Jaguars take bite out of Wave

Greenwave running back Nathan Heck was named first-team all-state in the Division I-A on Wednesday.

Greenwave running back Nathan Heck was named first-team all-state in the Division I-A on Wednesday.

In a bloody, drag-down, knock ‘em out brawl, the Fallon football team couldn’t rally for a late-round TKO.

Instead, Desert Pines delivered a pair of crippling blows as the Greenwave fell 16-0 in the Division I-A semifinals on Saturday at the Edward Arciniega Complex. It marks the second consecutive season when Fallon failed to score in its final game.

Desert Pines faces Moapa Valley, which crushed Elko, 40-7, in the DI-A state championship on Saturday in Las Vegas.

“They made more plays than we did,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “They had some athletes and that first touchdown they kind of created something there. They made a play.”

The Wave missed their chances, while Desert Pines relied on the athleticism of its quarterback to break through for the game’s first score. Even 100 yards in penalties including two touchdowns called back didn’t dent the Jaguars resolve.

Hill expected a tough, physical matchup and both teams came out swinging, especially on defense.

Much like last year’s 17-0 loss to Faith Lutheran in the state title game, the Wave’s defense was lights out. Going up against a slew of speedy, athletic skill players, Fallon was more than up to the challenge.

Desert Pines’ running game was nearly non-existent as the Jaguars were held to 105 yards. Their limited damage came through the air, where Desert Pines used a fast-pace, no-huddle attack to move the ball.

“I knew their defense was really well coached,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “I knew that our offense would have some problems.”

Even through the air, though, Fallon’s defense was up to par.

“We played really good defense and tackles in space real well,” Hill added. “If you would’ve told me that we would hold them to 16 points, I would’ve told you we would win the football game. But we didn’t score any.”

The Wave’s offense, meanwhile, struggled to move the ball consistently and their passing game was also nowhere to be found and plagued by at least five dropped passes. Compounding the problem, Fallon quarterback Joe Pyle injured his collarbone midway through the fourth quarter and was did not return.

Despite gusty and cold conditions, Fallon opened the game with a pair of promising drives.

Fallon was set up in great position at the Desert Pines’ 35-yard line after an 8-yard punt by the Jaguars on their opening drive.

But the drive stalled on three straight incompletions by Pyle and Fallon turned the ball over on downs. It was the first of many.

“The key for us was when we had opportunities early, we didn’t get it done,” Hill said.

“We get stopped on the 1 and didn’t score. When we’re in that position, we got to score, especially against a team like that because they are not going to give you a ton of opportunities.”

Fallon’s defense then stepped up on the ensuing Jaguars drive when Desert Pines quarterback Marckell Grayson lofted a fourth-down pass to Andre Watts, who jumped and caught the ball in the end zone, but the ball was knocked out of his hands before he had complete control.

Fallon then marched down the field highlighted by a 30-yard run from running back Nathan Heck. But Desert Pines’ defense stuff Fallon and forced another turnover on downs.

The Wave’s next possession, meanwhile, was their best chance to score. Ignited by a late-hit penalty on Pyle after starting on their own 26, Fallon marched down to the Jaguars’ 3 midway through the second quarter.

Once again, though, Fallon could not break through. Heck ran for 5, 1 and 0 yards to set up a critical fourth-and-goal from the 3. Pyle found Connor Richardson, but the junior receiver was stuffed at the 1.

“You got to make plays. They did and we didn’t,” Hill said.

Desert Pines’ disruptive defense then came up big with an interception on the ensuing Fallon possession. Jaguars linebacker Vasaifanua Hansell was the beneficiary of Pyle’s pass after the Fallon QB was hit as he threw.

Hansell returned the ball to Fallon’s 21.

The Jaguars nearly gave the ball right back when Heck dropped a pass from Grayson. Heck bobbled the ball, which then fell into the diving arms of Watts, but the ball slipped through his hands.

Three plays later, Grayson avoided a sack and dumped a pass to running back Isaiah Morris who wiggled 15 yards down the right sideline for the score. The Jaguars converted the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

“Coach always tells me to be an athlete and my team allowed me to do that,” Grayson said of the TD pass. “You always have to make something happen no matter what the scenario is.”

In the second half, Fallon’s offense couldn’t muster much consistency. The Wave did not pass the Jaguars’ 32-yard line until late in the game when Richardson took over for the injured Pyle.

Fallon did force one turnover when Morris fumbled after a bobbled snap and the Wave recovered at their own 31. The breaks, though, just didn’t fall in Fallon’s favor.

Three plays before Morris’ fumble and at its own 27, Desert Pines’ Trevor Nofoa coughed up the ball, which was kicked downfield and eventually recovered by teammate Jon McCoy at the Fallon 40.

“I think we played a really good game, but let a few plays go,” Heck said. “They were just capitalizing on a few things we weren’t. It was a tough one, they hit pretty hard.”

Desert Pines, though, iced the game with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter when Grayson capped a 7-play, 36-yard drive with a 7-yard run up the middle.

The win is the biggest for Desert Pines since a 2002 game against Reno in the former 4A playoffs, Rodriguez said.

Desert Pines totaled 105 yards on the ground, while Grayson completed 18 of 28 passes for 219 yards and added 17 yards rushing and two TDs.

Heck, meanwhile, grinded out 89 yards on 24 carries, but Pyle struggled as he completed just six of 23 passes for 33 yards, although he ran for 50 yards.

“Defensively, I knew their offense was high powered,” Rodriguez said. “I am really excited that we got the shutout. Our kids played discipline with the cutbacks. Heck is a great running back and feels pressure. When we tightened that up, we gave them some problems because we weren’t over pursuing.”


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