvel and Rolando Acosta and juniors Manny Alvarado, Lincoln Ratliff and Brayden Barnhurst.
At “B” back, Sellers expects to use junior Kaiden Cervantes and senior Nick Kinder.
“In the scrimmage, I thought we executed fairly well,” he said. “We don’t have our whole playbook in yet. We’re still tweaking it to see what they can handle.”
For the overall look of the team, Sellers said Elko’s 1s might not be starters for other teams but added that the Indians have “pretty good depth.”
“We have a lot of kids who look alike and can do a lot of the same things,” he said. “There’s not a lot of drop-off, so that’s good. We can have a revolving door and sub a lot of different people and not have that huge difference in play.”’
The Indians will test their season outlook for the first time, hosting South Tahoe at 7 p.m. Friday, at Warrior Field.
The game will broadcast over the radio on KELK, 95.9 FM and 1240 AM.