The Wolverines graduated a lot of talent after the 1989 season. However, the entire offensive line would return in 1990. The strength of this team was its interior line and their defense. Truckee only gave up 80 points all season, a record that would stand until 1998 and more recently when the 2009 team gave up just 60 points. In 2010 Truckee only gave up 65 points. The 1990 defense sits 4th all time on points aloud in a season. The 1990 team also had numerous backs that could run the ball and control the game: Andy Delatorre, Brett Seegmiller, and Rick Branum were all players who could score from anywhere on the field, but it was Jeff Dodge who led all backs with carries and yards. Jeff was a true bulldozer and a Larry Csonka type runner. He was the driving force behind an offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage. Dodge also played a pretty mean linebacker. Sean Oshea, Kevin York, Kelly Riggs, Sean Thompson, Jeremy Elliot-Sill, Mike Becker, Arnoldo Lopez, and Jevon Hall at tight end made up what could arguably be the best line in Truckee History. This team also had a chip on their shoulder for two reasons. The first reason is that they were just 3 minutes away from winning Truckee’s second State Title. There was a lot of “what if” questions after that game and there was a bitter taste in everybody’s mouth. Secondly, this group of seniors had to hear over and over that the 1989 team was the best team ever to come through Truckee. While that certainly could be the case, this team wanted to prove that they had what it takes to win a Title. I can sum it up by saying that this team was not as pretty as the 1989 team but in the end they got it done and captured Truckee’s 2nd State Championship.
The Wolverines in 1990 were characterized by playing smash mouth football. Run the ball and play aggressive defense. It was truly ground and pound. If and when they passed it was Andy Siefker to Dave Olbrantz for the most part. The two connected for a team high 8 receptions for 233 yards and 2 TD’s in ’90. The most memorable and most important connection being in the 1990 State Championship game for Truckee’s only touchdown. Though the season ended on a high note with Truckee winning a State Championship, it certainly did not start out that way. In fact, I’m not sure it could have started out any worse than it did. After a pretty good outing in a scrimmage verses Bay Area power house Live Oak, Truckee lost their first game to the Yerington Lions 8-7. Truckee started out in the papers being the favorites to win it all and Yerington was projected to be below average. I can remember that our team was pretty cocky heading into the Yerington game.
August 31, 1990 Truckee starts their season in Yerington. In front of a packed home crowd the Lions played inspired football and the Wolverines could not match it. The game started out okay for Truckee as they scored first on a rare 24 yard TD pass from Siefker to Jeff Dodge. But that would be Truckee’s only TD of the game. Yerington put a drive together in the 2nd quarter and scored on a toss play that was successful most of the night. Truckee had converted Andy Dela Torre from corner to outside linebacker and also moved Jeremie Elliot-Sill from defensive end to the other outside linebacker. The inexperience at those positions would show as Yerington after scoring on a toss play flipped the formation and ran the exact same play for the 2-point conversion. Coach Estabrook was quoted in the paper saying, ” I thought our defense played well, despite some containment problems with our ends and outside linebackers.” But really the story of the night was the Yerington defense which held the Wolverine’s rushing attack to just 154 yards, their lowest total of the season. Truckee’s workhorse, Jeff Dodge, could not get rolling, rushing the ball just 16 times for 66 yards. Also, the Wolverines passed an uncharacteristic 15 times and unfortunately, two of those passes were interceptions. But with all of the issues the offense was having, they would still have their chances, moving the ball three times into Yerington’s red zone in the second half, only to come up empty every time. Truckee did not have a field goal kicker otherwise the outcome could have been different. Much credit to the Lions who held off the Wolverines and defeated the number 1 ranked team. On a positive note, the loss to Yerington humbled the Wolverines and also took some of the pressure off a team who had set their hopes on an undefeated season.
The following week after the Yerington loss Truckee rebounded shutting out Battle Mountain 28-0. Truckee dominated the Long Horns for much of the night but only led 7-0 at halftime. At the start of the second half, Battle Mountain would get the ball first and in 3 quick plays faced a 4th down and 1, from their own 29 yard line. Feeling like they could get a yard, Battle Mountain went for it on fourth down and was shutdown by the Truckee defense. That was really the turning point of the game as Truckee scored just two plays later. It was a typical 1990 win as Truckee’s defense stuffed their opponent and any momentum they would wish to conjure up. That defense was followed up with a devastating ground attack that little by little took their opponents will to win away from them. Truckee rushed for 322 yards that night and 105 of those yards was Jeff Dodge.
From here the Wolverines traveled to Northern California to Oroville. They would face off with a pretty good team that was very physical. This was the first game that I got significant playing time as I had finally earned a spot on the starting defense. I got to experience the physicality first hand when I was knocked out by a great block on Oroville’s 2nd TD of the night, about midway through the 4th quarter. Oroville’s QB would hit his running back out of the backfield on a swing route. I was out of position and chasing the play hard to the sideline. The TE, who was on a corner route, peeled back to make the block and de-cleated me. I never saw it coming and the next thing I remember was coming to my senses as Oroville’s bench was over the top, taunting me. The 22 yard swing pass appeared to have sealed a 17-6 victory but Truckee had comeback hopes. With eight minutes left to play in the game Truckee mounted a comeback drive going down the field in hurry. The drive was capped off by a Brian Mulloy TD. Mulloy then followed up that TD with a spectacular 2-point conversion run when he broke several tackles and then high stepped into the end zone. It was the sophomore’s 2nd game in a row with 80 yards rushing and the youngster was called upon when Truckee needed a play most. There was still 4:41 left on the clock when Truckee kicked off to the Tigers. Plenty of time to get a stop and complete another drive. The Wolverines did just that, as the defense forced a 3 and out by Oroville. Then the play of the game for the Wolverines… Oroville’s center snapped the ball over the punter’s head and the chase was on. I was back in the game at this point and just missed recovering the ball in the end zone. It was a safety and we were now down 16-17 with Oroville kicking off. The bad snap might have actually helped Oroville as they were able to kickoff and gain better field position. However, they elected to squib kick it and Mulloy recovered the ball at Truckee’s 45 yard line setting up great field position for the Wolverines. Truckee got the ball with a little over a minute to play, plenty of time to score. Unfortunately it would force the Wolverines into things they were not good at, passing. On the very first play Siefker rolled out on a pass play looking for Mulloy down the sideline but the ball was intercepted by Lee Music of Oroville. Music was the long snapper who was responsible for the bad snap that almost cost Oroville the game. But Truckee was not able to take advantage of the Tiger’s mistake and though the defense would hold up again, Truckee was too far in their own territory and could not make the miracle happen. In a tough fought battle Truckee would out gain the Tigers 346 yards to 207yards. But Truckee had zero yards passing and couldn’t make a big play when they needed to, and lost their second game of the year. The seniors were very upset in the locker room that night. The juniors were as well but I’ll never forget how mad Kevin York was after the game. He told the team, “we’re not losing again!” It was raw emotion and a slightly divided locker room as the team was heavily reliant on young talent that had not come through…YET! York, in his profound wisdom, was right. The Wolverines would never lose again in 1990 and went on a win streak that continued well into the following year. We had opened up the season 1-2 and we were looking like a team that might not make the playoffs, but that would all change in the coming weeks.
Next on the schedule was Quincy who was always tough and gave Truckee all they could handle. Truckee beat Quincy in a close 14-7 non-league match up, before we started league play. At this point in the season Truckee’s defense is dominating. Quincy only had 107 total yards and 65 of those yards came on their only TD of the game when Marcos Slaten broke away from the Wolverine defense on a screen play. The Truckee Offense would be another story as they struggled to finish drives for the 4th game in a row. Truckee’s inability to score touchdowns was keeping teams in games and also was responsible for 2 losses. Quincy had their chance in this game as well but the Wolverine defense would save the day. John Schmitt had a career day intercepting 2 passes. Though the offense didn’t score they were able to gain yards as Jeff Dodge had his 3rd game in a row rushing for over 100 yards and Brian Mulloy had his 3rd game in a row rushing over 80 yards. Truckee totaled 346 rushing yards but for the second game in a row Truckee had zero passing yards as Siefker was unable to complete a pass and threw his 5th interception of the year. Truckee’s offense would have to play much better if the Wolverines were gonna beat their arch rival in the “Little Big Game” in week 5.
Could the Truckee offense get things rolling at home vs North Tahoe? It was the opening of league play, Truckee was 2-2 and the Lakers were 1-3 struggling to find a way to win in close games. North Tahoe was better than their record would indicate and this game was always tough. North Tahoe showed up with “special” stickers on their helmets that said, “Beat TnT” in red. Something they didn’t get close to accomplishing but they did get close to scoring the first TD. The Lakers got the ball first and drove right down the field to Truckee’s 11 yard line before Tahoe’s QB, Eric Paul, threw across the middle into coverage and Jeff Dodge intercepted his pass. That was North Tahoe’s only threat of the day. The Lakers could only muster a measly 75 yards after their first drive of the game. The
Wolverines, on the other hand, were trying to get their offense rolling. In the first half they struggled, again, to finish drives as North Tahoe caught Truckee by surprise by their blitzing schemes. The score was 14-0 at halftime. Coach Estabrook made some adjustments at halftime and when Truckee came out in the second half their offense pounded the rock on a couple of crippling drives. The two scoring drives in the 3rd quarter destroyed any hope the Lakers had of beating TnT and they folded. The Wolverines shutout NT for just the 3rd time in history. The 40-0 victory was the biggest blowout in the history of the “Little Big Game.” It would start momentum that Truckee would ride for the remainder of the season. This team would not lose another game and their streak is part of a winning streak that ranks second in Truckee history at 15 games.
The first week of October in 1990 the Sierra Sun reads “NO MERCY!” Posted on the wall of the “PIT” is a sign which read, “When you leave this room, expect no mercy and give none!” That is exactly how Truckee played October 5th, 1990. In week six Truckee traveled across town to play Incline under the lights. This was the game that the Truckee Offense really got on a roll. Truckee rolled up 524 yards rushing that night for a school record and the record still stands today. The game was never close. Dodge rushed for his 4th 100 yard game of the year, Seegmiller rushed for 92 yards, and Mulloy rushed for yet another game of 80 yards. Rick Branum rushed just two times but both carries went for long TD’s as he rushed for 117 yards. Heck Siefker passed for 37 yards and a TD! The offense finally showed up and would keep things rolling when they faced off with the Dayton Dust Devils the next week. Not expecting much of a game, Truckee strolled into Dayton and beat the Devils 55-0. It was a good game to work on the passing game and establish some depth as the backups played most of the game. Seven different Wolverines scored TD’s. The Wolverines passed for 90 yards as well. I know the seniors didn’t have much fun in this game but us younger players took advantage of the situation and had a blast. I actually got to touch the ball in this game rushing for 4 carries and 72 yards with a TD as Dodge took the day off. Our defense did its thing posting its 3rd shutout of the year and yielding just 96 yards. And that was with backups most of the game. But things were put into perspective as the always dreaded Manogue Minors were coming to town the next week.
Since the Quincy game Truckee was on a role scoring 149 points and only giving up 10. But that kind of output was not expected in week 8. In 1989 Truckee squeaked by the Minors in a very close game in the last minutes of the contest. That game was only the third time Truckee had ever beat Manogue. In 1990 the game would be another very close game that almost got away from Truckee. It was Truckee’s Homecoming and the stage was set. Truckee was the favored team as the Minors came into the game 3-4 but they were a very confident team. The Wolverines struggled mightily in the first half down 6-0 right before the half. With just 16 seconds left in the half Truckee was at their own 35 and decided to try for a big play. Manogue had the momentum and the Wolverines were just looking to get a big play to turn things around. It backfired as Siefker threw a deep ball towards Olbrantz. The pass was intercepted and ran 59 yards for a touchdown right before the half. The Minors really had the momentum going in at halftime. But the Wolverines had been in this position before when they played Orville. Truckee came out in the second half determined to stage a comeback. But the offense turned the ball over on two consecutive drives and it was looking like it was going to be Manogue’s day. Fortunately the defense, as it did all year, rose to the occasion and did not allow Manogue to convert turnovers into TD’s. At the start of the 4th quarter Truckee finally put a drive together and scored their first touchdown on a Siefker 1 yard plunge. With the score now 6-12 Truckee’s defense would have to come up with another big stop and they did giving the ball to the offense on Manogue’s 44 yard line. But Truckee’s drive stalled at the 31 yard line and the Wolverines were faced with a 4th down and 8. Then it was the play of the game. Truckee ran their famous double handoff reverse, better known in the Wing-T world as
the crisscross counter. Mulloy took the handoff and broke several tackles before breaking away for the score. The score was now tied and Truckee would only need to kick an extra point for the Wolverines to secure the win. But Truckee went for a fake pass and the 2 point conversion failed. Apparently Estabrook had zero faith in the kicking game. With time running out it appeared the game would be on its way to overtime. Then disaster struck for the Minors and they fumbled. Maurice McVey recovered the fumble at the Manogue 16 yard line and the Wolverines were in business. However, Truckee could not capitalize on Manogue’s mistake and with no kicking game Truckee was forced into a 4th and long pass play that was incomplete. The game went to overtime. Truckee won the coin toss and elected to play defense first. In 3 plays Manogue went backwards and they were forced into a 27 yard field goal attempt that missed. It was Truckee’s turn. Truckee called a sweep and on the first play and Rick Branham took the handoff from Andy Siefker and ran it in for the score. Branham was quoted in the paper after the game and said that everyone in the huddle knew it was gonna be a touchdown. That was my first overtime experience and it was an awesome feeling. The team stormed the field in celebration and dog piled on Branham as he completed the play that gave Truckee its second straight Western Division Title. Once again Truckee dominated the game on paper out gaining the Minors 323 yards to 121 but it again did not translate to points. The Wolverines had 7 turnovers and really were pretty lucky to win.
After beating Manogue Truckee rolled through Whittel 38-8. After the exciting win the week before the game was somewhat flat and uneventful. Dodge and Mulloy were both banged up and did not play on offense. That meant I would get the bulk of the carries as I was Dodge’s backup. I had a pretty disappointing game getting the ball 15 times for only 50 yards. On a positive note the passing game got rolling. Whittell had clearly come to Truckee to stop the run and Siefker had his best game of the year going 3-3, 112 yards and 2 TD’s. Truckee out gained Whittell 363 yards to just 51. The win would give Truckee a 7-2 record and earned them a first round bye which Truckee would use to heal up and make their final push towards another State Championship appearance.
