Click, clack, click, clack….. This is the first sound of Friday Night Lights in America on a perfect fall night as Eureka played North Tahoe for their homecoming football game .
It’s the sound of cleats scraping on the asphalt or gravel as players walk to Crutchley Field.
That walk gets Eureka’s alumni, athletes, fans, and parents excited and a bit on edge. Eureka is no different from the rest of the nation, in fact, we thrive on football and toughness around here.
Eureka, known as a farming/mining/ do-it-yourself type of town doesn’t get people who are unwilling to dictate their own fate. Around Eureka County, citizens are known to provide for themselves and if all else fails.. we prevail anyway!
That has been evident with the 2015 Eureka Vandal Football team led by Eureka coach Fred Minoletti and his assistant Giovanni Minoletti. The players have taken on their coaches home grown roots as proud Vandals and in turn, made their team a bunch of hungry Vandals looking to make an historic upset en route to a state title.
That could mean a collision with Division foe (and maybe more than that) Pahranagat Valley, owner of the nations’s longest winning streak in high school football which spans 6 plus seasons. That streak could be in jeopardy if Eureka is fortunate enough to meet up with the powerhouse from the south.
The 2015 Eureka Vandal Football team is undefeated at 7-0 and almost certain division champs with one game left to go in the regular season. Eureka has a brilliant and nationally recognizable opportunity that lays ahead. Pahranagat Valley will be able to hold the all time record for an unbeaten streak with only a handful of victories.
Eureka hasn’t played in a state championship game since the 2005-06 Vandals lost to the number one ranked 8-man football team in the nation, Pahranagat Valley (Alamo), in a state championship game at Mackey Stadium in Reno. The Vandals last won a football state championship in the 1999-00 season, a 15 year drought to date.
Before the latest game, Eureka alumni felt it was all but necessary to honor coaches who molded the Vandal Football tradition of pride, dominance, winning, and family! Grant Crutchley, the man who the new magnificent field is named after, helped begin the rich tradition.
His predecessor, Dennis Wells, who coached the Vandals to multiple state titles in football, wrestling, and baseball credited Crutchley for showing him the ropes of 1A Nevada football. Rod Garcia was the assistant coach and line coach under Wells during the hay days of Vandal football. Garcia was the head coach during the 05-06 season in which Eureka was state runner-up in the 1A. Both Wells and Garcia were honored along with Crutchley to thank them for establishing a program rich in pride and history.
I got a chance to talk to both Wells and Garcia about being honored before the homecoming game this past Friday night.
Wells was asked about what the honor meant to him and he explained, “ I haven’t been back to a Vandal Football game for the past 14 years, but it was great that coach Minoletti wanted me to talk to the current team about the tradition of Vandal football.”
Garcia responded to the same question as saying, “It is very, very humbling and it was great to be out here tonight roaming the sidelines with coach Wells talking about old times.” He went on to add, “It’s great to see what Fred and Gio are doing with the program and to see the Vandal tradition coming back.”
Both coaches were asked of the most fond memories they shared while coaching together. Wells explained, “I wish I had a Rod Garcia where I coach now in Utah, he was the best line coach and always had our players ready to play and pumped up.” Garcia responded by saying, “He was such a great friend along as being a great coach and I have many fond memories on this field with Dennis.”
Current Eureka players held their helmets to the sky as the honors were being given to the former coaches which was another great gesture added to a most memorable night.
After the pre-game festivities, the 2015 Eureka Vandals strapped up their helmets and prepared to go to battle against North Tahoe.
Eureka’s Paul Padilla started off the scoring for the Vandals as he punched in a rushing touchdown. Quarterback Trevor Merritt added to the lead by hooking up with fellow senior Nick Gordon on a 6-yard curl route for a touchdown. Nick Hornberger added an interception for a touchdown with a nice spin move to go with the return as it exemplified the dominance on both offense and defense for Eureka.
Junior running back Jake Jensen reeled off a 60-yard run of his own in the 1st quarter as Nick Gordon ran in the two-point conversion to give Eureka a 40-0 lead after the 1st quarter.
The starters were taken out shortly after that as the younger players received some valuable playing time the rest of the game against North Tahoe. Eureka managed to score two more touchdowns in the remaining three quarters and held North Tahoe scoreless to win the game 56-0 and improve to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in league play.
Fred Minoletti explained the game by stating, “Even though we haven’t been tested, we have to keep mentally focused on the goal and prepare everyday for stiffer competition to come.”
He went on to add, “The festivities were awesome tonight and I was glad we were able to do it, the previous coaches told us their is no excuse for not working hard to be good and we will try to carry that on.”
The Vandals have one more league game against Owhyee this Friday night at 7 p.m. If they manage to win this game, they will secure a league title and will go into playoffs as the top seed. They should be afforded at least one playoff home game if this happens. The current forecast for their stiffest competition in the postseason calls for Whittell from the north and Spring Valley and Pahranagat Valley from the south to give the Vandals the toughest games.
Although the aforementioned teams seem to be the best, Eureka knows that nobody can be overlooked this time of year as one-and-done season is rapidly approaching.