TRUCKEE, Calif. — Cheyenne football coach David Cochran knew his team couldn’t afford to make many mistakes.
And the Desert Shields used the strategy to take an 18-13 fourth-quarter lead against host Truckee in a Division I-A state semifinal Saturday.
But the visitors lost three fumbles in the fourth quarter, two of which led to Wolverine touchdowns, and Truckee scored the final 13 points to earn a 26-18 win and a date with Moapa Valley in the state final at 6 p.m. Nov. 17 at Bishop Gorman.
“We had our opportunities,” Cochran said. “They capitalized on our mistakes. I give them credit. They’ve got a good culture here, and I wish them the best of luck.
“When you turn the ball over in this environment, it will hurt you every time.”
Truckee (10-1) led 13-12 at the half, but Lewis put Cheyenne (9-3) on top when he ran into a gang of Wolverines near midfield and somehow broke free en route to a 52-yard touchdown sprint on a fourth-down play with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter.
The sun poked through the clouds at the start the fourth quarter and the snow subsided. Yet, that’s when the Desert Shields’ problems began.
Lewis fumbled the ball to Truckee at the Cheyenne 40-yard line in the opening minute of the quarter.
Truckee running back Jake Pettit then punched the ball across the goal line 11 plays later as the Wolverines regained the lead, 20-18 after Louden Smith’s PAT. Truckee converted two crucial fourth-down plays on the drive.
On the ensuing Cheyenne possession, Lewis coughed up the ball again at the Wolverine 31, and Truckee linebacker Erik Holmer returned it for a touchdown. The Desert Shields blocked the extra point, leaving them trailing by eight points with 4:21 left in the game.
Truckee put a damper on Cheyenne’s comeback hopes four plays into its ensuing drive when it forced quarterback Darrion Hammond into another fumble that Truckee recovered.
The Desert Shields had one final chance after a Wolverines three-and-out, starting at their own 23-yard line with 1:31 on the clock. But Cheyenne was forced to air it out, and Jake Pettit intercepted a deep pass by Hammond six plays into the drive to seal the Truckee win.
“That was definitely a team victory. We needed everybody on that,” said Holmer, who finished 15-of-26 passing for 180 yards, with two interceptions and one touchdown. “I’m so emotionally exhausted. It was a fight for four quarters. They’re the best team we’ve played all year. But we came through at the end.”
Holmer carried the Wolverines offensively with his arm and his legs, as he rushed for a team-high 71 yards on 18 attempts.
“Their QB is pretty crafty,” Cochran said. “He’s their stud. He made plays. We tried to contain him, but you can only hold a kid like that back for so long.”
Lewis was the workhorse for the Desert Shields, rushing for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries.
Truckee opened the game with momentum on its side after Smith’s short kickoff was mishandled, and Truckee’s Javier Virrey recovered the loose ball. Given a short field, the Wolverines marched 29 yards in five plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Tyler Curtis.
Cheyenne then drove 62 yards on 11 plays, aided by a personal foul on Truckee, before Lewis found the end zone from less than a yard out. All three of the Desert Shields’ two-point conversions in the game failed, leaving them trailing 7-6 after their first score.
Cheyenne then forced a Truckee punt before driving down the field. Lewis scored from 3 yards out to end the 63-yard drive.
After Holmer was intercepted in the end zone by Martel Evans — the junior had both of Cheyenne’s picks in the game — Truckee regained possession deep in Cheyenne territory following a poor snap on a punt attempt.
Holmer then connected with Adam Morgan on an 18-yard touchdown pass. The Desert Shields blocked the extra point as the Wolverines took a 13-12 lead into the half.