In the semifinals the Wolverines faced White Pine dominating the Wildcats 38-8. The coach of the Wildcats was Jeff Knutson a Fernley graduate. He would later, in the mid to late 90’s, spear head a movement to try and get Truckee thrown out of the NIAA. His attempt failed luckily and the Wolverines were able to continue competing in the NIAA. Knutson would also fail to beat Truckee in 1990 as his team played hard but was outmatched. It was not Truckee’s game of the year but the defense again came to play forcing 6 turnovers and earning them a spot in the State Championship game at Lowry the next week. This would be the last time a State Championship game was played on another team’s home turf. Since 1990 the State Game has been played on neutral ground. The Buckaroos were a very balanced team that could both run and pass the ball. They also played very good defense and they were ranked number 1 in the State. There was much talk before the game about who was the true underdog. Lowry coach,
Tim Billingsley, insisted that Lowry would be the underdog at home in the big matchup. However, Truckee was not buying that. Lowry had the top passer in the league in 6’3″ Jamie Schroeder who was 53-122, 1,126 coming into the State game. His favorite target was Chad Peters who was second in the State with 16 receptions for 382 yards. Lowry also had the best back duo in the Nevada AA with Gordie Schumacher and Scott Stricker. Going into the State game the two rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 38 TD’s. Here is an interesting note in the Sierra Sun interview with Coach Estabrook before the game. Coach Estabrook mentioned that Truckee had an added dimension in freshman kicker and said, “I won’t be afraid to kick field goals when we’re down close inside and it’s forth down.” A completely different attitude than just a couple weeks before vs Manogue. Ultimately it was coach Estabrook’s confidence in his young kicker that brought home the State Trophy. Here is an excerpt from the opening paragraph of the Sierra Sun November 21, 1990, “It all came down to 27 yards, two goal posts and a freshman foot. With 40 seconds left in the forth quarter and his team trailing the Lowry Buckaroos 10-9, Tahoe-Truckee High freshman Damien Fertitta nailed a 27 yard field goal and gave Truckee its first Nevada State AA high school football title in seven years.” There have been some really important kicks throughout the years but none more important than the kick on this day. Kevin York gives his thoughts and memories of the 1990 Nevada AA State Championship game:
State championship Saturday
We were to be at the school early Saturday morning for the long bus trip out to Winnemucca Nevada. I pulled in and looked down at Surprise stadium, still painted up from the week before. That was my first thought of “this is it”, the last time I am putting on a Truckee uniform. We had a charter bus for this trip out to play the Lowry Buckaroos for the state championship. I boarded it with my helmet in my hand. I had never done this before but I would spend the next four hours holding it next to me. I sat in the very back next to my buddy Jeff Dodge, I hesitate to say best friend just because we were all so close. I deeply cared about all of my teammates. We loved each other and occasionally fought like brothers. When we pulled out of the parking lot, I glanced down at the field again, it was one year prior that we had lost to Boulder City there for the state championship finishing 11-1. Still fresh in our minds.
A Ron Estabrook coached team typically didn’t talk loudly on the way to a game, but today was different. There wasn’t ONE WORD heard on that bus. You would of thought the bus was empty. We stopped in Lovelock to get out and stretch our legs, we had a bite to eat and got back on the bus. Our thoughts were on the task at hand. They had the States leading passer, the states leading receiver and the number 1 running back. It was a matchup of the number one offense versus the number one defense. This team had beaten North Tahoe the week before and were riding high. The bad part about playing out in the middle of Nevada was obviously the trip. The good part about playing there was the hostile environment, which we loved.
When we entered the field and TnT blared over the loudspeaker, we went nuts! A couple of our girls, unbeknown to us, went up and asked them to play it for us. That was the last time I believe that anyone was that gracious of a host to a Truckee team. The game was physical, back and forth. I was pretty sure I fractured the QB’s ribs in the first half, which was confirmed later. He played on though, they were tough. I had gotten pressure on him two times in a row and he had to throw it away. On third down I didn’t get to him and he hit his number one guy for a long touchdown, their only one of the day. I always think about that play where I didn’t get to him. They later added a field goal. Jeremy Elliot, our right tackle, fractured his leg in the first half, which meant I had to move there next to Sean Thompson. This would become vital on our game winning drive. We were down 10-9, with under a minute to go when we got the ball back. Third and about 8 at midfield, Coach called a screen pass to the right, behind me and Thompson. Sean made a great block, I had one lined up but I merely got in the guys way as Brian Mulloy, our sophomore running back, saw the first down marker and jumped over my shoulder to get the first down and into field goal range. Four plays later, our Freshmen kicker Damien Fertitta, who had made and missed a field goal already, came on and booted it through from 27 yards out. There was still about 35 seconds on the clock so we had to go out and stop them. They ran a couple of successful screen passes to move close, but they didn’t have any timeouts left. When they ran a swing pass and Ricke Branum brought him down in bounds, we turned to the clock and counted down the seconds. Those were the longest 4 seconds of my life!
We had done it, the first state championship since 1983 and the second in school history. We had held there tailback to less than 50 yards, there fullback had 3 carries for 3 yards, their receiver caught two balls and they only had 182 yards of total offense. We dog piled, hugged, cried and accepted the trophy. At school Monday , we were told to meet at the bus garage. They ran a fire drill and we rode in on the fire trucks and were dropped off at the gym for a rally. The following weekend, we had steak and eggs at the Wagon Train which our line coach Brian Smart owned, where our team picture still hangs. I will never forget that day, or that team. Up until that point it was the greatest time of my life. The rest of the year no matter what happened, whether we lost a basketball game, or got a bad grade, or got in trouble, our statement was “doesn’t matter, because we’re STATE CHAMPS!” (This may or may not have gotten me out of a couple of Saturday schools.)
A great recollection from Kevin. The screen play that he is referring to was very pivotal. I don’t recall Estabrook making many screen calls up to that point all year. It was a great call with great execution. Also, a Freshman kicker who was brought up to Varsity just weeks before the game? Our hopes and dreams depended on the Leg of Damien Fertitta and the freshman came through. You never think about all the things that can go wrong on a FG attempt but many things can. I was the right wing on the PAT/FG team and I can remember the nerves in the huddle before we set up for the winning kick. Kelly Riggs was the snapper and Jevon Hall was the holder. I remember Jevon telling me after the game that the snap came back to him like it was in slow motion. He explained that Riggs’s fingers were bleeding and that he could actually see the blood twirling with the motion of the football as it came back to him. It was a perfect snap, hold and kick. Fertitta had missed a kick from that distance not long before that last attempt. So, there were many Truckee fans holding their breath. Fertitta was interviewed after the came and he stated that he thought it was still the 3rd Quarter. Regardless of what quarter Damien was in, he made a great kick and he ended up having one heck of career at Truckee. Also, early in the year the younger players on the
team were having trouble contributing and making big plays when Truckee needed them most. But on this day those young players made the biggest play of the year when Siefker hit Olbrantz on a 38 yard pass play to score Truckee’s only TD of the day. Lowry had keyed on Dodge like any smart team would do but Truckee still had 212 yards rushing on the day. Lowry came into the game being the most explosive offense in the State and for the most part was shut down. The majority of their yards came on a short pass play caught by Stricker who broke some tackles and made it into a long TD. Their big athletic target, Chad Peters, had 2 receptions for 4 yards. The Truckee defense, like it did all year, came through. Though Fertitta made that kick which won the game, it was Truckee’s defense that earned them that State Title. They faced the best offense in the State and shut them down. This team will always be overlooked. In a lot of ways it parallels the 83 team. The 1990 team was not flashy but they were very physical, had a heck of an offensive line, and absolutely shut teams down with one of the best defenses we’ve ever had. When you put nasty, relentless, and physical together you get a Wolverine. If you put size into that equation it will usually result in a Championship and That’s what you had with these Wolverines. Out of 66 Truckee teams only 12 have been crowned State Champions and the 1990 team is one of those 12.
1991: 9-2 (5-1 League) 2nd Western Division & State Semifinalists
Finally my senior year. Unfortunately, since 1989 there are only three teams not represented in “TITLE TOWN”. One of those years was my senior year. In 1991 Truckee was undefeated for most of the season leading into a Division Championship matchup with Whittell who was also undefeated. Known as the “Snow Bowl”, Truckee would fall 13-0 and Whittell would win the Western Division. Truckee three weeks later would travel south to face an undefeated Boulder City team for the right to face Whittell again in the State Championship at Sam Boyd Stadium. Truckee, however, would fall 28-25 in a heartbreaking loss. Boulder City would go on to beat Whittell in State 14-13. (Missed PAT). The 1991 team is part of the second longest win streak in Truckee history at 15 games. We only had 9 seniors on the team. We had a few guys that played their junior year but did not come out their senior year for some reason. We could have used more senior leadership. We brought up quite a few sophomores and really relied on our youth. We were very talented and rolled through most of our opponents. We ran into two pretty good football teams in Whittell and Boulder City. It turns out that there were quite a few seniors on the Boulder City team that were brought up as sophomores and played in the State game vs Truckee in 89. So, they were very experienced and we were young. We played our hearts out that game and it was painful to lose my last game as a Truckee Wolverine but when it was all said and done I don’t regret a thing. We played hard and we all got along. We developed discipline and a love for the game of football. Most of all, we learned to work together and form a bond I’ll never forget. Thanks to all of my teammates and coaches. I’ll never forget my time playing ball with you guys. And to the coaching staff: Coach Collins was always detailed and prepared us like no other. Estabrook was business like in everything he did and he never overlooked the smallest detail. He is a man of repetition like most great coaches. Coach Smart brought the toughness to the team and to the guys up front. Coach Kuch, who brought in a new passing game and added a new dimension to Estabrook’s playbook. Though our team did not always execute Kuch’s scheme, the plan unfolded with the 93 team 2 years later. I really want to thank coach McGovern for his intensity. I used to feed off of his pre-game speeches and I wanted more than anything to earn his respect.
This is Sean Thompson’s take on our senior year 1991:
Truckee Football doesn’t rebuild, it re-loads. 1991 was a re-loading year for Truckee. Coming off of two dominant years in which the Wolverines had lost only 3 games combined, gone to two straight state championship games, and won the state championship in 1990, Truckee’s 1991 team was comprised of a younger group of athletic players, including key sophomores who would eventually strike paydirt of their own by winning a state championship two years later.
Truckee returned only 9 seniors in 1991. That youth was particularly evident on the offensive and defensive lines. Only one starter returned on the offensive line. The 1991 team, though younger and smaller than 1990 and 1991, made up for that with great athleticism and play-making ability. When the Wolverines scored, they scored in bunches with great team speed.
Truckee’s 1991 team has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the few Truckee teams since 1989 not to win its division. However, the 91 team still went 9-2, including seven straight wins to start the season to continue a winning streak from 1990 that would eventually reach 15 games. Truckee made the playoffs and crushed its first round opponent. Truckee barely lost to the eventual state champions, Boulder City, who fielded possibly one of the better lower division teams in Nevada football history, on their home turf, after braving the long trip down to Southern Nevada.
The 1991 team, as with all Truckee teams, were brothers, loved playing for each other, and upheld the tradition of Truckee Pride.
The 1991 team was highlighted by promising underclassmen. Sophomore Damien Fertitta, later known as “El Dragone,” who, as a freshman, had kicked the winning field goal in the 1990 state game, exploded on to the scene in 91. Combining division 1 level speed with power and agility, Fertitta was deadly from the running back position and gave the Wolverines quick-strike ability.
Junior Josh Clevenger was one of Truckee’s all-time inside linebackers. He was an instinctive and aggressive player who just knew football. Likewise, junior Brian Mulloy used 1991 to cement his legacy as one of Truckee’s best ever all-around players. Mulloy was a starter at safety, as a sophomore, on Truckee’s 1990 championship defense, one of the best defenses in Truckee history. Mulloy stepped it up as a junior, dominating the defensive backfield and making incredible, highlight-reel runs at running back. Mulloy and Fertitta both went on to play at Air Force and Oregon, respectively, two of the few players in Truckee history to play at that level.
Senior Jevon Hall also exploded on to the scene in 91. Jevon played his first year of organized football in 1990 and was a starter on the state championship team. In 1991, Jevon’s year of football experience, coupled with his outstanding physical skills, made him a star. For the first half of the season, until a toe injury slowed him down, Jevon was a dominant running back, scoring touchdowns in bunches and being virtually unstoppable in the open field. He also played excellent middle linebacker, using his athleticism to make plays, including two defensive touchdowns.
Senior Sean Thompson was the lone returning starting lineman from the 1990 team. Sean learned from that group, which was one of the best offensive lines in Truckee history. In 1991, Sean sought to carry the lineman tradition he learned from the 89 and 90 lineman and mentor the younger lineman along the way.
Truckee’s heart and soul in 91 was Senior fullback and outside linebacker Josh Ivens. Josh, #19, would later become the 19th head coach in Truckee history. In 1991, he was the best player on the field and a great leader. Josh weighed 155 pounds dripping wet but feared no man, and certainly feared no other players on the football field. The field ended up littered with the victims of Josh’s hits. Josh brought a toughness and edge to Truckee’s 91 team, which outhit every single team it played.
Truckee started the 91 season with a huge game – a rematch from the 1990 state championship game against Lowry, who was embittered by barely losing to the Wolverines in that rugged 1990 game, which Truckee won 12-10. Seeing that Truckee had lost so much talent from the previous two dominant years, including virtually all of its interior line, the writers picked Lowry to defeat Truckee. The Reno newspaper stated “Lowry has more firepower.” Lowry came up to Truckee looking for revenge but instead took a solid beating, losing 15-3. Truckee’s offense was a bit ragged and clunky, but Truckee’s defense completely shut down the Buckaroos, possibly the stupidest nickname in all of Nevada interscholastic sports.
The Lowry “upset” started a run of seven straight wins to start the season. Truckee showed that it had plenty of firepower by outgunning a scrappy Quincy team, in Quincy, 33-16. Back at Surprise Stadium in week 3, Truckee demolished Dayton 41-8 on the strength of Jevon Hall and Damien Fertitta rushing. Week 4 saw Truckee travel to Hawthorne for a Friday night game against a dirty team looking for revenge after Truckee’s 89 squad humiliated them in the playoffs. Hawthorne certainly played dirty but got no revenge as Truckee destroyed them 59-6. Truckee rushed for nearly 500 yards against Hawthorne. Truckee made it 5 wins in a row to start the season by dominating an outmatched ROP team 43-0 at home.
RUNNING THE GAUNTLET
Truckee’s 5-0 start set up for a rough stretch of 3 games, on the road, against the division’s best teams, that would determine the division title. First up was long-time nemesis Manogue. Although Truckee had won the previous two games against Manogue, both contests were very tight and, traveling to Manogue, Truckee knew that it would have its hand full. On a hot and muggy day in Reno, Truckee certainly started off with a battle, as Manogue came to play, was hitting hard and disrupting Truckee’s offense, and took an 8-7 lead on Truckee. In the second half, Coach Estabrook went back to smash-mouth football, calling almost all inside runs as the offensive line and Truckee’s running backs, especially Josh Ivens, beat up Manogue enroute to a 28-8 victory.
It got no easier the next week as Truckee had to travel to traditional rival North Tahoe. Truckee was amped up for this one, as Brian Mulloy took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and Truckee staked at 22-0 lead at halftime. However, the Wolverines played uninspired football in the second half and North Tahoe’s Che Walker, possibly NT’s best football player ever, ran through Truckee’s defense for 195 yards. In the end, Truckee came up with some key stops and turnovers (including key interceptions by Ivens and Hall) and escaped with a 22-14 win. Despite the closeness of the game, it ended up being simply another in a long line of consecutive wins by the Wolverines over the Lakers. At the end of the game, the Lakers’ star linebacker took issue with Truckee running out the clock by kneeling on the ball, yelling “I wouldn’t want to play for a team that kneels on the ball at the end of the game.” Brian Mulloy shot back, “and I wouldn’t want to play for a team that loses to its rival every single year.” Truckee’s win over North Tahoe was the seventh straight to open the season and Truckee’s 15th straight overall.
