ELKO – Commonly, a number of football players are referred to as two-way athletes, playing both sides of the football – offense and defense.
Elko senior Cooper Jones makes opponents also notice the third phase of the game – special teams.
After the release of the Division 3A North All-League awards, Jones was named a 1st-Team athlete three times: at running back, safety and kick returner.
Offensively, Jones averaged 7.7 yards per carry – finishing with 863 rushing yards (fourth in the league) on 108 touches (12th in the 3A North) – scoring nine touchdowns on the ground, tying for ninth.
He was also a weapon out of the backfield, averaging more than 23 yards per reception on 15 catches for 349 receiving yards (sixth in the league) with three TDs (tying for 10th).
Defensively, Jones does not rely on a lengthy frame to cover large areas of real estate.
Standing at 5-foot-7, he uses speed, quickness and instincts.
At safety, he intercepted four passes – ranking fourth in the 3A North in picks.
Despite his lack of size, Jones is ferocious and will advance forward and lay down hits – finishing third on Elko’s team with 57 tackles.
In the return game, he is a threat to go the distance every time the ball is kicked – often forcing teams to boot the ball away from Jones, squib kicks on the ground down or pooch the ball short.
He returned 10 kickoffs 271 yards for a 27.1 average (third in the league), taking eight punt returns for 144 yards – the eight-best average (18 yards) in the 3A North – including an 87-yard gallop for a touchdown on Oct. 25 during the first round of the playoffs against Lowry, at Warrior Field.
His 13-total TDs ranked seventh in the league.
Albeit not in the return game, Jones also used his wheels in another area on special teams – firing off the edge and blocking two kicks.
Two Elko players dominated their opponents for a majority of the year, senior Carl Hansen and junior Rolando Acosta each earning 1st-Team All-League selections on the defensive side of the football.
At outside linebacker – generally playing from the right side of Elko’s 50 defense – Hansen wreaked havoc in opposing backfields.
While Jones made his defensive presence known with speed, Hansen combined athletic ability with a long frame, paired with incredible natural strength, leverage and sheer will.
His 99 tackles not only led the team, he also finished fourth in the league – despite sitting out Elko’s first-round playoff loss to the Buckaroos with a concussion – the Indians playing in less contests than everyone above him in the rankings.
Prior to his injury suffered on a peel-back block in Elko’s 7-0 home loss to Spring Creek on Oct. 19, no player in the 3A North made more stops than Hansen during the regular season.
He finished fifth in the league with 5-1/2 sacks, and he also blocked a field goal.
Acosta burst onto the scene in his first year of varsity football, playing a big man’s position with little size.
At 5-foot-5, 160 pounds – he gave opposing centers and guards fits at nose guard.
His ability to fire off the snap and slip through small areas of space between linemen allowed Acosta to notch 78 tackles, the 13th-best total in the league.
His 3-1/2 sacks tied senior teammate Ronin Rowley and Truckee senior Drew Wingard for ninth in the 3A North.
Acosta closed the year with a fumble recovery, an interception and a blocked punt – which was returned 34 yards for a touchdown by Rowley – all occurring in the same contest, singe-handedly creating three takeaways on Sept. 21 in Elko’s 42-19 win over Fernley.
Four local players earned 2nd-Team All-Offense selections; three from Spring Creek and one from Elko.
Junior running back Reed Westwood was a workhorse for the Spartans in 2018.
He finished third in the 3A North with 1,111 rushing yards, and no player packed the rock more – his 203 carries topping the league.
He tied for third in the 3A North with 12 rushing TDs.
Also a weapon in the passing game, Westwood caught 22 balls for 152 yards with two touchdowns.
Westwood tied for fourth in the 3A North with 14-total touchdowns.
He was joined on the 2nd-Team All-Offense list by junior teammate Kyle Owsley, who did his damage in the passing game.
Playing primarily on the left side at wide receiver, Owsley led the Spartans with 25 receptions for 370 yards – tying for the team high with two receiving touchdowns.
Owsley finished fifth in the 3A North in receiving yard and ranked sixth in the league in catches, his second and final receiving TD serving as the difference in Spring Creek’s 7-0 win on Oct. 19, in Elko.
He scored three touchdowns on the year, adding a 90-yard kick return to paydirt on Sept. 14, in Dayton.
