ELKO – Five games into the season, the Elko football team has not been perfect but the Indians are running a perfect race – now fixing to crash into another Division 3A North giant in its natural habitat.
For the first time since 2002, the Indians have reeled off a 5-0 start.
Saturday, Elko will tangle with No. 3 Truckee (4-1) on the Wolverines’ home turf.
The lone blemish on Truckee’s schedule is a Sept. 9 home loss to No. 1 and state-favorite Fallon, a 35-32 ballgame in which the Wolverines committed five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles) – a game Truckee would like back.
The Wolverines have defeated Fernley 34-17, wrecked North Valleys 66-13, survived a tough road game by a score of 27-10 at Lowry, and most recently dominated a 56-10 contest in Dayton.
When coaches ask themselves which Truckee players can hurt them, the answer is nearly everyone wearing scarlet, white and silver – starting with senior quarterback Marcus Bellon.
Bellon is an athlete, a ballpayer in every sense of the word – someone who has to be accounted for and can turn something into nothing at the drop of a hat.
“Everything runs through No. 28. The way they run, with the pass, how they line up,” said Elko coach Luke Sellers. “We have to contain him and sack him, but he’s hard to get down. He can improvise and he makes things happen. We can’t let him run around and chuck it all over.”
Bellon has thrown 11 touchdowns, against just four interceptions, completing 40-for-69 passes for 612 yards.
On the ground, he’s carried the rock 35 times for 263 yards with six rushing TDs.
Bellon has also caught three passes for 49 yards, including two TD grabs.
Sellers said Truckee’s running backs and wide receiver know to always “keep running and he (Bellon) will find them.”
“We have to play assignment football and control our lanes. They make you account for everyone. We can’t have too many eyes peeking into the backfield, because that’s when they burn you,” he said. “Truckee has gamers; there’s a mystique there. It’s like they say ‘this is Truckee football and this is what we do.’”
Truckee is also a different football team at home, often dismantling opponents quickly and beginning what Sellers calls an “avalanche you can’t recover from.”
“They come at you like piranhas. It takes the air out of you and they don’t stop. We can’t go over there and get down 14 points right off the get-go,” he said. “We have talked a lot this week about being able to withstand, being tough and having our heads on a swivel. It’s like boxing, they’re hunting for the knockout punch. You might be staggered, but you have to recover if you want to win.”
Truckee has rushed for 1,856 yards as a team, no player picking up more than 343 yards by himself.
Senior Sean Kelly has averaged 12.3 yards per carry (28 attempts) on his way to 343 yards rushing with three TDs on the ground.
“It’s like everyone on the team has a couple hundred yards. Their line isn’t huge, but it seems like every player they have is 6-foot, 180 pounds,” Sellers said. “A lot them don’t play basketball and they don’t have a lot of kids who wrestle, but this is what they do – play football and play baseball.”
Senior Derek LaFerriere is tied for Wolverines’ lead with four TD receptions, catching a team-high eight balls for 102 yards.
Kelly has also wrangled in four TD catches, all but one of his five catches for 57 yards finding six points.
Elko’s defense will face its biggest test to this point of the season, but the Indians made big play after big play last week against Fernley – forcing six turnovers and blocking a punt, returning the loose ball for touchdown.
Senior Carl Hansen had himself quite the game against the Vaqueros, making 18 tackles (13 solo), notching a sack and blocking an extra point.
Junior Rolando Acosta was a takeaway machine, recovering a fumble, intercepting a pass and blocking a punt – recording 10 tackles and a sack.
Senior defensive end Ronin Rowley also had a career night, recovering a fumble and returning the blocked punt for touchdown, booking seven stops and a sack.
“We need to keep that defensive momentum rolling. Hopefully, we can make some big plays early in the game, force some turnovers, score a defensive touchdown or return a kick – something to at least flip the field position,” Sellers said. “Offensively, we have to stay ahead of the chains, stay healthy and find some of those big plays we have been able to make so far.”
Elko’s offense lived by the big play last week against Fernley – 214 of the team’s 269 total yards of offense coming on four snaps – Cooper Jones rushing 82 yards for a touchdown, taking another tote 48 yards to pay dirt and catching a 55-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Carter Alvarado.
The Indians also scored on a 29-yard rushing touchdown on a toss-left to senior Christian Quintana.
Defensively, the Wolverines are stout.
Senior Jake Bullions leads Truckee with 47 tackles, senior Brennen Conklin recording 40 tackles.
More than one-third of senior Marcus Trotter’s 33 tackles have gone for losses – dumping 13 ball carriers in the backfield.
He also tops the team with three sacks.
Attacking the football, senior Drew Wingard has forced four fumbles.
Senior Emmanuel Valenzuela-Jones has made two interceptions and is a major weapon in the kicking game, making 29-of-33 PATs and 2-of-3 field goals for a total of 35 points.
He has nailed 10 of his 46 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
In a battle of a team tied for the No. 1 spot in the league standings and a squad looking to take a victory away and move up to a tie for first, the unbeaten Elko Indians (5-0) will square off with the No.2 Wolverines (4-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, in Truckee.