Unfortunately, Truckee’s luck and streak came to an end the following week in Whittell. A major snowstorm threatened to postpone or cancel the game, but Truckee somehow made the trip to the south shore to play the surprising Warriors, who were coming into the game undefeated. Whittell sported a few star players, including future Nevada star linebacker and NFL draftee Mike Crawford. The snow was light at first but came extremely heavy after the first quarter. No excuses, but the truth is that the weather wreaked havoc on Truckee’s speed-oriented, complex offense. The Warriors played a straight ahead running style and capitalized on catastrophic Truckee turnovers to win the game 13-0. The Warriors were a tough team but every person on Truckee’s squad believed Truckee to be the better team. However, since Whittell won, they were the better team that day and claimed the division crown from Truckee.
Truckee took out its frustration the following week against hapless Incline Village, winning 56-13. Truckee had 7 interceptions against the Highlanders, who were not doing their Sean Connery impression that day. The win completed an 8-1 regular season for the Wolverines. However, Truckee was extremely disappointed, having lost both its winning streak and a chance to win 3 straight division titles in the snow at Whittell.
Truckee opened the playoffs with a home game against Independence, a prison school with a talented roster, including a massive and speedy running back. The Independence players gathered outside Truckee’s locker room before the game and chanted “Too legit, Too legit to quit over and over. However, like MC Hammer, Independence’s pre-game bravado turned out to be bankrupt. Truckee absolutely outclassed Independence that day. The Wolverine defense totally shut down the Independence offense. Truckee scored on offense and defense and dominated on special teams, showcasing its athleticism, discipline, and tenacity. The final score was 43-0 and it was not really that close.
Truckee’s next game was against state powerhouse Boulder City. Because Truckee had lost the division, it had to make the long trip down to Las Vegas to play the Eagles, who came into the game undefeated and boasting gaudy, video-game like stats. Boulder City had two state-leading rushers, Danny Cox and Shane Krumm. Cox was also a state champion sprinter. Krumm was a massive bruiser of a fullback who had rushed for over 1,300 yards and scored 25 touchdowns. Boulder City boasted the state player of the year Scott Bahde, who played wide receiver and defensive back. The Eagles’ line averaged around 250 pounds, which was huge for those days. The Eagles’ defense had given up 34 points the entire year.
On a hot and humid day down in Las Vegas, Truckee gave everything it had. For the first 2 and half quarters, the Wolverines totally shut down the Eagles’ previously invincible offense. Though Truckee could not mount much offensively itself, it took advantage of a long field goal by Fertitta and a gutsy scamper by junior Jess Specht to take a 10-0 lead midway through the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately, Boulder City could not be held in check, as it began working an end-around to Scott Bahde to perfection. The end-around led to a Boulder City explosion of 21 unanswered points into the 4th quarter. However, Truckee never gives up and the 91 team was no exception. Scrapping its conventional offense and throwing caution to the wind, Truckee, led by Junior quarterback Josh Pegoda, answered back, cutting the lead to 21-16. Truckee then forced the Eagles to punt from their own endzone, resulting in a safety when the snap went high. However, this was a huge missed opportunity for the Wolverines. Truckee almost always went with a punt rush call. Trying to maximize the return, however, Truckee did not rush and consequently did not recover the ball in the endzone.
This missed chance was fatal. Truckee instantly coughed the ball back up, fumbling on the ensuing free kick. Boulder City pounded away and scored on a 20-yard Krumm run to make it 28-18. Still Truckee refused to give up. Jess Specht got a great kickoff return into Eagles’ territory. From there, Truckee marched down and scored, making it 28-25. However, with time running down, Boulder City was able to obtain a first down on its next possession and run out the clock. On the day, Truckee scored nearly as many points as Boulder City had given up all year. Also, Truckee ended up outgaining Boulder City on the day. But it was small consolation. Boulder City went on to win State by beating Whittell in a close game the next week.
The 91 team was a good, if not great, Truckee squad. It dominated for much of the season but was a bit too inexperienced and untested to come through against the league’s best teams. However, this team definitely upheld Truckee’s great tradition of football excellence. The season doesn’t end after nine games in Truckee, never.
W Truckee 15, Lowry 3
W Truckee 33, Quincy 16
W Truckee 41, Dayton 8
W Truckee 59, Hawthorne 6
W Truckee 43, ROP 0
W Truckee 28, Manogue 8
W Truckee 22, North Tahoe 14
L Truckee 0, Whittell 13
W Truckee 56, Incline 13
W Truckee 43, Independence 0
L Truckee 25, Boulder City 28
Again, a great description by Sean on the 1991 football season. Only six players made the All-League team which is kind of a slap in the face. I remember Estabrook always complaining about end of the year honors. He always felt like the coaches didn’t give us the respect we deserved. We have had the same issues in recent years. Players on the 91 team who made first team All-Leage: Offense= Sean Thompson G, Troy DeVoe OT, Josh Ivens RB and Defense= Brian Mulloy DB, Dave Olbrantz DB, and Josh Ivens OLB. Damien Fertitta was a first Team Punter. All-State was similar: Offense first team All-State Sean Thompson G, Troy DeVoe T, Defense was Brian Mulloy DB, Dave
Olbrantz DB and Josh Ivens OLB. I’d also like to take a moment here to honor two very good friends and teammates who died way too young. Both Troy DeVoe and Jevon Hall were tragically killed in car accidents. Not in the same incident. Troy DeVoe was run off the road and killed back in Vermont on May 10, 2002. He had established a good career and young family. Troy will always be remembered to me as being a true soldier. He loved our Country and always made that known which is why he served it. He was a great friend and he is missed by many. His Dad Brian, who took many of the photos on this site, still comes to just about every home football game. Jevon Hall in 2006 was also tragically killed in a Car accident heading home from a concert in Reno in March of 2006. Jevon had established his own painting company with his brother Terry called JT painting. It was very successful. He also was married and has a daughter who was very young at the time of his accident. Jevon also has a son who is in his 20’s now. Both Jevon and Troy were great guys who were liked by all. I am honored to have known them and to have grown up with them in the small Town of Truckee. They are Wolverines and they will always be remembered. RIP
A couple things that should be pointed out before you continue to read about other teams in the 1990’s. There were sophomores that made an immediate impact when they were brought up to the Varsity. Art Lyon, Josh Pegoda, along with Fertitta were on Varsity from the start of the season. Then Ronny Wood and Bill Lyon were brought up midyear and contributed immediately. Then Ryan Smart and Brian Rosenow would later be brought up for the playoffs. These seven players would dominate 2 years later and field one of the best Truckee teams ever in 1993. I think the experience they had as sophomores at the Varsity level was huge by the time they were seniors.
1992: 10-1 (6-0 League) Western Division Champions & State Semifinalists
The 1992 team was no different from the previous three years. It was loaded with talent and coach Estabrook had another year of Varsity coaching experience under his belt. Estabrook had put in a new passing game in 1991 and in 1992 it was starting to payoff. the group of young sophomores that were brought up during the 91 season had also a year’s experience and they were ready to to make a bigger impact. Also brought up to Varsity from the JV to ad depth to an already loaded backfield was James Van-Brunt. One of the biggest names in Truckee Football History is Brian Mulloy. He is all over the record books and he was a 3 year starter at Free Safety. He went on to play his college football at The United States Air Force Academy. He is on the short list of players in our history to play division one football. Brian was a senior during the 1992 football season. This is his take on the 92 season:
The standard and expectation for Truckee Football had been set high. No AA team had been more successful over the previous 3 years. For those of us on the 1992 Truckee Football team most of us watched the 1989 state championship game played in Surprise Stadium, and many of us played or practiced with varsity for the 1990 state championship game. We understood that we had to win one game at a time, but we knew deep down that anything less than competing for a state championship would be to come up short of our goal.
We lost some great players to graduation, and our starting QB Josh Pegoda and RB Damien Fertitta were out due to injury. Yet, we had a strong group of seniors and some great younger guys to make another strong Truckee squad. The 92 season would start out with a tough test vs Lowry (ranked #4 in state) and later in the season the “big three” Manogue, North Tahoe, and Whittell.
Truckee 20 Lowry 14
This was a tough first game for a young, untested squad. We had a lot of new faces on the team, but everyone stepped up and played the “Truckee brand of football.” Our first time back to Lowry since winning state in 90’ and a great match to see what type of team we would be. It was a very physical and close game but we prevailed and it started our season off in the right direction.
Truckee 55 Quincy 0
Our first time back in Surprise Stadium since the end of the 91’ season, and after the Lowry game we were ready to rock. I remember bodies flying to the football – there was an energy present playing at home for the first time. I distinctly remember early in the game while on defense we were called for a penalty that gave Quincy a first down. Everyone in the huddle chuckled because it gave us three more downs to beat on those guys.
Truckee 43 Dayton 0
Truckee 32 Hawthorne 13
Truckee 54 ROP 0
Truckee 14 Manogue 0
Truckee 29 North Tahoe 12
This game had been building up all season. Both teams were undefeated (6-0) and ranked #1 and #2 in the State AA. As both teams were piling up wins this game was circled on everyone’s calendar. I have never seen more people at a Truckee football game. It looked like everyone in the North Tahoe region had made it to this game. The entire ridge around Surprise Stadium had people standing, and those looking for a place to sit had to make due on the sides of hills in the tall grass. We actually trailed 12-8 midway through the third quarter, but with superior depth we bulled our way to three straight fourth-quarter scores. It was a battle and we wore them down in the 4th quarter. 30 minutes after the game we still didn’t want to leave the field.
Truckee 30 Whittell 7
This game had been on our minds for an entire year. The loss in 91’ in the “snow bowl” was Truckee’s only league loss in the last 4 seasons. It was homecoming and there was no way they were going to come into our house for a repeat of 91’. Their offense was fairly simple. Whittell would run a few variations of the same play over and over and try to wear you down – it wasn’t happening. We stuffed them all day and their only score was the result of a pass down to the 1yd line.
Truckee 48 Incline 18
This was a fun game under the lights. It was raining and the field was soaked. I remember a pulling guard from Incline trying to block Clevenger, our middle backer. I was coming up from the safety position and watched “Clev,” with a full head of steam, explode into that guard and blast him back into the running back – he kept going and tackled the RB for a loss.
Truckee 35 Battle Mountain 6
Truckee 10 Moapa Valley 13
Moapa Valley had a good team. Obviously, it was not ideal for an early morning flight to Vegas and a drive out to Moapa on game day. We played hard, but when we had the opportunities to take control of the game we didn’t get it done. Moapa made some plays when they had to and that turned out to be the difference.
In many ways the 1992 season paralleled the 1991 season. We dominated throughout the year, yet the season ended because of a few poorly executed plays and coming up couple yards short. We did not make it to the “dance,” but represented Truckee well and were a couple plays away from playing in the state game against Lowry (A team we had already beaten).
4 – Shut outs
64 pts allowed reg season – 9 games (83pts allowed 11 games)
92 Senior Wolverines:
Josh Clevenger Bill Longley Jess Specht Jason Van-Brunt
Brent Churchman Rick Lopez David Selcon
Chuck Hodges Isaac Mueller Armando Ramirez
Dave Holmes Brian Mulloy Frank Villapondo
1993: 11-1 (6-0 League) Western Division & AA Nevada State Champions
I think the 1993 football season can be described in the following way, “It was a season for the ages.” Anyone who was around Truckee Football in the 90’s knows this team. They made a huge impact on the Truckee Football program and they are regarded as one of the best teams in Nevada AA history. I’m sure Nevada folks might wrestle with that comment and I don’t blame them. This 1993 team was the whole package. Number one, they were tenacious and very hungry. This team had sniffed two playoff opportunities that ended in heartache two years in a row. Many of the seniors were around to see Truckee win the Championship in 1990 and they had aspirations to win one for themselves. After experiencing the pain of two close losses in the Semi-Finals, the 1993 team was not going to be denied a third time. Secondly, along with the previous opportunities came very valuable experience. These seniors were not just on the team as under class-man, they were huge participants the past two seasons and were impact players as sophomores. Damien Fertitta was a huge contributor as a freshman kicking the field goal that won it all in 1990. This team was not going to be denied. Thirdly, this team was extremely deep and talented. Many athletes come to mind the second I think about this team. Ronnie Wood, Damien Ferttita, Chris Cooper, Trevor Rusinyak, Josh Pegoda, Brant Smith, Evan Hill, and on and on and on. This is just the senior skill guys, I didn’t even mention the underclassman this team had. They were not going to be denied. Forth point, this team was big. Lineman such as Bryan Rosenow, Art Lyon, Kris Wicks, Ryan Smart, Matt Rippee, Tyler Wright, Brian Horn, Bill Lyon (TE) and I’m sure I’m missing guys but they were not going to be denied. Fifth, a transfer from Southern California, Bret Bethke. Bethke was a perfect fit at fullback in Estabrooks offense and Estabrook always featured that fullback. They were not going to be denied. Sixth, Coach Estabrook. This was coach Estabrook’s 5th and final season as head coach of Truckee. After being in the State Game his first two seasons he had come up short for two season in a row leaving a very bitter taste in his mouth. He had built this team for 3 years and knew this was the year. The passing component of his offense was finally clicking. You could tell in the offseason that Estabrook finally felt comfortable with the system that Bob Kuch brought in. It was no longer just Waggles and Belly passes. Estabrook was spreading things out a little and he had the athletes to do it. The 1993 team didn’t have a weakness any where. Not on defense, not on offense, not on special teams, and certainly not on the coaching staff! This team was NOT GOING TO BE DENIED!
“TCB 93” on the front of their spirit pack shirt and WAR on the back. The front meaning “Taking Care of Business” and the back stood for “Weights, Attitude, Revenge!” This was the offseason motto as the team was grinding in the weight room to prepare for another State Championship run. On a long trip home from Overton in November of 1992 the Wolverines and their head coach took a vow that they would not lose next season and that they would take care business. The TCB shirt was actually created on that trip home just hours after they lost. Estabrook told his team, “we need to get more physical (weights), we need to get meaner (attitude), and get revenge.” In the preseason preview of the Wolverines Estabrook stated many times that it is not about making the playoffs, his last comment was, “We want to play in Las Vegas for the State Title on Astro Turf.” He also indicated that strengthening his preseason schedule was key to getting ready for league. First on the list was Battle Mountain who came to Truckee to squash all the preseason hype. The Longhorns were completely outmatched and outclassed as Truckee scored four TD’s on their first seven plays of offense. The defense limited the Longhorns to just 29 first half points and surrendered just 8 points. The score was 39-0 at the half and the backups played the whole second have creating depth for the Wolverines. It was big play after big play by all the big names. Ronnie Wood scored on a 68 yard run, Fertitta on a 37 yard pass play from Wood and a 69 yard run. Jake Isler, a sophomore, had 2 carries for 77 yards. The Wolverines called off the dogs pretty quickly and unfortunately the game was too easy heading into Reno the following week.
