The genie got out of the bottle in Needles last Friday, and the otherwise fine season of the White Pine Bobcats came to an abrupt end.
The genie was Needles running back Frankie Garcia once again. He scored three touchdowns for the Mustangs and powered the team to a 28-0 win over White Pine in the first round of the Division III football playoffs.
Just the week before, in the final game of the regular season, the Bobcats had lost 10-0 to the Mustangs in Ely, which dropped them into fourth place in the league and made it necessary for the two teams to play on back-to-back weeks to open the playoffs.
In the first game, Garcia had just 59 yards on 13 carries as the Bobcats defense helped to keep him somewhat bottled up. But in this second game, he got loose quite a few times, amassing 144 yards on 24 carries, including his longest of 46 yards, and of course, those three touchdowns.
Bobcat Coach Quinn Ewell said the team had “too many turnovers, (six, three fumbles, three interceptions), and that really killed us, especially when it was on our side of the field and they had short yardage to work with and gather momentum.”
Jayden Yeager for Needles tossed a 20-yard scoring pass to Trenton Poe-Evans for the other score, and Jason Hernandez had three interceptions.
The Mustangs scored with just under a minute left in the first quarter, then twice more in the second period and held a 21-0 halftime lead.
Ewell said Chris Hill once again played well. “He’s always in the backfield pressuring the quarterback.”
But the Bobcats had only one serious scoring threat, and Ewell said, “We just couldn’t execute well enough to punch it in.”
White Pine finished the season 6-4, and Ewell, in his second year as head coach, has turned the program around from an 0-9 mark in 2013, then 3-6 in 2014, to this year.
He said even though the team will lose six players to graduation, he looks at this season as being a part of the team’s rebuilding program that will continue into in 2016.
“They really came together as a team this year and had a successful season and we’ll keep building off of that,” he said. “And we’ll get out among the boys and get some more players to come out and help out the program.”
The Bobcats expect to have five seniors and eight juniors return to the team in 2016 and are looking to add more in the win column.
In other Division III playoff games, two-time defending state champion Yerington beat West Wendover 52-8, Pershing County over Battle Mountain 22-8, and Lincoln County beat The Meadows 29-7.
This week, in the state semi-finals on Saturday, Lincoln County (10-1) hosts Pershing County (6-4), and Needles (9-1) travels to Yerington (10-0).