TRUCKEE, California – Truckee is a predator of a football team.
Saturday, Elko was the Wolverines’ prey.
Following a 5-0 start for the first time since 2002, the Indians ran into a fire-breathing dragon in their first test against an elite squad.
Despite remarkable efforts by the special teams and the Elko defense, the Indians’ offense was swarmed under, outperformed in grave proportions by Truckee’s D.
Truckee limited Elko to just 135 yards of total offense, the Wolverines rolling to a 31-0 victory.
Senior Cooper Jones gave the Indians a big lift on the opening kick, returning the football to near midfield.
He then reversed field on a motion toss and picked up a nice gain, but Elko unraveled with a holding penalty – killing the first drive.
Truckee also found great starting position on its first possession, senior Sean Kelly returning Elko’s punt 24 yard to the 45-yard line.
The Wolverines picked up a first down on a carry by senior fullback Marcus Trotter, and Truckee moved the sticks once again with a third-down rush by senior Kevin Malo for 12 yards to the Elko 18.
Following a five-yard loss, Kelly broke several tackles and went 23 yards for the game’s first points.
The extra point by senior Emmanuel Valenzuela-Jones gave Truckee a 7-0 lead with 6:57 remaining in the first quarter.
After a great opening kick return, Jones’ second was even better – almost perfect.
He took the ensuing boot 79 yards to the Truckee 11, needing to beat one man – Valenzuela-Jones making a touchdown-saving, game-changing tackle.
The game changed because the Wolverines flew to the football, predicting Elko’s dive and sweep plays.
Junior Colby Tiner carried to the Truckee 5, but the Indians went backward – no blocking, lots of penetration by the Wolverines in the backfield.
Elko was forced to attempt a 30-yard field goal, the kick missing wide-right.
Senior quarterback Marcus Bellon gashed Elko’s defense with a 76-yard touchdown run, but the points came off the board due to an illegal-procedure penalty.
Elko could not get off the field on consecutive conversions, junior Tyler Estabrook catching a 3rd-and-long to the 34-yard line and Trotter sneaking into the flat for a catch-and-run across midfield.
The Indians finally made a stop on 3rd-and-8, seniors Casey Bruns and Chris Meza combining for a tackle.
A low snap on the punt was actually downed by Truckee, the miscue giving the Indians another golden opportunity at the Truckee 40.
Elko began its drive with another whoopsie, committing a false start right out of the gate.
The quarter drew to a close, and Elko was dropped for a loss and called for a personal foul – setting up 3rd-and-impossible.
Tiner punted a boomer and pinned the Wolverines at their own 1-yard line.
Elko’s defense forced a three-and-out, a first-down catch dropped by the Truckee receiver.
The Indians fielded the Wolverines’ punt at the Truckee 41, senior Christian Quintana returning to the 35 – great field position once again.
Elko marched to the Truckee 19 following a facemask penalty, Tiner carrying to the 13.
The Wolverines made three-consecutive stops short of the line to gain, setting up 4th-and-3.
The offense stayed on the field in a wildcat set, and the Truckee offense came onto the gridiron after a huge defensive stand – turnover on downs.
For the fourth time in as many possessions, the Indians did nothing with excellent field position.
Starting from their own 10, the Wolverines needed just three plays.
Killing Elko once more on third down, Bellon tossed to a wide-open Trotter – the Elko defense not rotating to the receiver from the backfield – 94 yards, no flags.
The PAT pushed the lead to 14-0 with 6:15 on the clock.
Elko was forced to punt on its next drive, the Wolverines taking over at their own 30.
Truckee advanced to Elko’s side of midfield, but senior Carl Hansen temporarily saved the Indians’ bacon – pounding Bellon at he attempted to buy time, Elko recovering a fumble at the Truckee 49.
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Tiner immediately rushed for a first down to the 37 with 48 seconds remaining in the half, but Elko went backward with a motion penalty.
With 29 seconds on the clock, the Indians burned 16 seconds before calling a timeout.
Senior Ronin Rowley caught a pass from sophomore Jake Zeller at the 31 with five seconds remaining.
On 3rd-and-4, Elko elected not to try Tiner’s big leg on a 48-yard attempt.
A throw into quadruple coverage was batted down to end the half.
Elko trailed 14-0 at the break.
Truckee’s first drive of the third quarter came crashing to a close with a loss of five yards on third down, Hansen and junior Rolando Acosta making the stop.
Elko took over at its own 23 following the punt, but the Indians did nothing with the football and were forced to kick themselves – a rugby-style attempt sailing a whole three yards.
The Wolverines took advantage, Malo catching a pass inside the Elko 5.
Senior Derek Laferriere capped the drive with a walk-in touchdown, the extra point opening a 21-0 lead.
The Indians moved the football from their own 20 to the 32 on a pitch to Jones, Elko setting up at the 47 on a late hit out of bounds.
A pass from senior Carter Alvarado to Jones placed the Indians at the Truckee 26, but the Elko lost two yards on the next two plays.
On 3rd-and-12, Valenzuela-Jones picked off a pass and returned the ball to the 41 with 4:37 remaining in the third.
Elko forced a Truckee punt, sophomore Gage Steilman and senior Luis Garcia making a third-down stuff.
The Indians gave the ball right back.
On third down, Truckee came away with its second pick in two possessions.
Trotter picked up two first downs and reached the Elko 10, but the Indians’ defense made a big play of its own – Quintana snagging his sixth interception of the season in the end zone.
However, the Elko O continued to be outclassed by the Truckee D – which allowed nothing.
The Indians punted the football, and Laferriere returned the kick 34 yards all the way to Elko 9.
On 3rd-and-goal from the 7, Bellon hooked up with Valuenzela-Jones on a slant for a touchdown.
He added the PAT for a 28-0 lead with 8:32 remaining in the game.
Truckee recovered an Elko fumble but missed a field goal, but Elko’s offense went three-and-out once again – the Wolverines taking over at their own 45 on the punt.
Estabrook carried the ball to the Elko 1, but the Indians’ defense never quit playing all game long – nor did Elko’s offense ever keep the D off the field much – forcing a kick.
Valenzuela-Jones made a 21-yard field goal with 1:36 on the clock, capping a 31-0 shutout win for the Wolverines.
The Wolverines amassed 455 yards of offense (269 rushing, 186 passing), outgaining Elko’s 135 yards of total offense by 320 yards.
Trotter led Truckee with 219 yards from scrimmage with 112 receiving (94-yard touchdown catch) and 107 rushing, besting the Elko offense by 84 yards.
Bellon completed 9-for-14 passes for 182 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Kelly rushed for 58 yards on seven carries with a score, Laferriere running three times for nine yards with a TD.
Valenzuela-Jones caught two passes for 20 yards, hauling in a seven-yard touchdown and an interception.
The Truckee defense was led by senior Jackson Skaff, who made 11 tackles and a sack and picked off a pass.
Truckee improved to 5-1 in league play, the Indians falling to 5-1.
The Wolverines hold the head-to-head advantage should a tiebreaker occur, Elko now facing the serious threat of dropping two straight games.
The Indians will host No. 1 and unbeaten Fallon (6-0) for homecoming at 7 p.m Friday, at Warrior Field.