The Wolverines were pumped up to play against AAA Reno to see how we matched up. Reno was a strong team and Truckee knew it would take a great game to beat them. Truckee fought punch for punch in the first half giving up just 6 points. But Truckee’s only points came on a sack by Gary Port who knocked the ball out and Bill Lyon recovered it for Truckee’s only TD of the game. The Wolverines almost captured all of the momentum when right before the half Damien Fertitta took a fake punt and broke away on a long run but he was caught from behind just before the goal line as time expired. Truckee was feeling pretty good at halftime having the score tied 6-6 but they also knew they needed to get the offense rolling. But when the second half of play started it was all Reno and the Huskies ran away with the win. Truckee turned the ball over 6 times and Estabrook said after the game, “It was the worst defeat I’ve ever suffered.” The Huskies exposed some of Truckee’s weaknesses which Estabrook said usually doesn’t take place until playoffs. One of Estabrook’s adjustments the following week was moving Ronnie Wood to Running back and making Chris Cooper the starting QB moving forward. This move was the most pivotal adjustment of the year. It instantly made Truckee a more explosive team with Wood in the backfield and a pure passer like Cooper under center. Let’s face it, those who know Woody, he didn’t like to give up the ball. Running back was his spot. That would now give Truckee 1, 2, 3 punch with Bethke, Wood, and Fertitta. Cooper was a very good QB too and it gave Truckee many options. Options Truckee lacked in the Reno loss. That loss was Truckee’s first regular season loss since the loss to Whittell in the Snow Bowl my senior year. So, I guess it was ironic that in week 3 Truckee was opening league play at Whittell.
Week 3 at Whittell. I hadn’t personally been back to Whittell since we lost in 91. I was a young coach on the 93′ team and was feeling some of that Revenge coming on. But the game is played by the players and not the coaches and I couldn’t expect the players to feel my pain. However, they did, quite a few of the 93 players were on my team. They got after Whittell from start to finish. Though I was not playing, it sure felt good to watch this team do what my team couldn’t and that’s win at Whittell. Week 3 was all about TCB! It was Chris Cooper and Bethke’s day. Cooper threw for 125 yards and a TD and Bethke rushed for over 100 yards and a TD. Of course Wood had a typical all around day with over 100 return yards, 2 interceptions, 81 yards on 4 touches of offense, and a TD. Rusinyak stepped onto the scene and had 5 catches, 60 yards, and a TD to emerge as Coopers favorite target. Truckee wins 36-7.
Next up was ROP. ROP was always an athletic threat but usually minutes into the game would turn on each other and the game would unravel for them. In 93′, Truckee being as strong as ever, ROP really didn’t stand a chance. But nobody told ROP that and certainly didn’t tell their running back, David Scott, that. Scott rushed 14 times for 195 yards and a 76 yard touchdown in the second quarter that brought the score to 14-6 at halftime. Truckee was not rattled and came out in the second half and scored every time they got the ball in the third quarter rolling up the Raiders for a final score of 56-13. Cooper threw for 3 TD’s and 144 yards. Bethke rushed for 77 yards and 2 TD’s. Fertitta rushed the ball just 8 times for 128 yards and 2 TD’s. The last TD of the game came from Keith Bergstrom on a 12 run. David Scott would later run a kickoff back for a 92 yard TD but it was much too little and too late. The Truckee offense had found its stride but the defense had its first scare as it struggled to slow down ROP’s running game. But that could be attributed to a very fast and athletic back that the Wolverines just didn’t matchup well with. The Wolverines were now 3-1 and would have to make the travel to Manogue to face off with the Minors who were also 3-1.
Week five would be Truckee’s biggest test of the year, other than Reno, and the Wolverines were preparing as if it was the State Championship. Manogue’s only loss of the year also came against a AAA opponent. The Catholic school from the South, Bishop Gorman. Gorman was not the power house they are now but still an interesting matchup as Manogue headed to Vegas to battle it out with the other Catholic school in the State. It was a close game but Manogue lost 19-20. This Manogue team featured a balanced attack lead by QB Chris Szabo. The Minor’s leading back was Brandon Micone who rushed for 100 yards per game heading into the Truckee showdown. This was also the year that the movie “The Program” came out with James Caan. In the movie Latimer, a college football player, had painted up his face like a skeleton. At the time it was a big deal and it was intemidating. So, Micone thought he would try and intimidate Truckee in the same way by painting his face in the same fashion. It would have no barring on the game as Truckee stepped up to the
challenge and pounded Manogue 42-12. It was the most lopsided win Truckee ever had verses Manogue. Unfortunately the game didn’t live up to the hype as the Minors could not match the Wolverines intensity nor their execution. Manogue did strike first on a drive capped off by a Szabo TD run. But the Manogue lead would not last and the Wolverines ran away with the game with big play after big play by the team’s biggest stars. Truckee rolled up 324 rushing yards lead by number 44 Bret Bethke. Fertitta also had a big game scoring 2 TD’s and 74 yards rushing. Brant Smith came to the party in week 5 scoring 2 TD’s and 49 yards rushing. Cooper went 10-13 for 115 yards and two TD’s. Ronnie Wood had another all around game and had established himself as the League’s top dog intimidating opposing teams through fierce hits and explosive plays all over the field. It was a great game for the offense. The defense did bend at times but also put together a solid game holding Manogue’s top rusher Brandon Micone to just 53 yards on 12 carries. The painted face did not workout well for Micone in front of his Homecoming crowd and the Wolverines had the last laugh. Estabrook gave credit to Manogue for playing with great heart but also stated they just didn’t have the horses. He would go on to say that he was surprised how well the his team played. I think we were all surprised how easy it was to beat Manogue. We might have been a little over confident heading into the next game with rival NT.
Next up “The Little Big Game” at North Tahoe. This was the 19th matchup between the 2 schools. Truckee leads 10 games to 9. The Wolverines were looking to continue their win streak over NT to six games but it was gonna take a heck of an effort. Both teams were undefeated heading into the matchup in 93. North Tahoe had named their offense “Walker Ball” after their star senior who had been tearing through opposing defenses for 3 seasons. Che Walker lead the Nevada AA as a junior with 1,530 yards and in his first 5 games as a senior had 980 yards and 15 TD’s. Truckee had a large task ahead of them if they were going to slow down Walker. The plan going in was to some how control him. Truckee knew they were going to feed him the ball time and time again but felt like they could slow him down. Estabrook knew the best way to do that was to keep the ball on offense which was a hard task in the first half of the game. You could tell in the pre-game interviews that NT was sick of the Truckee hype. NT is a proud program who had shared in a lot of success of their own. They really felt that they had a team to challenge Truckee in 93 and they were right. North Tahoe’s head-coach Freeman said before the game, “Truckee may expect to roll over us, but we expect a dogfight and a chance at a victory.”
It was the tale of two halves for Truckee. In the first half North Tahoe came out swinging, forcing Truckee into mistakes as the Wolverines turned the ball over early in the game. The first turn over lead to points when Che Walker scored from a yard out to take a 6-0 lead. Then the game was back and forth a bit with neither team able to score. Late in the second quarter North Tahoe put a drive together that was capped off by a touchdown pass from Knodel to Lund with just 3 seconds left on the clock. The Lakers were riding the momentum into the Locker room up 12-0. At halftime coach Estabrook met with his coaches briefly and then made his adjustments with the O-Line. Then just before heading back out to play Estabrook addressed his team. Coach Estabrook was never a raw raw type of coach. He is more about preparation and execution. But every now and then a coach has to show emotion and fire up their troops. Estabrook basically called out his team and said, “This is your game!!!, either go out and win it or go out and lose it!!!” It was not profound but it got the point across. More than that you could tell how frustrated Coach was and the players respected him.
It was a completely different team in the second half. On Truckee’s first play from scrimmage the transfer from Southern California, Bret Bethke, took the handoff and rambled 68 yards for the score. That would be all Truckee needed to spark the comeback. Truckee would then force NT to punt and drive right down the field. Ronnie Wood ran it in from a yard out and just like that Truckee was in the lead 14-12 with 6:08 still left in the 3rd quarter. North Tahoe hung in there and answered right back with another Brad Lund TD reception. But Truckee had figured NT out and the Lakers were now feeling their lack of depth. The Wolverines were just too strong. Bethke scored his second TD of the game and the score was tied 20-20 going into the 4th quarter. The 4th quarter belonged to the Truckee defense and Bret Bethke who would score two more times after interceptions by Josh Pegoda and Evan Hill. Then Ronnie Wood put an exclamation point on the Truckee win when he broke away on a 10 yard run. He could have easily ran to the corner of the end zone untouched, but instead Ronnie cut the ball back into the middle
and put the crosshairs right on number 25 for North Tahoe. Wood ran right at Brad Lund and bulldozed him and the football into the end zone for Truckee’s final score. Ronnie finished the day 103 yards rushing and 2 TD’s. The Wolverines scored 42 second half points to roll to yet another Little Big Game victory 42-20. The Wolverines were held to just 30 rushing yards in the first half and Bethke only had 8 yards. Bethke who transferred from Canyon High School was an offensive guard before getting to Truckee. He lit up the Lakers for 170 yards and 4 TD’s in the second half. Bethke said after the game, “Now I really feel part of the team. I didn’t know what the rivalry would be about and we weren’t that pumped. At halftime Coach told us to start playing Truckee Football.” And that’s what the Wolverines did. Truckee rushed for 321 yards in the second half of the game. The Truckee defense held Walker to 132 yards and 1 TD. He had been averaging 200 yards and 3 TD’s a game. Though Truckee had a great comeback this game was a bit of a wake up call for Truckee. North Tahoe was a pretty good team and the Wolverines did not match their intensity from the start of the game. From this point forward the 93′ team did not have any letdowns and they would go on a run of games that is unparalleled.
With the win over NT Truckee had clinched the Western Division for the 4th time in 5 years. They were guaranteed home field advantage throughout the playoffs. At this point Truckee just wanted to keep things rolling and peak heading into the playoffs. They would do just that outscoring their next 3 opponents 188-21. After the NT game Truckee smashed a very outmatched Dayton Dust Devil team tying a school record with a 69-0 win. Ten different Wolverines would score and the Wolverines would score in every fashion that you can. Cooper threw 3 TD passes. Brant Smith had a 78 yard kickoff return to start the game. Rick Smerdon intercepted a pass for a TD. Art Lyon scooped up a fumble and rambled into the end zone earning himself free breakfast at the Wagon Train for a year. Multiple players touched the football and everyone got to play. The game was basically over after the first quarter as Truckee went up 35-0 and never looked back. Dayton never threatened to score and the backups were in most of the game. There were many highlights for Truckee in this game but the one that stands out the most is the hit Ryan Smart put on one of the Devils. Evan Hill had intercepted a pass and
was trying to get to the sideline. As he was just about ready to be tackled…BAM…Lights Out! Smart put a blind side hit on a player trying to tackle Hill. The kid was shook up but ended up being ok. The next week Truckee would play a much better team in Hawthorne. They were a team that could pass and had a pretty good receiver in Rick Townsend. But Truckee would make the travel to Hawthorne and flex their muscle and take down the Serpents 58-7. Ronnie Wood absolutely put the fear of God into the Serpents receiving core. They ran a slant early in the game and Wood let Hawthorne know right away that coming into his zone was not a good idea. The Serpents would not learn their lesson and the play was called a few times and every time it was the same result. I actually felt sorry for the Hawthorne receivers. The last time they ran a slant the receiver never even looked at the ball. he
was watching Ronnie the whole time and just gave up on the play. James Ferrell of Hawthorne did catch 8 receptions for 133 yards and a TD but the night belonged to the Wolverines who rolled up 521 yards. Cooper threw for 148 yards and 2 TD’s, Ronnie Wood picked off a pass for a TD, and it was the same ol group of running backs scoring rushing TD’s with Fertitta, Smith, Wood, and Bethke. Vickers got in on the scoring this week too. Next on the schedule was Incline as Truckee would get ready for the playoffs. Incline had a pretty good running back Victor Medina and a decent QB in Tim Kelly. But they were no match for Truckee as the Wolverines rolled up the Highlanders 61-14. This day belonged to Ronnie Wood as he collected 288 all purpose yards and scored 4 TD’s. One of those TD’s was a school record 99 yard Kickoff return for a TD. Fertitta rushed for 148 yards and 3 TD’s. Cooper passed Truckee’s all time passing leader Jose Cruz throwing for 175 yards and 2 TD’s. It was a record breaking day for the Truckee team and players but more importantly Truckee executed and was ready to go for their playoff run. They completely devastated their last 3 opponents of the regular season.
Now the Wolverines would have to face the Fernley Vaqueros a team they had not played since the fight broke out in 1988. But that had passed and these players were not involved in that. Fernley had a power running game and a decent passer. They had a defense that only gave up 72 points on the season. The Wolverines were expecting a battle but they knew if they played like they were capable of, there wasn’t a team that could beat them. The Wolverines came out and jumped on the Vaqueros scoring 29 first quarter points. It was another big game for Fertitta who carried the ball just 4 times but had 3 TD’s and 142 yards rushing. Cooper threw 3 TD’s and 2 of those TD’s to his favorite target Trevor Rusinyak who also had 74 yards receiving. The Wolverine offense rolled up another 441 yards and shut down the Vaquero’s power run game. Fernley’s coach Dave Hart said after the game that “Truckee is the team to beat in the playoffs” Truckee now prepare for payback as Moapa makes the travel to Truckee for the first time in their history. In other news, North Tahoe traveled South to face off with the South’s number one team, Pahrump. In a upset the Lakers took down Pahrump 41-7 and will now host Virgin Valley for a shot to face the Wolverines in Las Vegas.
Truckee had been stewing on the painful loss just a year ago in a 10-13 battle with Moapa. Nobody was more hungry to avenge that loss than Damien Fertitta who missed the tying field goal in the last minute of that game. Estabrook in the pre-game interview stated that “this game is everything to us. After last year, there will be no trouble in getting the kids emotionally up and keeping them focused. Look for a very emotional game.” That translates to a locker room full of Wolverines that have been waiting for the moment to play Moapa. They had done everything they needed to to get to this point and they were not going to be denied. Just like their shirt said “Taking Care of Business”. That is exactly what the Wolverines did to this point and now it was just about taking down the Pirates and getting to that Turf. Moapa came into the game a number 2 seed but was the best team from the South. They had an offense that was better than the year before and they were expecting to give Truckee a game. Truckee was expecting some what of fight but there was no way the Pirates were going to sink Truckee’s ship for a second straight year.
WAR…Weights, Attitude…Meaner, Revenge! Truckee hit the weight room hard in the offseason to prepare. After the North Tahoe wakeup call the Wolverines got mean and nasty which was the attitude Estabrook was looking for. Now it was time for Revenge. Nobody was more amped up than Damien Fertitta who missed the kick that prevented Truckee from tying the game just a year before. Damien was a big, fast, and physical running back. He played every game with everything he had and always ran as hard as he could. But every now and then when a player is special they can raise their game up just a little bit higher in big moments. That was Fertitta, on November 13th 1993, at Surprise Stadium. There was just something different about him that day. It was as if he was going to score every time he touched the ball and he almost did. Damien opened up the game with the first score on a 23 yard run. After a Cooper to Wood TD pass the Pirates actually got on the board and made it 14-7. Just what Moapa needed to get back in the game but Fertitta and the Wolverines were not to be denied. Fertitta scored two more TD’s in the first half to give Truckee a 28-7 lead. To start the second half Moapa got the ball first but Truckee’s defensive end Nate Norton sacked Moapa’s QB, Ryan Waite, and Brant Smith recovered it. It was Bethke’s turn to score and he plunged in from a yard out. Midway through the third quarter Fertitta would strike again scoring his 4th TD of the game to make the score 42-7. With the game out of hand Moapa would put a drive together for a TD and then Cooper threw just his 3 interception of the year. This interception went all the way for a Moapa score to make it 42-20. But Truckee came right back to finish off the Pirates with a 7 yard run by Wood and Fertitta’s 5th TD of the game. There are four players in Truckee history to score 5 TD’s in a game: Rick Neptune, Dustin Pugh, James Van-Brunt, and Damien Fertitta. Fertitta killed Moapa with 8 carries for 178 yards and 5 TD’s. He also made every point after try to prove my first point, that he almost scored every time he touched the ball. Truckee had 516 yards rushing which sits 3rd all time. Lost in the shadow of Fertitta was Bret Bethke who some how had a quite day at the office rushing for 241 yards on 24 carries. It was a heck of a day for Truckee Football as they were headed to Vegas to play on Turf.