Both Spring Creek and Elko have thanks to give to some help up front, offensive linemen paving the ways for their respective running games.
Spring Creek senior Max Shanks led a unit that allowed the Spartans to rush for 2,199 yards on 409 carries for a 5.4 average, Spring Creek punching in 26 rushing touchdowns.
Elko senior Luis Garcia spearheaded an attack that racked up 2,089 yards on the ground in 388 totes, also yielding a 5.4 average and 22 rushing TDs for the Indians.
The 2nd-Team All-Defense for local selections was led by Elko senior Christian Quintana, who routinely turned defense into offense.
Prior to the postseason, Quintana led the 3A North with six interceptions, only to be passed after by three INTs in the playoffs by Fallon’s Sean McCormick – who led the league with eight picks.
Elko’s best cornerback at 5-foot-4, 140 pounds, Quintana was another aggressive tackler who would stick his face into oncoming contact – finishing the season with 43 tackles.
Following a torn ACL before his sophomore season even began, Elko junior Colby Tiner returned for the Indians in 2018, earning a 2nd-Team All-League selection on special teams at punter.
He could flip the field position with some lengthy boots and well-placed knocks, averaging 34.5 yards per punt with a long of 45 yards.
Tiner was extremely proficient at pinning opponents deep in their own territory, his six punts inside the 20-yard line tying for the league high.
Congratulations to the versatile Cooper Jones on his three 1st-Team All-League selections, Carl Hansen and Rolando Acosta on their 1st-Team All-Defense performances and to all players who earned all-league recognition following a competitive season of Division 3A North football.
The Indians finished with seven players who received consideration for all-league status – one player earning recognition at two positions.
Tiner gained honorable mentions at two spots; running back and kicker.
He led the Indians with 124 carries (tied for eighth in the league), totaling 721 rushing yards (seventh in the 3A North) and five touchdowns on the ground with one TD catch.
As a kicker, Tiner tied for the league high with four field goals – including a long of 41 yards – ranking fourth in kicking points (35) and extra points (23).
He banged home 23-of-26 PATs and 4-of-8 field goals.
Elko placed a number of defensive players on the honorable-mention list.
Rowley gained a bid at defensive end on the left side – tallying 45 tackles and 3-1/2 sacks – recovering a team-high four fumbles, blocking a punt and returning a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Senior middle linebacker Chris Meza and senior cornerback Casey Bruns each tallied 44 tackles, Bruns adding an interception.
On the offensive line, senior Riley Hooper bulldozed a path for the Indians’ running backs and provided pass protection. Defensively, he made 43 tackles, 2-1/2 sacks and recovered a fumble from his linebacker position.
Opposite Quintana, senior cornerback Landon Dente made 35 tackles, intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles – his most-thrilling play of the year coming on a 94-yard scoop and score to close the first half on Sept. 21 against Fernley.
Paired with his 2nd-Team All-Offense selection, Garcia garnered an honorable mention on the defensive front – posting 23 tackles and 2-1/2 sacks.
Each of the Spartans’ four athletes who received honorable mentions for the league awards did so on the defensive side of the ball.
Junior linebacker Devin Holmes notched 59 tackles from his linebacker spot, intercepting a pass and tying for the team high with eight pass breakups.
Senior defensive lineman Hunter Buzzetti led the Spartans with 4-1/2 sacks (eight in the league), finishing the season with 55 tackles (nine for losses), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Junior Ryan Thurston showed Spring Creek it has a very-capable safety coming back for another season.
Despite missing three games with a concussion, Thurston made 36 tackles.
Possessing athletic ability and range to defend the run or the pass, Thurston dropped into coverage and led the Spartans with three interceptions (tied for fifth in the 3A North) – two coming in the first meeting against the Vaqueros on Oct. 5, in Fernley – his third pick also coming against the Vaqueros in Spring Creek’s final game of the year in the first round of the playoffs on Oct. 25.
Senior cornerback Dorian Ard improved his game greatly during his final season, tying Holmes for the team high with eight pass deflections – several of which came in nail-biting situations during the finals seconds in the Spartans’ 7-0 win in Elko – finishing the season with one pick.
He tallied 23 tackles for the year.
A surprising omission from the league awards was junior middle linebacker Dace Draper, who led Spring Creek with 92 tackles – ranking ninth in the league – also forcing a fumble.