Fernley Vaqueros Season Preview
The high school football season begins in two weeks, with that being said we are previewing over twenty teams from our local area. Today's team: Fernley.
2022 record: 4-6 overall, 1-3 league
Head coach: Anfernee Sloan, second season at Fernley (4-6 overall, 1-3 league in one season at Fernley)
Question: How many first year head coaches can say they won their last game of the season by more than 30+ points? Answer: Not many, but Coach Anfernee Sloan can lay claim to having accomplished just that when Fernley (a team that didn't make the playoffs in the 3A) defeated Carson (a 5A team that made the playoffs - face palm emoji for our various playoff systems) to end the regular season last year.
Coach Sloan and his squad are back for year two and as he put it, he's "super excited because the team was so young last year - the average age of our roster our last game was 15 1/2, so that benefits us in the long run." Sloan further expanded upon the health of his program stating that numbers are up and that he has even seen the numbers in youth football grow which is a good sign for him down the road. 'Let's Make Some Noise For Your Boys!!!'
The keys to success for the Vaqueros will come off the foundation that was built last year as Sloan stated "we need to develop consistency, for example we ran for 425 yards against Fallon - they were League Champs, but we gave up four touchdowns of 60+ yards and ultimately lost to them." Sloan also pointed to his team creating a greater +/- margin in the turnover column as something that'll bring more consistency to his team. He stated "we must find what works for us during fall camp and eliminate mistakes, inconsistency crushed us last season."
On offense the Vaqueros return seven starters from last season, including nearly their entire backfield. They will need to break in a new quarterback this season and that will be determined during fall camp. Coach Sloan still plans to run the "Veer, Wishbone, Triple Option" this season so that his offense can "get downhill, maybe run a little no huddle, keep up the pace, and light up the scoreboard." Defensively, the boys of 'North Lyon County' will remain steadfast in their 3-3-5 stack alignment as their base defense hoping to create mismatches for opposing offenses.
Lastly, Lyon County doesn't start school until Sept. 5th, which means that Fernley will have played in two games before they begin the school year.
Seniors to watch:
OG/DT Naron Antone, Senior: Antone was named First Team All-League last season as a Junior so you know he has the physical tools to dominate, but he is also a great leader who speaks up and leads the Vaqueros naturally and with ease. Coach Sloan said, "he eats up blocks defensively - is physical and athletic offensively, which is essential to success from our guards with the type of offense we run."
ATH Johnnie Williams, Senior: A player I first discovered during hoops last year, Williams is a competitor - love his relentlessness. Offensively last season he totaled 223 yards of total offense and threw a touchdown. A true "Jack of all Trades" his biggest contributions may have come on special teams, where he forced opposing offenses to consistently play from the shadow of their own end zone, having bombed ten percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks and forty percent of his punts landing inside the twenty-yard line. Coach Sloan quote "Really productive for us flipping the field, entering his third year on varsity, a tremendous athlete who gives 100-percent all the time, we are excited for him, he'll play multiple positions for us."
Next Level Attitude:
LB Garrett Harjo, Senior: An All-League Honoree, Harjo, is a Three-year varsity player. Coach Sloan said he's a defensive minded player who is fast paced, has a nose for the football and his effort is never questioned." In two years on Varsity, he has racked up 92 tackles, 26 TFLs, five sacks and a forced fumble. I'd say Coach Sloan has a pretty good idea what Harjo's strengths are heading into his Senior season, he has 'Next Level Attitude.'
DB Ulises Hernandez, Senior: A player I'll be keeping an eye on as the season progresses. Hernandez is someone that I hadn't heard a ton about prior to my conversation with Sloan but after looking at his stats (40 tackles, 3 TFLs, a sack and an interception) and listening to Coach rave about his pupil I'm excited to see what he can do as a Senior. Coach Sloan quote '[He has shown] a lot of growth this offseason, super excited to see him out on the field. He's an All-State type kid, he's got a couple universities looking at him right now." Another one with 'Next Level Attitude.'
Big Time Differencemakers:
OL/DL Bryce Holt, Junior: Oftentimes it's hard to quantify just how important smart lineman are for a coaching staff but Holt is one that checks every box for the Vaqueros. Coach Sloan quote "[He has a] high IQ, [he is our] right guard - which requires the most knowledge in our offense, [he gets] downhill, and [he is like a] coach on the field." Needless to say, Coach Sloan thinks very highly of Holt.
RB Marciano Montano, Junior: As a sophomore last season Marciano led the Vaqueros running backs in yards (744) while running for a position leading four 100+ yard efforts. He will be expected to help break in the Vaqueros new quarterback, whoever that may be... Coach Sloan quote " Montano is really exciting, he has developed this offseason." The Vaqueors group of RBs should be fun to watch this year.
Young Guns of '26:
Keeshawn Love, Sophomore: As a freshman last year, Love rushed for 307 yards on 40 attempts and scored seven touchdowns. That is crazy good production for anybody, let alone a ninth grader. Coach Sloan quote "He has flourished, has his body weight up - is a kid we expect big things from this season." A top recruit in a growing 2026 crop of prospects.
Joseph Machado, Sophomore: Coach Sloan quote "He is exciting to watch, he is going to be a problem for years to come and he is confident." Consider us intrigued.
Riley McCullar, Sophomore: Coach Sloan quote "We pulled him up late, he's physically dominating - hyperactive with a high motor." Does more reps equal more big plays?!?
Aug. 18 vs. Bishop Union (Calif.)
Sep. 1 at Wooster
Sep. 8 at Elko
Sep. 15 at Truckee (Calif.)
Sep. 22 vs. South Tahoe (Lake Tahoe, Calif.)
Sep. 29 at Churchill County (Fallon, Nev.)
Oct. 6 vs. Lowry (Winnemucca, Nev.)
Oct. 13 vs. Spring Creek
Oct. 20 at Sparks
J. Ray Dockter has been covering high school sports since 2022. If you have a story worth telling let him know via Twitter @J_RayDoc.