Just across town Che Walker was having a pretty good day of his own as he rushed for 292 yards and 2 TD’s to help lead the Lakers past Virgin Valley 28-27. North Tahoe’s QB was knocked out of the game and was replaced with Sean McNally who rallied the Lakers throwing for 112 yards and a TD. The Laker win set up one of the strangest and most interesting scenarios in Nevada Prep Sports history. The strange part was that two teams that lived within 18 miles of each other would have to travel 450 miles south to play for a Nevada State Championship. The interesting part is that both teams are from California. Has there ever been another time in our country’s history that two high school sports squared off in a State Championship that neither school was located in? That has to be a first. It cost the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District over 10,000 dollars to send both teams to Vegas. Very odd but both teams and schools were happy to do it. It was a chance of a lifetime for two small schools (once upon a time one school) from the Sierra Nevada’s to travel to Las Vegas and play in a large stadium like that. And to have the “Little Big Game” played on a stage like that was just an awesome moment for both programs and a week full of memories. As for the game and the matchup North Tahoe would appear to be at a disadvantage without their starting QB who they lost for the season in the playoff game vs Virgin Valley with a broken collarbone. However, North Tahoe didn’t see it that way and after all they were all about “Walker Ball.” So, the game was more about who’s defense would do the best job slowing down each other’s weapons. The two schools would face off for the first time ever in the playoffs and the Stage was set. Truckee vs North Tahoe on November 19th 1993 under the lights of the Silver bowl in Las Vegas! The 20 year rivals were set to settle yet another score but this one would come at a much larger price. This game was not just about pride, it was for Nevada’s State Championship Trophy.
The strategy started at the coin toss as North Tahoe won the toss and elected to defer. A risky move considering the Wolverines were the strongest offensive team in the State. The strategy had appeared to work as the Wolverines first drive stalled out at the Laker 21 yard line. But disaster struck early for the Lakers when Kris Vickers of Truckee read the toss play and immediately swarmed the play. When the toss was a little high, Walker had to reach for it and Vickers lit into Che and the ball spilled on the Turf. Ronnie Wood was there to scoop up the loose ball and Truckee was in business. The turn over lead to a Bret Bethke one yard run and a 7-0 lead. Two possessions later the Lakers would turn it over again when McNally was intercepted in the flats by Kris Vickers. On the very next play Cooper dropped back to pass and hit a leaping Ronnie Wood in the end zone and the route appeared to be on as the Wolverines went up 14-0. But North Tahoe was no slouch and they put a drive together behind their stud Che Walker and sophomore Felipe Lopez. The 12 play 78 yard drive was capped off by a 7 yd Lopez run and the score was 14-7 at halftime. With North Tahoe deferring the coin toss it would assure that they would get the ball first in the second half. On the Lakers first drive they stalled and were forced to punt but Truckee roughed the kicker to keep the Laker drive alive. The Lakers drove down to the Wolverine 22 yard line before a big 4th down call. North Tahoe appeared to be attempting a field goal. But the Lakers had other ideas and they went for the fake field goal. The Wolverines sniffed it out and the Lakers turned it over coming up empty. Truckee then drove the ball down the field chewing up clock in the process. A nine play, 78 yard drive was capped off by another Bethke TD and the Wolverines lead 21-7 going into the 4th quarter. Into the 4th quarter North Tahoe cut into the Truckee lead when McNally put a drive together that was capped off by a 17 yard TD reception by Brad Lund. For some reason North Tahoe went for a 2pt conversion and came up empty and Truckee lead 21-13 with less than 3 minutes on the clock. Then the play of the games took place. North Tahoe lined up for the onside
kick and Truckee put out their hands team. The Lakers kicked the ball into the turf and the ball took a fortuitous bounce right into Damien Fertitta’s hands. Fertitta got a nice read on the ball and broke on it in full stride moving the opposite direction the ball was traveling and went 50 yards untouched for the TD and the proverbial “nail in the coffin.” Truckee won its 3rd State Championship by a final score of 28-13 to give Truckee its 7th straight win over NT. It was a tough fought battle by both proud programs. There was a mutual respect for one another by both the players and coaching staffs regardless of the rivalry. Ronnie Wood was a workhorse in this game making defensive plays all over the field and rushing for a game high 134 yards. Bethke turned in another 100 yard game and a 2 TD performance. Truckee’s passsing game was nonexistent other than the TD pass from Cooper to Wood but it would not be needed as the Wolverines racked up 283 yards and 3 TD’s on the ground. Walker who had over 2,100 yards on the year could muster just 121 yards on 20 carries and was held out of the end zone. The Lakers did move the ball well throughout the game but ultimately the two turnovers early in the game made the difference. It was quite a night in Las Vegas and all of the hard work had paid off for the 93′ Wolverines.
Shortly after the State Game the All-Leauge team came out and to everyone’s surprise not one Wolverine was honored on the All League team. Coach Estabrook had decided not to participate in the selection process. He spoke to the team before the meeting and they collectively decided to boycott the process due to political issues in the selection process. Basically coach Estabrook was sick of having to politic so much to get Truckee kids what they deserve. After 4 years of frustrations he decided to make a point stating, “We had one goal in mind this season and that was to win State. The political atmosphere surrounding the all-league selections was not part of our team goal. The coaches around the league are not out to select a real all-star team, they are trying to get as many kids from their school on the team regardless of ability and that makes the selection process a joke. All-League selections have no meaning to our team. Our goal was directed at winning. We had bigger goals this year and that way we could honor all our kids on the team. The State Trophy is our All-League.” Wow, a major statement by the coach. In the early 90’s the All-League process was selected by the coaches and it still is today. But the All-State selections were selected by the media and by those who did not have an agenda. So, it was more of a true All-State team. Now days All-State selections are directly related to All-League and and it is 4 coaches who select the teams. It is not a perfect system but the coaches have done a pretty good job all things considered. But the process is some what political because you are usually dealing with All-League constraints that in my opinion skew the process. But in 1993 it was still the media that selected All-State. So, while the Wolverines did not land one football player on All-League, they were littered all over the All-State team. This was much more of an honor as Coach Estabrook was rewarded the Coach of the Year of the State and 15 of his players were represented in All-State selections 11 of which were first team. The following players were selected to the first team All-State team: Brian Horn (OL), Kris Wicks (OL), Matt Monroe (OL), Art Lyon (OL), Damien Fertitta (RB&Kicker), and Bret Bethke (RB); Defense: Nate Norton (DL), Bryan Rosenow (DL), Ryan Smart (LB), Matt Rippee (LB), Ronnie Wood (FS). Second Team: Chris Cooper (QB), Trevor Rusinyak (WR), Even Hill (DB), and Josh Pegoda (DB). All second team selections could have easily been first team selections too.
There have been some great teams to come through Truckee but it can be argued that the 1993 team is the best Truckee team ever. Coach Estabrook stated a couple times without hesitation that this team was the best team he has coached. These were Coach Estabrook’s remarks after the Championship win, “This is the most satisfying win and season I’ve had at Truckee. Our goal from the start of the season was to get to the State Championship game and this team just didn’t believe they were going to get beat. We had to be stronger and meaner than last year and the players on this team did whatever I asked them to do. This was a very committed team- a brotherhood. And what a ride it was!” It was quite a ride and I am honored that I got to be a part of it. I was a young position coach on this team as an outside linebacker coach and shared the wide receivers with coach Kuch. It was a great year to start my coaching career. Being a part of a staff that had been together for 5 years and had really jelled at this point. I learned a lot about the game and ultimately it was the coaching experience I had in 1993 that motivated me to get my teaching credential and pursue coaching as part of my career. I can’t thank coach Eastabrook enough for offering me a position and taking me under his wing as a young man who was just 20 years old at the time. Unfortunately, on Sunday December 12th at Truckee’s Award Banquet the 54 year old Estabrook stepped down as Truckee’s head coach to pursue a business opportunity in Arizona. It was a bit surprising given the amount of success he had and how rooted into the Truckee community he was. But he felt he had an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up and moved on. Estabrook was far and away Truckee’s most successful coach and is responsible for taking Truckee’s football program to the next level or 2-3 levels from where it was. In his five years as head coach, Estabrook posted a 50-7 record, winning 88% of his games, 5 playoffs appearances, 4 League Titles, 3 State Championship Appearances, and 2 State Titles. Estabrook only lost one game at Surprise Stadium. Unfortunately it was a State Championship game. When asked if he’d coach again he said, “My wife says I will coach again. I don’t think I’ll have an opportunity like I had at Truckee. But not coaching hasn’t sunk in yet, it will come February or March when I should be in the weight room with the kids. I will miss it but I have needs outside of football.” Well, coach Estabrook didn’t stay out of coaching long. In fact Estabrook was roped into helping coach a JV team at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale Arizona in the fall of 1994. Chaparral is a 4A school with a student body up over 2,000 students. In 1995 Estatbrook took over the head coaching job after the team went 0-10. In his first year as head coach Chaparral went 6-5 and made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Estabrook coached at Chaparral from 1995 to 2006. His record was 124-28 and he won 3 State Championships. Multiple players went to division I schools out of his program. He is recognized as the coach that resurrected Chaparral’s program and had a major influence on upgrading the school’s facilities. Estabrook knows the X’s and O’s of football which makes him great but it is his ability to establish and uphold a program that’s sets him apart. It is an honor to have played for him and certainly an honor to have coached with him. He is a Arizona football deity but more importantly he is a Truckee Football Legend!
With Coach Estabrook flying south it was officially the end of an era and Truckee’s administration waisted no time in the search for their next football coach. There were plenty of mixed emotions around town and I remember being pretty bummed that coach was moving on. Brian Smart, who had coached Estabrook’s offensive line for many years was the next to step down. Bob Kuch went next and it felt like our whole coaching staff would not be coming back in 1994 which was disappointing for me as a new coach. The questions starting swirling about who was going to replace Estabrook and what offense would that coach run? Everyone wanted the Wing-T to stay intact. Truckee had been running the Wing-T dating back to the 1984 football season when Mark Cunningham brought it in after he replaced Coach Broliar. So, would the Truckee administration bring in a Wing-T guy???? Nope
After Estabrook stepped down he told the Truckee administration that their next head coach was already on staff. Some thought that he meant Gary Collins who had been part of Truckee Football since the early 80’s. Coach Collins had established himself as one of the best defensive coordinators in the Nevada AA and it would clearly be his turn to take over as the head coach. But Coach Collins really didn’t want to be a head coach. He enjoyed his role as a defensive coordinator and he also had a young family and did not want to take on the many extra hours of being a head coach. Estabrook was actually talking about Bob Shaffer. Shaffer was on the JV staff, as I mentioned in the 93 writeup, and Estabrook felt that he was indeed Truckee’s next coach. It would make the most sense as Shaffer was also a Wing-T guy and he was also a very seasoned High School Coach back in Ohio. But unfortunately that is not the direction Truckee went. Instead, Truckee hired a buddy of the Superintendent and went a completely different direction. On comes the Jim MacCallister era as he became Truckee’s 17th coach. A Power I offense and an Odd front defense, neither of which Truckee had run in the past. In MacCallister’s first address to his new team and their parents he basically called out Estabrook and Truckee’s Wing-T offense saying that it was below standard and stated that things were gonna change around here. As you can imagine that made some parents upset. After all Estabrook had only lost 7 games in 5 years, took Truckee to 3 State Titles, and won 2. He also won 4 League Titles in the 5 years he was head coach. Taking a shot at Truckee’s most successful coach in their history was not the best PR move. I think McCallister just got off on the wrong foot right off the “Get Go.” But that’s coach Mac for you, he never was afraid to voice his opinion. In the process of offending some of his players, their family’s, he also offended Estabrook’s coaching staff. At that point many of the Estabrook Era coaches decided not to coach. Coach Collins being the biggest loss of all. Coach Collins was my coach and mentor. He really took me under his wing during my first year of coaching and I didn’t feel comfortable coaching if he wasn’t on the new staff. So, I too decided to walk. At one point Coach Mac tracked me down at my job. I worked for my parents business, Chem-Dry of Lake Tahoe, and Mac popped his head into the front door of the Truckee Precision, a sheet metal company, where I was cleaning carpets. He asked me if I wanted to coach. I politely told him not this year. I have to say it got me jacked up that he asked me and deep down inside I wanted to coach badly. Ultimately his comments about Estabrook, in my mind, were ridiculous and I just felt like I couldn’t coach on his staff because of it. I wasn’t the only one. What most don’t know is that coach Shaffer had also decided not to coach after Mac was hired. Somewhere along the line coach Shaffer decided to come aboard Mac’s staff and thank god he did. Shaffer was also hired onto the Truckee High School teaching staff in 1994. A key maneuver that would alter Truckee Football History!
Regardless of the politics and coaching issues prior to the season, Truckee was going to field a team in the fall of 1994. After all, “this is a players game” and the 1994 team was loaded with players with some of the biggest names in Truckee history. The 1994 team also featured one of Truckee’s biggest offensive lines. Not to mention a talented back by the name of James Van Brunt who ran wild in coach Mac offensive. This is Bob Shaffer Jr.’s account of the 1994 season. Bob was a junior on the 94 team and he gives us an inside view of one of the greatest teams in Truckee history.
Bob Shaffer Jr.’s account of the 1994 football season:
With Ron Estabrook leaving in December of 1993 a California-wide coaching search began. By the end of January 1994 and interviewing 20 applicants; Truckee had hired it’s new head coach. Jim McCallister or as we referred to him as “Coach Mac”. Jim was a former assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton and Utah State University. He also had over 20 years of High school football coaching experience. Seven of which was at Brea-Olinda High School where he compiled a 48-16-2 record. Bringing his highly competitive and passionate flair, Mac would lead the highly talented 1994 Truckee Wolverines. The thing about Coach Mac is you either loved him or hated him, there was no grey area. He was a players coach and wore his heart on his shoulder. He wouldn’t sugar-coat things for you, which I’d assume is a trait a coach would need to have in the college ranks. Mac also was an “eye test” guy. Meaning if you didn’t look the part you weren’t gonna play much. Which was too bad because guys like Ryan Little, Ryan Weiler, Josh Simpson, Aaron Sanchez, and Julio Martinez were great players wasted on the bench and special teams. Their talent was evident by their contributions the following season. He definitely brought the college atmosphere with uniforms, meals, pre-game gear, and a sense of swagger. He even had college scouts and coaches at practices and games. McAllister definitely had the resume but dealing with college players versus high school kids is completely different.
Once hired, Jim accepted the challenge and his first duty as head coach was to put together a quality coaching staff. Jim would start with long time friend and coach Bob Justice, who would coach Quarterbacks and linebackers. Craig Anderson was also hired to coach offensive and defensive lines along with legend Dennis Decoite. The last coach to join Mac’s staff was also one who interviewed for the head coaching job, Bob Shaffer. Coach Shaffer would coach receivers and defensive backs.
With his staff intact Coach Mac would move to phase two: evaluate his team. A typical Wolverine team had no problem in getting kids to come out to play. Not so much this year as this team would be made up of 31 players. A lot of kids were turned off by Mac’s nature and some were upset that Estabrook had left. Lucky for Mac, what he was inheriting was an extremely talented group and thats probably an understatement. One of the strengths of this team was its size in the trenches. The offensive line was led by 3 year starter Kris Wicks (6-4, 260) at tackle, junior Tyler Wright (6-3, 240) at guard, junior Eric Wicks (6-2, 240) at center, junior Bob Shaffer Jr. (6-1,175) at guard, senior Brian Stewart (6-0, 220), and at tight end senior(s) Chris Watkins (6-1,225) and Marc Monroe (6-2,215). That’s an average of 225 pounds for our o-line and thats with me at 175lbs at guard. Senior Matt Rippee (5-10, 250) would switch in at times at guard bumping that average up to well over 230. Sophomore Ryan Demont would get the nod at wide receiver and senior Bryan Jamieson would play the Z-back. Senior Rene Lopez who brought speed and power was our fullback. At tailback Truckee would welcome back senior James Van-Brunt (6-0, 180). Van-Brunt brought speed unlike any other in Nevada. He was a legit 4.4 forty guy if not faster. We use to joke he would only run as fast as he needed to. James made it look easy and as if everyone else was standing still. Coach Mac had one hell of a lineup for his offense and just needed a Quarterback; enter Junior Nik Fertitta. Nik, as a sophomore was a fourth string tight end and our place-kick holder on the JV team. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a starting varsity quarterback? What Nik lacked in experience he made up for in great work ethic and was more athletic than he gave himself credit for. Nik had a cannon for an arm and never seemed to get rattled.
On defense we ran a 3-5 system. The line consisted of both Wicks brothers, and a scrappy relentless senior nose guard in Travis Hoag. The Linebackers were led by senior Josh Robinson, Tyler Wright, Bob Shaffer Jr. and big Matt Rippee to clog the middle. Corners were a rotation of juniors Sean Stanton and Steven Kromer along with Seniors Ryan Alley and Keith Bergstrom. The safeties were led by returning starter Kris Vickers and Bryan Jamieson. As you can see there were a lot of players going both ways and some never came off the field, but we had to with only 31 guys on the roster. We were well conditioned and ready to play but learning a whole new playbook and terminology of the Power-I and Pro Set offense would be the hardest adjustment. Especially since we were fed the Wing-T since pop-warner.
1994 season Begins:
TRUCKEE 20 BATTLE MOUNTAIN 12
The reigning AA Nevada State Champ’s first have to defend their title by traveling 300 miles to face defending Central Division champion Longhorns of Battle Mountain under the lights. Between the long bus ride and a whole new offense and defense one would suspect a slow start. This was definitely the case as we would account for over 100 yards in penalties and five fumbles. The penalties were huge as many were touchdowns called back and obviously turning the ball over doesn’t help either. With Truckee only returning one starter on offense this was bound to happen. Truckee’s first score was a punt block by Bob Shaffer Jr. and Steven Kromer scooped it up for the score. James Van-Brunt would score from one yard out for the next score after a long run. Junior Nik Fertitta would hit Bryan Jamieson on a beautiful fade pass for 41-yards for Truckee’s final touchdown. The defense played great thanks to the likes of Travis Hoag’s 14 tackles from the nose guard position, which is unheard of. Josh Robinson and Matt Rippee accounted for 10 tackles a piece. Junior Eric Wicks suffered a concussion in the first half but played the entire game and afterward he had to go to the hospital. Back then there was no concussion protocol, you just played through it. Battle Mountain was a very physical team but Truckee would squeak out a 20-12 victory for their 11th straight victory.
RENO 56 TRUCKEE 28
Truckee would head back home and it wouldn’t get any easier as we would face AAA powerhouse Reno High Huskies. We had a big team but Reno was not only bigger but had depth. Reno would make their statement early and often as they would score on every possession in the first quarter. Erin Audrain would score twice in the quarter and would amass 195 yards on the ground for the game. Down 21-0 and four straight punts with a fumble Truckee would get going. Josh Robinson blitzed the quarterback Ben Howe and lit him up on a big hit causing a fumble that was recovered by Shaffer. Six plays later after big runs by Rene Lopez and two passes from Fertitta to Ryan Demont, Van-Brunt would punch it in.
A two point- conversion from Fertitta to Demont cut the lead to 21-8. The defense would hold again and Lopez had a big scamper to the one and Van-Brunt would score the next play and it was now 21-14 Reno. Bryan Jamieson would intercept Rowe to end the half and give Truckee the momentum. Reno however would just reload in the second half and ran it down our throats. It seemed like they had endless waves of 6-3 230 pound lineman rotating and the fact that half of our team went both ways was becoming a factor. Truckee would keep it close when Fertitta hit Van-Brunt on a swing pass for a 31 yard score making it 28-20. Then enter Johnno Lazetich, the Huskies 235lb full back who could run and run he did with a 38-yard romp for a score that broke the game open. With Reno accounting for 319 yards on the ground they would snap Truckee’s 11 straight win and their 21 home game winning streaks. Our weakness was our depth and if we got into a physical long game with penalties and turnovers we were vulnerable.
WHITTELL 14 TRUCKEE 55
Up next was the last team to beat Truckee in a league game and that was the Warriors of Whittell. The infamous Snow Bowl, where Truckee lost 13-0 in Whittell was the last league loss in 1991. Since then the Wolverines had rattled off 13 straight league wins. In other words Truckee is not a big fan of Whittell and destroyed them in their last two meetings. To say Whittell got destroyed in the ’94 season match up would be an understatement, pummeled would be more accurate. It’s hard enough to beat the Wolverines in Truckee, but after a loss: Impossible. The Warriors were over matched in every aspect and the entire state of Nevada would learn of James Van Brunt. James would rush for 240 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior Kris Vickers would pick off Whittell’s QB on the first series to set the tone and Truckee would score three touchdowns in four minutes on seven offensive plays. Truckee would go up 34-0 just minutes into the second quarter. Van-Brunt would score on dashes of 4, 38, 63, and 3 yards. On the 63-yard run James was heading for the sideline and as he turned up field the cornerback thought he could catch James. He looked over his shoulder laughed and gave a road runner “Meep-Meep!” and was gone. James had 164 yds rushing at the half with three scores. Fertitta hit Demont on a 72-yard bomb for a score and Rene Lopez had a hard fought run for another six. The defense dominated the under sized Warriors front. Led by Vickers, Wicks, Wright, and Hoag, they had nowhere to go.
Josh Robinson had a 65 yard scoop and score along with a ton of bone jarring tackles. Shaffer had another fumble recovery off of a Kris Wicks hit and Sean Stanton had another interception. The defense only allowed three first downs in the half to Whittell. Through three games Van-Brunt was up to 413 yards rushing and this was only the beginning.
TRUCKEE 43 ROP 6
At 2-1 Truckee would travel to play the 3-0 ROP Raiders in the middle of nowhere. ROP was a corrections facility for troubled youth in the middle of the desert. ROP always had great athletes and amazing team speed. They just never could play as a team but that was understandable as kids were shuffled in and out of their programs. It was a hot game and James Van-Brunt wasn’t cooling down either as he would run for 227 yards and four TD’s giving him 640 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns through four games. Van-Brunt speed helped but his offensive line led by three year starter Kris Wicks, senior Brian Stewart and Juniors Tyler Wright, Eric Wicks, and Bob Shaffer Jr. were not only athletic and strong but very smart. James was always humble even though he was lighting up the stat sheet and thanking his linemen.
The O-line along with Rene Lopez lead blocking for James would account for 332 yards on the ground and 43 unanswered points. The Defense was just as impressive with seven takeaways (6 INT’s and a fumble recovery). Jamieson had two picks and Kromer, Vickers, Stanton, and Rippee had one. Linebackers Shaffer Jr. (13 tackles- 3 sacks), Wright (9 tackles – 2 sacks) and Robinson (11 tackles) harassed the Raiders all day thanks to the D-line taking up space.
MANOGUE 6 TRUCKEE 40
This game was closer than the score indicated as it was 14-6 at the half but to begin the second half junior Tyler Wright recovered a fumble on the kickoff. It was all down hill for the Miners after that. The two-first half scores were by guess who? Yup, James Van-Brunt on bursts of 75 and 53 which gave him 164 yards in the first half. He would total 192 for the game on 17 carries and 3 total scores giving him 16 on the year. The Defense was dominant for its third straight week giving up only six points. Special teams also played a factor as Bob Shaffer Jr. blocked a punt and senior Kris Wicks snatched the ball and rumbled for a 36-yard touchdown.
Rene Lopez who was under-used, broke of a 60-yard touchdown scoot showing James wasn’t the only fast running back on the team. Rene also ran the 100 and 200 meter in track and typically finished in the top three. The scoring would be capped off by a 37-yard field goal by Matt Rippee and a snap into the end zone for a safety. Truckee would rush for over 300 yards again and held a good Manogue team to 38 on the ground. Explosive offense with a high motored, get after it defense had the Wolverines rolling. Up next would be the game circled on the calendar every year, the rival Lakers of North Tahoe.
TRUCKEE 29 NORTH TAHOE 13
Last year Truckee won its 20th meeting against its 18-mile rival on the biggest stage down in Vegas for the state championship making it seven in a row. The Lakers came into this game with a 5-0 record and lets just say they didn’t need motivation for this game. Gone was the likes of Mr. everything in Che Walker but in his place was a shifty speedster in Felipe Lopez who played quite a bit his sophomore year on the varsity. North Tahoe had a very good defense to go along with home field advantage for the second consecutive year. The league re-aligned in 1994 and reset the scheduling and in turn NT got back to back years of Truckee on their turf. It didn’t matter, too much Van-Brunt and too much Kris Vickers. JVB as we called him ran for 256 yards and two touchdowns giving him his third 200-plus game of the season. James had a 71-yard run for six to start the game on a play that should’ve been a 5-yard loss. I’ll never forget the play as it was a simple toss play. I pulled and picked up the blitzing backer, we hit so hard we both fell to the ground. As I was sorting through the dancing stars in my head I watched James running towards the sideline with three Lakers on perfect angles, he was done. JVB was not, as he hit a gear I’ve never seen before and got to the corner and was just gone for 71 yards to the house.
Felipe Lopez would answer with a kickoff return for six igniting the packed house of Laker fans and chants of “STEROIDS!” Fertitta would silence the crowd with a strike to Ryan Demont for 40 yards and then JVB scored on a run of 24-yards. Felipe would score again making it 15-13 at the half. The second half belonged to second year starting strong safety Kris Vickers.
Vickers had a great knack at coming up with big plays when we needed it the most. Kris would intercept Ryan Brolliar three times in the second half taking one of them for a score after weaving in and out of would be tacklers for forty yards. The defense shut down the Laker offense in the second half. Josh Robinson lit up Brolliar and Tyler Wright pounced on the fumble allowing Fertitta to score 1-yard out on a 4th and goal.
The Defense was led by tackling machines Josh Robinson (15) and Hoag (14). Truckee had 400 yards of offense (310 on the ground). JVB cracks the 1,000 yard mark through 6 games with 1,088 and 18 touchdowns. With the win Truckee wins it’s 17th consecutive league game and sole possession of first place but best of all it was eight in a row vs NT.
TRUCKEE 55 DAYTON 20
Not much to talk about here as Truckee destroyed the Dust Devils of Dayton. James Van Brunt would run for a mediocre 157 yards and 3 touchdowns two of them on kickoff returns of 80 and 87 yards. Rene Lopez and Josh Robinson scored on short runs and Fertitta hit his favorite target Demont on a 35-yard bullet. It was 42-6 at the half and the starters were done. Coach Mac brought up 11 sophomores for experience and did they get it. Sophomore Sal Alcaraz got a score in his first varsity action. Dayton turned the ball over six times. Vickers, Robinson,Ryan Alley, and even nose guard Travis Hoag got interceptions. Kris Wicks and Ryan Little recovered fumbles for the stingy defense. Dayton scored on a broken coverage pass play, a kickoff return, and another basically against our JV in the fourth.
HAWTHORNE 21 TRUCKEE 43
A non-league game versus the Serpents of Hawthorne was next on the docket for the surging Wolverines. With the score at 20-14 Hawthorne came to play but we woke up in the second half behind JVB’s 165 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Fertitta was getting better and better as each week went a long which was evident by a beautiful fade to Demont for 74-yards. The Defense was great again in forcing four turnovers. One in which was senior Matt Rippee stepping in front of a receiver on a slant perfectly. The Wolverines were one win away from locking up it’s third consecutive league title.
TRUCKEE 26 INCLINE 12
The Incline game was a freezing night game and for the first two quarters the Highlanders made it a game as it was 12-6 at the half. James Van-Brunt finished with 187 yards on the ground and three touchdowns giving Nevada’s leading rusher 1,597 yards and 29 touchdowns. Incline”s two scores both came on special teams, a punt return and a blocked punt for a score. Other than that the defense was solid again. Fertitta hit Demont for a 35-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. With the win Truckee extended its League dominance with its 19th consecutive win. Along with the win Truckee finished the season 6-0 in league play and 8-1 overall. Most important of all, we had home field advantage. Up first: the Pirates of Moapa Valley.
Playoffs begin: Round 1
MOAPA VALLEY 14 TRUCKEE 44
Truckee’s Surprise stadium is a place where opponent’s don’t fair well come playoff time as entering this game Truckee was a perfect 7-0 since losing to Boulder City 35-29 in the 1989 state championship game. In other words, if you make the playoffs you better hope you don’t have to play at Truckee. The Moapa Valley Pirates came into this game looking to change that and started out better than they had hoped. In a game where it never stopped raining, Shane Hickman took the opening kickoff 90-yards to the house giving the Pirates a quick 7-0 lead. The next possession Truckee was held to a three and out and on fourth down the punt went flying over punter Matt Rippee’s head and Moapa recovered at Truckee’s 10-yard line. Moapa would score three plays later giving them a 14-0 lead over the stunned #2 ranked Wolverines. Once things settled down Truckee did what Truckee did best, pound the rock down your throat. The Wolverines would score six unanswered touchdowns behind James Van-Brunt and Rene Lopez’s efforts who would combine for 358 yards on the ground. James would record his fourth 200-yard game with 258 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns on runs of 91, 67, and 20. Lopez had a great game also chipping in 107 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 27 and 28 yards. Nik Fertitta would connect with his favorite target Ryan Demont for a 27-yard toss. The Defense played great as the defensive line over powered Moapa all game long. Steve Kromer would pick off the Pirates quarterback twice and Josh Robinson once giving Truckee 21 on the year. Bob Shaffer blocked his third punt of the year. Kris Wicks, Tyler Wright, Travis Hoag, and Eric Wicks terrorized the offense all game. To top it off junior Ryan Weiler had the hit of the game when he de-cleated a Pirate on a kickoff return. Moapa Valley head coach Nick Bowler was quoted “ We got some breaks early but once Truckee rolling, that was it. It was a mismatch the rest of the game. Even a dry, clean field wouldn’t have helped us. We really didn’t expect to come up here and win but we also didn’t think Truckee couldd be as strong as they were last year. Truckee has reloaded. Last years team was awesome, this years team isn’t far behind.”
Truckee was the only team from the Western division to advance as Hawthorne blanked Manogue 26-0 and #1 Virgin Valley crushed North Tahoe 42-6. White Pine was next for the Wolverines as they defeated Fernley 33-14.
WHITE PINE 39 TRUCKEE 63
Forecast for the week……. Snow! A ton of it would pound the town of Truckee and we had to practice in the gym to get ready for a talented team in White Pine. The Bobcats had two huge lineman over 240lbs and a very talented running back in Joe Mondragon who was coming off of a 233-yard performance. Their quarterback, Tim Cobb was a stud and duel threat at both running and passing. The field was plowed and shoveled by our great community for the Saturday matchup. To start the game it was cold but pretty nice out. This would not last long as it would dump snow most of the game. I remember the week before versus Moapa was just a mud bowl but at least it was somewhat warm. This week was brutal as it was freezing cold and windy. With this wet snow you had no traction to cut, only to run straight. To say this game was big play after big play was an understatement. Once again James Van-Brunt rushed for his fifth 200 yard game with 253 yards and five touchdowns giving him 2,108 yards with 37 touchdowns. Rene Lopez had another great game himself rushing for 157 yards and three scores. Neither defense played well in the tough conditions. I remember trying to read their pitch-option as the snow and wind was pounding my face. It was a guess pretty much because the visibility was so bad. Guess right I made the tackle, guess wrong touchdown Bobcats. Lateral movement on defense was useless. There was a combined eight touchdowns and 53 points in the first half alone. At the half it was 28-25 Truckee and the snow showed no signs of letting up. The lines were constantly being shoveled after almost every play. Truckee fans stood at every 5 yard line clearing it when needed. I love our town! In the second half the Truckee defense showed up only allowing two scores.
Eric Wicks got things rolling after a blocked punt which he then scooped up and rambled down to the 3-yard line leaving a trail of Bobcat bodies on his way. Josh Robinson who was a beast all year was huge this game as he had two crucial interceptions that helped bust open the game. Steve Kromer would score late to put Truckee not only ahead for good but we were going back to Vegas to defend our championship. Coach Knutson of White Pine stated “I’d be really upset if we lost to a bad team. Truckee’s line was huge and awesome. Truckee is a big, physical football team and their line just dominated our defense. We got beat by a better team.”
On the day Truckee rolled up 472 yards of offense (438 on the ground) and was now 9-0 at home in the playoffs since 1989. Up next #1 ranked and undefeated Virgin Valley Bulldogs.
1994 Nevada AA State Championship
VIRGIN VALLEY 22 TRUCKEE 7
STATE! It was what every Truckee team strives for and nothing less. It’s a great accomplishment just to make it but no one remembers second place except the team that lost. It’s almost worse in my opinion. Just to know you were so close and couldn’t finish, it sticks with you forever. It was another week of snow pounding the Sierras and another week in the gym. Last week versus White Pine it didn’t hurt us as much as White Pine would have to play in the elements. This week was a different story as the State Championship was held in the Silver Bowl at UNLV down in Las Vegas. Advantage was definitely in Virgin Valley’s favor. The Bulldogs would go through their normal routine in sunny Vegas. We practiced in our gym and even a couple days in the Vet Hall which if you’ve been in there before, it was pretty tight quarters. Walk-through was all about we could do though I do remember Tyler Wright and Eric Wicks lighting guys up a couple times in the gym. Just how this team was: feisty and confident. The day arrived as we flew down the night before and went through warm ups. Most guys bought new shoes for the game as we were playing on turf, which back then was exciting for a kid as we always wore cleats. You get way more speed on turf versus grass and with Van-Brunt in our backfield and our size in the trenches there is no way Virgin Valley could stop us.
The entire league picked us to beat Virgin Valley and we went in over-confident, even our coaching staff. But seriously how could they stop us, no one had. Head coach Kirk Hafen and staff would do something different against our offense. Virgin Valley had a really good defense with decent size and great team speed. The Bulldogs figured man on man against our offensive line they stood no chance. Coach Hafen would however level the playing field as he would cover every one of our lineman and bring up the linebackers in each gap essentially putting nine guys in the box. Nine versus seven if you include our fullback. We only ran a one receiver set so they basically manned up their best corner on Ryan Demont and said lets see what the in-experienced junior Nik Fertitta can do. Another thing the defense did was blitz the linebackers every play confusing our offensive line on who had to block who, which would give someone a free run at Van-Brunt or put pressure on Nik not giving him much time to throw the ball.
The downside and gamble of running this style defense is if JVB gets through it’s six which is what happened in the first quarter as senior captain Kris Wicks picked up two bulldog defenders and he was gone for a 62-yard scamper giving Truckee an early lead of 7-0. The game was back and forth as the defenses would come up with big stop after big stop. Virgin Valley would get on the board late in the second half as running back Danny Brotherson tied the game on a 9-yard plunge. This drive was kept alive after Truckee held Virgin Valley on downs but on the punt the punter noticed nobody went out on the gunner leaving him wide open.
The punter with a heads up play threw the ball out to his teammate for a big gain inside the Truckee 20. Disaster would strike a few series later as Fertitta caught the shotgun snap and was leveled by a blitzing linebacker who was untouched and as he threw it. The tackle put his hands up and deflected the pass to himself and ran it in for a 16-yard touchdown. Extra point was good and now it was 14-7 Virgin Valley. Truckee would march down the field one more time as the half was ending. Nik Fertitta would throw a beautiful fade pass to Ryan Demont in the corner of the end zone and looked like he had caught it but as he hit the turf the ball jarred out as time expired. In the locker room at the half it was a lot of shocked faces and a lot of head scratching. Our offense was moving the ball up and down the field but Virgin Valley would get a guy through and we would take a big loss putting us in a tough situation to convert.
The second half we got the ball and marched down the field 67-yards on eight plays down to the 2-yard line. An offensive line averaging 235lbs could easily get a push so that the best running back in the state of Nevada could score 2-yards out right? Negative, on third and two Virgin Valley sent the house and took JVB down for a two yard loss and held again on a fourth and four taking possession and all the momentum. Truckee’s defense would continue to hold but Virgin Valley would milk the clock with there running game and quick passes. The next series the Wolverines would march down the field again behind the running of JVB and under utilized Rene Lopez. Truckee facing a third and six situation at the Virgin 17 would run play action and Josh Robinson was open in the end zone. The only problem was Nik Fertitta was hit when the ball was released causing it to be thrown behind Josh and into the hands of trailing Linebacker Steve Olsen in the end zone. That was three series inside the Bulldog 20 and we came away with zero points.
With the score 14-7 and 4:14 left in the game the wolverine defense came up big with a forced fumble and Josh Robinson pounced on it at midfield.
Momentum back to Truckee and to an offense that was now clicking and picking up the blitzes. This momentum would however abruptly end on the next play with one of the worse calls I’ve ever seen. On the first play Van-brunt would scamper for an 11-yard run cutting across the field and as he was tackled, Virgin Valley defenders were trying to strip the ball out. James was down on both knees and I know because I was knocking the free safety off the pile and while on the ground I could see he was down. James also figured he was down and let the ball go and was headed back to the huddle as the rest of us were.
The referee from the other side of the field came running across blowing his whistle and screaming “Fumble! Virgin ball! Virgin Valley ball!” After the refs huddled for a short discussion the head judge stepped out pointed in Virgin Valleys direction and spewed out the most vile thing “Virgin Valley ball!” Our sidelines erupted and coach Mac spiked his clipboard and was literally in the refs face spitting out his opinion on the call. One flag goes up. Coach Mac gets in his face again and another flag goes along with an ejection for our head coach. Players began falling apart and screaming at refs. Flag number three goes up. As that flag came down a player grabbed it and fired it across the field. A hat goes up this time since there were no more flags left to throw. I remember walking over and sitting next to Kris Wicks at the 50-yard line and sitting on my helmet as he was. He would look over to me shake my hand and said Good season Bob, good luck next year.” After the pandemonium had settled and the calculators added up the 60 yards in penalties giving Virgin the ball at our 9-yard line, they would score the next play. On the extra point Keith Bergstrom and I broke free and we leveled the place holder as he had muffed the snap but tossed it in the air as we hit him. Of course it landed in a bulldogs hands and he walked it in for two. Perfect! 22-7 Final and the Virgin Valley Bulldogs are crowned State Champs.
James Van-Brunt would end up with 229 yards rushing on 28 carries for his third straight 200-yard plus performance and sixth for the year. JVB would end up with 2,337 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns which both are still first in the Truckee records. He would also be awarded league’s most valuable offensive player, and first team running back. He was also awarded MVP for state selections. Lineman Kris Wicks who was a three year starter and captain was awarded League MVP over Van-Brunt which has never been done for a lineman. Just goes to show you how great a player Kris was. Kris’s brother Eric Wicks, Tyler Wright, and Brian Stewart were named all-league first team on the offensive lines. That’s four out of five possible making first team on the o-line. Kris was also awarded first team defensive line along with nose guard Travis Hoag who led the team with 144 tackles. Not far behind was Josh Robinson and his 142 tackles, 5 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries and 5 interceptions. Kris Vickers led the team with 6 interceptions and was awarded first team. Overall Truckee accounted for 12 of the 36 first team spots and it could’ve been more. Fullback Rene Lopez, QB Nik Fertitta,Wright at linebacker, Eric Wicks at tackle, and Bryan Jamieson at free-safety pulled down 2nd team but easily all could’ve been first.
Nine times out of 10 this team beats Virgin Valley. They were arguably one of the most talented teams to come through Truckee and thats saying quite a bit. A predictable offense, untimely turnovers, penalties and just pure bad luck killed us. Give Virgin Valley’s players and coaches credit though. They didn’t back down and had a hell of a game plan for us. Crowd the line of scrimmage, make tackles and force turnovers. On offense they would take what they could get, hold onto the ball and hope for some breaks. Everything went according to plan as David took down a Goliath.
So, there you have it, another great write-up on another great Truckee team by Shaffer Jr. This is a team that no doubt should have won it all. They were stacked with size and talent. I know in their hearts they believe they should have also won a State Title. This team was able to perform at a very high level after a Truckee coaching legend had moved on and many distractions surrounded their off-season. This was a very strong Truckee team. Unfortunately the 1994 team is among other great teams who just fell short of their goal. However, this is a team of winners and tough guys who have now excelled in life. The incident that took place with coach Mac in the State game ultimately was his doom and he was forced out of town. While the blowup put a scar on the face of Truckee football it was actually an event that changed the course of program history for the better as Bob Shaffer became the coach the following season. Coach Shaffer in 1995 would prove that they should have hired him in the first place but there are no hard feelings at this point. Everything happens for a reason right?
As for James Van Brunt? His 1994 season was one for the ages as he lit up the Nevada record books. His TD season total with 38 TD’s sits 2nd all-time in Nevada 1A and 5th overall in all of division I. He is also 2nd in points scored in a season in the Nevada 1A and 4th overall. Lastly his rushing total of 2,337 yards stands at 4th all-time in the Nevada 1A and 8th overall. All of his records still stand in the Truckee record books and I’m sure they will remain. Coach Mac and Van Brunt were the perfect marriage along with that massive offensive line. It was what got them to the big game but unfortunately it couldn’t quite get them the win. Many thought that Truckee was just too predictable and when Virgin Valley took a risk and put 9 guys in the box Truckee continued to run right at them. Van Brunt would still put up big numbers in the State game. However, Virgin Valley would bend but not break keeping the Wolverines out of the end zone. The crazy thing is that everyone and every team knew who was getting the ball but they still couldn’t stop it. So, while people argue that Truckee should have gone to other athletes and had other options, Truckee road the horse that got them there. And followed the formula that had worked all season…give the ball to number one behind that big physical offensive line. In the end this team had a chance to win but was held back by one of the worst calls in Nevada High School history, followed by an explosion by a coach and his players. I think that the story of Kris Wicks and Bob Shaffer Jr. sitting on their helmets at midfield of Sam Boyd stadium watching their dreams fade away capsulizes the 94 season. I can actually feel the pain of senior Kris Wicks as the reality sinks in and the question runs through his head, “so this is how were gonna go out?” I can’t help but rewind the clock just one year prior when Kris Wicks and the Wolverines were marching across midfield, on the same turf, shaking hands with rival North Tahoe after Truckee had just won their 3rd State Championship. You couldn’t paint a more telling picture as Wicks and Shaffer looked on….and that’s how the 1994 season would end…kind of how it started…in controversy with an outspoken coach who went out like he came in.
1995: 10-2 (6-0 League) Western Division & AA Nevada State Runners-Up
Ron Estabrook was only out of town for a little over a year and Truckee was already on their second head coach in his absence. However, Truckee, in every decade dating back to the 50’s, had multiple coaching changes. The 80’s saw 4 different coaches alone. So it was 1995 and Truckee was already on their 3rd coach of the decade. Nothing out of the ordinary, but that was all about to change. Truckee had finally landed a coach that would stick around. Bob Shaffer is Truckee’s 18th coach. In fact Shaffer should have been Truckee’s 17th coach but there were some politics involved with the hiring of coach Mac in 94. It was a case of not what you know but who you know. Not that Mac didn’t know football because he did, maybe too much football. It has to be the right fit and I think Mac would agree that Shaffer is the better fit for Truckee. Actually before Estabrook headed South to new adventures in Arizona, he let the Powers that be know that Truckee’s next coach was already on staff. Bob Shaffer was a JV coach under Ron Estabrook in 1993. He had moved west from Ohio with his wife Lisa and two kids. Looking for a better life his first stop was in Las Vegas where he had been offered a new job. He quickly realized that Vegas was not gonna work for him nor his family. Lucky for the Wolverines Shaffer’s brother John was living and working in Truckee. Coach Shaffer headed up to Truckee to visit his brother and never left. I too was on Estabrook’s coaching staff in 93 and I got to see first hand coach Shaffer and coach Estabrooks relationship change throughout the year. At first coach Shaffer just stayed in the background. He appeared to just be a Dad who was coaching. But being in the background is not Shaffer’s style. Shortly into the season it was very evident that Shaffer knew his stuff and coach Estabrook leaned on that knowledge. It was most obvious when Truckee was struggling at North Tahoe. Shaffer was on the headphones and was the “eye in the sky” during this game. He was instrumental in getting the right information to coach Estabrook during this game to make the needed adjustments. Shaffer and Estabrook were talking back and forth so much about offense that Coach Collins got really frustrated as NT was putting together a nice drive and was now in the redzone. Collins was looking for some information from the sky that he was not getting. He just heard Shaffer and Estabrook talking about the next offensive series. Collins ripped off his head set and screamed “I need down and distance” and proceeded to throw his head set at me. For some reason I am often the target of many coaching explosions on the sidelines. Point being, from this point on Shaffer became our eye in the sky for the remainder of the season. Estabrook knew and saw that Shaffer was the next guy and that he was the right guy for the job. Thanks to coach Mac’s explosion in Vegas, the rest is what we now call HISTORY! I can’t think of a better person to do the writeup for Coach Shaffer’s first season than his son who was on the 95 team. This is Bob Shaffer Jr.’s take on the 95 season:
Most off-seasons going into a new chapter of Truckee football would always begin with one word “ Reload ”. The 1995 season was not the case as “ Rebuild ” was the often theme word thrown around when talking about this unexperienced unit. The ’95 team had a lot of doubt surrounding them as they only returned six starters from a season ago: Nik Fertitta (QB), Tyler Wright (Guard/Outside Linebacker), Eric Wicks (Center/Defensive Tackle), Bob Shaffer Jr. (Guard/Outside Linebacker), Sean Stanton (Defensive Back), and underclassmen Ryan DeMont (Wide Receiver). With the 1994 team being loaded with stud seniors who almost all started both ways along with Coach Mac’s love of running opponents into the ground with his first unit, there wasn’t much experience given to the upcoming seniors. The other unknown factor was that Truckee would have it’s third new head coach in as many years. In 1995 Truckee High School would promote defensive backs coach Bob Shaffer as their new head coach and it would turn out to be a big part of Truckee football history.
Head Coach Bob Shaffer’s 18 year coaching legacy begins:
I’ll never forget how upset my dad was when he didn’t get the head coaching job in 1994 but to his credit he still stayed apart of the program as a wide receiver/defensive backs coach. He loved the game that much and he would just wait for his next chance to be what he always wanted to be again, a head coach. It didn’t take long as a year later after Coach Mac would be released due to the implosion he had in the ’94 state championship; his chance had finally arrived. He was different after he became a head coach. It was all business for him and he was determined to not only carry on the tradition at Truckee but to create something special. He knew with how small our school was and the kids he was being handed in his first season; he had to have a plan. His first thought was if this team isn’t going to be the biggest or most talented team in the league it was going to be the strongest and most conditioned team. He would implement a strength and conditioning program that is still used today as the foundation of every Truckee team. Early morning workouts along with spring ball, film sessions, 7 on 7’s, and more running than I’d like to remember would become the staple. All of this was happening in the spring and we still had the summer and double days but as a team we knew we had to put in the work if we wanted to be successful. Dad was getting everyone to buy into his system as guys were getting stronger and faster. The Junior class had a lot of talent and the Seniors had good leaders and a lot of guys who wanted to prove themselves. This group would mesh well and form a brotherhood as Coach Shaffer wanted. He wanted a family atmosphere of being competitive with each other yet when push came to shove we would have each others back.
Double days were beyond grueling as the coaches pushed us to our max and then pushed a little more. We were getting better everyday and with the talks around the league of us being weaker than past teams and projected to finish behind Fernley, Whittell, and North Tahoe it was more fuel for the fire. We would end up losing one of our best if not the best player on our team Tyler Wright for the season. It was a huge blow and a huge hole to fill at guard and linebacker. Our first game was less than a week away and we had a lot of question marks on who would play where.
THE SEASON BEGINS:
Week one was upon us and we would endure a long bus ride to play the Yreka Miners. It was an all out brawl as Yreka would score on two long plays to beat us 16-8. Nothing worse than losing to a team and then having to think about it on a long quiet bus ride home. I think losing that game we could’ve folded but instead we were pissed, every single one of us. Mostly because we were proving all the doubters they were right.
Our next opponent was a big school of over 2500 kids, the Mouat Secondary Hawks of British Columbia, Canada. The odd thing was we had to host the players and let them stay in our homes. At our traditional spaghetti feed the players from Mouat Secondary were making comments on the size of our offensive line and other smart ass jokes that we as a team would make note of. Game day arrived and even though we were massively under sized across the board we had two things they lacked, an amazing coaching staff and we had dedicated this game to the memory of a fallen brother in Pascual “Tito” Martinez. The first half was a battle as we would go into half down 8-3. Our season would turn as Dad and the rest of the coaches made adjustments and one play would ignite us, the opening kickoff. Josh Simpson would return the second half kickoff for 83 yards and that would start an all out attack both offensively and defensively. Truckee was always a power at running the ball but this day would start a new trend as Dad would implement a passing attack. Nik Fertitta was firing on all cylinders as he shredded their secondary for 223 yards passing with Sean Stanton amassing 103 of the yards. Ryan Little’s first game starting would be his to keep as he rushed for 90yds. Our Defense was flying around all over the place letting the Hawks know you better not stand around a pile. Needless to say we earned their respect with a 32-14 thrashing.
Up next was the #1 ranked Fernley Vaqueros and the preseason favorites to win it all. We all wanted this game as it would prove the “rebuild” label wasn’t warranted. We came out angry and focused as we would dominate the Vaqueros through three quarters and took a 20-7 lead into the fourth. Two turnovers in the fourth however allowed Fernley back into the game and would go for two and the win. Ryan Demont would make an amazing play as he dove to tip the ball incomplete and Truckee would hold on for the win 20-19.
The defense lead by the likes of Ryan Dustin, Travis Blanco, Josh Simpson, Dan DeCoite and Kris Rendon were smothering teams. The offense was creating a two-headed monster in fullback Ryan Little and Tailback Sal Alcaraz who both brought power and speed. Fertitta was our silent leader and becoming an elite Quarterback. We had Stanton at 6’4 and Demont at 6’3 giving Fertitta big fast targets. One of the most interesting aspects of this team was the offensive line. We had a special group in the trenches. We were often laughed at when we broke the huddle due to our variety of sizes, but when the games ended there was no laughing just handshakes and respect. The line consisted of Mike Wells,Ryan Weiler, Nick Santamaria,Eric Wicks, Bob Shaffer Jr., Aaron Sanchez, and Ryan Dustin at tight end. By the time we squeaked out that win over Fernley we realized we’ve got something special here.
The 95 team would go on a big run as we beat a very tough Independence team 20-0. Nik Fertitta and Kris Rendon were knocked out of the game due to concussions. Our Defense held Independence to 7 yards of total offense while the offense behind Alcaraz, Little, and Stephen Kromer amassed 290 yards on the ground.
We steamrolled Incline the following week 51-0 amassing over 515 yards on offense and allowing only 95 yards by the defense. Ryan Little had another big day with three rushing touchdowns and Fertitta threw for another two. The Defense had a second consecutive shutout led by the likes of Wicks, Blanco, Wells, and Rendon.
We would beat a very physical and talented ROP team for homecoming 25-7 setting up the big three of our schedule.
We would travel to Whittell still unranked and face the #1 undefeated Warriors. Led by our stingy, hard hitting defense we were able to contain David Atherton, the state’s leading rusher. The offense was led by Sal Alcaraz’s 142 yards on the ground and Fertitta’s 202 yards in the air for a 20-8 victory.
After taking down the #1 team we would hit the road again to face a very big and strong Manougue team. Intensity would sum up this game as it was a back and forth hard nosed football game. The plays of the game was a pass by Fertitta to Alcaraz down the seam for 37 yards and the 12-7 lead. The next big play was by senior captain Eric Wicks as he blew through the line and hit the quarterback as he was handing off causing a fumble that was recovered by Ryan Dustin. Truckee would go on and win 12-9 setting up a league championship game with long time rival North Tahoe. Winner wins the league plus home field advantage, the loser would have to travel down south. Needless to say it was a big game.
This game was as advertised with hard hitting and a lot of smack talk between both teams. The game started with an opening kickoff fumble and NT fell on it for the quick 7-0 lead. They would never score again and we would take an 8-7 lead into halftime thanks to a Fertitta to Demont touchdown pass. The defense was huge in this game as they intercepted the ball five times. One of the interceptions was by junior linebacker Jesse Martinez who returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Sal Alcaraz would ice the game with a 50 yard touchdown run and once again the Truckee Wolverines were league champs and a #1 north seed. Not to bad for a team “rebuilding”.
PLAYOFFS RD1: TRUCKEE vs WHITE PINE
First up was a young but scrappy White Pine team. Special teams was huge in this game as a Ketric Mahoney blocked punt would set up our first score as Little punched in for a 7-0 lead. Led by the hard running of Little and the speed of Alcaraz we would beat the Bobcats 28-15. Once again our defense shut down the often run oriented bobcats forcing them to throw which led to countless sacks and turnovers. Up next…. The Fernley Vaqueros to see who would go to state. With the win Truckee was now 10-0 at home since 1989.
PLAYOFFS RD2: TRUCKEE vs FERNLEY
This game had a ton of hype leading up to kickoff. Dad read off articles how Truckee got lucky in their first meeting and how Fernley would dominate us. We worked our asses off that week and the coaching staff was intense and put together a great game plan. It was funny to us how to this point we had rattled off nine straight victories and yet we still had no ones respect. We were 9-1 as was Fernley with there only loss being to us 20-19 in week 3. Emotions were high and Surprise Stadium was packed full on all sides. I’ll never forget how Fertitta and Wicks picked me to lead the team down the stairs. As I led the team to the top of the stairs I got pretty emotional knowing this will be the last time I walk down these stairs with my family. If it wasn’t emotional enough my dad walked by and said “I’m proud of you and let’s kick their ass!. I responded with a choked up “Yes sir.” Then the best part came and anybody who has had the privilege to lead a Truckee squad down the stairs can relate. As I came to the first step I looked out upon the stadium: The place was packed, the end zones were painted red, and it was a perfect sunny day. As you look down the fans are below you and they have their back to you. Then it happens, TNT begins to play and everyone turns to you and goes nuts! It’s the coolest feeling and as you descend down the stairs and your community is supporting you. My favorite part was when you hit that bottom step and right there in front of you is your opponent. They were yapping and we would just stare the entire time at them. There was no need to talk as we knew we were gonna play our best. The only yelling we did was when we screamed out our Truckee jacks.
We dominated the game early as we raced out to an early 7-0 lead on a 10 yard run by Ryan Little. Josh Simpson had a huge play early as Fernley went for a fake punt and Simpson smothered the play and we got the ball at midfield. Our O-line was firing on all cylinders as we marched the ball down to the one and Fertitta would punch it in from there giving us a 13-0 lead. Following another stand by the defense Sal Alcaraz would take an option pitch from Fertitta and take it to the house giving us a 20-0 lead into the half. The Vaqueros were stunned and we loved it. Fernley would score to open the second half but Alcaraz again would score on a great run breaking several tackles giving us a 27-8 lead. Sal would score for a third time and Jesse Martinez would finish it off with an Interception giving us a dominating 36-16 victory and a trip to the state championship for the third straight year and extending Truckee’s home record in the playoffs at 11-0 since ’89! Things were lining up for us and we were gonna win state. Nothing was gonna stop us….
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: TRUCKEE vs MOAPA VALLEY
“No one is laughing at Truckee now!” was the head line of the Reno Gazette Journal heading into the state game. We had a great week of practice as it was very business like. We flew down to Las Vegas and the site of last years loss at UNLV stadium to Virgin Valley. That game was still with us and we wanted to avenge that game. The only thing in our way was the Moapa Valley Pirates. Moapa in a way was our mirror image from the south. Not very big, but extremely scrappy and very disciplined. They had a stud at running back and free safety in Shane Hickman. We figured if we could contain him and play mistake free, we would win.
Dad gave an emotional speech before that game. Talking about how we got there, how nobody gave us a chance, and how we can shut up all the nay sayers with this win. We were fired up and our offense would get the ball first. Moapa kicked off and I couldn’t wait to get in there. As Sal Alcaraz got the ball he headed up field, made one guy miss, got a couple great blocks and then with a burst he was off to the races. The offense would have to wait as Sal would take the opening kickoff 94-yards for the score. Wow, what a start. We would hold Moapa to a three and out and then mounted a great drive and Ryan Little punched it in from the one giving us a 14-0 lead. The defense played great in the first half and gave Moapa fits on offense. We got the ball back and mounted a 12 play, 75-yard drive and another 1 yard Td run by Little with 19 seconds left. Up to that point we had dominated every aspect of the game and then we miss the extra point. It was an odd feeling after we missed that. We headed into the half up 20-0 and we were two quarters away from our goal. It felt good; then the infamous third quarter came.
Moapa received the ball to start the half and on their third play the fullback would take a dive option up the middle and with everyones attention on Hickman he broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run. 20-7 Truckee. On their next drive, Moapa would drive to our 30 yard line but our defense held them to a 4th and 10. Moapa would go for it and on a toss play to Hickman he ran to the sideline and right before he got hit he threw the ball up for grabs and as our defensive back stumbled the ball fell into the hands of a Pirate receiver…. touchdown. 20-14 Truckee. For the first time we were panicking and lost focus. Our next drive was a mess as we committed penalties that stalled the drive and we had to punt from our 27 yard line. The ball was snapped over Fertitta’s head and in a mad scramble and pile up in the end zone, Moapa had recovered, extra point was good. Moapa Valley 21-20. Our 20 point lead was erased just like that in one twelve minute quarter and the momentum was all theirs. The fourth quarter was filled with mistakes, penalties, arguing and dropped passes. We had the ball only once in the fourth quarter and with less than five minutes to go we had a great drive but would stall as we fumbled in their territory in which a Moapa player and myself were fighting for at the bottom of the pile. I had two hands on the ball, he had one. I looked up at the referee and as he stood over me shouted “Moapa ball!” I couldn’t believe he made that call as I had possession. Here we go again.as Moapa would convert third down after third down. One of them was a 3rd and 17 in which Moapa’s quarterback threw the ball and completed it between two Truckee defenders for 18-yards, ticking the clock down more and more. On Moapa’s final drive senior Eric Wicks exploded through line and hit the fullback dislodging the ball and Travis Blanco scooped it up and was headed to the end zone for the score. We were saved; then a whistle blew. The referee’s blew the runner down. Moapa ran the clock out to win the 1995 state championship. It was like something from a movie. We couldn’t wrap our heads around it. How did we lose that game? It was a nightmare. We fell apart when it mattered most and didn’t do the things that got us here. That game is still talked about to this day. I think the thing that hurt the most was that we weren’t given anything that year and we were one point away from doing the unthinkable.
In reality football is just a game. But with the game comes work ethic, resilience, confidence, and my favorite lasting friendships. We weren’t the most talented team to come through Truckee but we were one of the hardest working. For dad it was heart breaking and one of the few times I’ve ever seen him cry. As his son I wanted to be apart of his first title; it didn’t work out but we gave it quite a shot.
This 1995 team was underrated. They had a heck of a coaching staff too. Names that would include Garrow, Collins, Brewer, Deschler, and Decoite. But it is a players game as coach Doughty always says and the players are the ones who have to come to play. This team, regardless of what everyone thought, came to play. They had a good mix of senior leaders and young talent that gelled well together. I was a coach on the JV staff in 95 with coach Dow and coach Mohun, so I got to see this team play. They played like any other Truckee team. They played smart physical football and put it all on the line with every bit of their heart. You can’t ask for more than that.