After Anthony Martinez’s 34-yard field goal in overtime split the uprights eight years ago to beat No. 3-ranked Boise State in the most dramatic game in Mackay Stadium history, fans exploded on the field.
Nevada reveled in the bitter cold before retreating to its locker room to bellow its, “When the Pack comes marching in!” celebration song. Standing in that locker room, rubbing arms with Wolf Pack stars and future NFL players Colin Kaepernick, Virgil Green, Dontay Moch and Rishard Matthews was an 8-year-old named Drew, a third-grader with special access because of his grandfather, Chris Ault.
“The first football memory I remember vividly is that 2010 win, Nevada over Boise State, the game that won the ESPN Game of the Year,” said Drew Scolari, now the starting quarterback at Bishop Manogue. “I have memories before that, but that’s the one that really sticks. The comeback, I was 8 years old, I remember running into the locker room after the game, celebrating with all the players and having a good time.”
“It was super exciting for me to see. That was one of my first years actually playing football, so it was a really good experience to see football played at the college level and to go in the locker room and see the joy on my grandpa’s face and it was fun for me to see the inside at such a young age.”
Scolari is now forging his own memories. He’s been the guy under center for Bishop Manogue’s memorable run to Saturday's 4A state championship game, which will be played in Las Vegas against Bishop Gorman, the nine-time defending champs. Manogue's rise from a 3-3 start to an eight-game winning streak, including upsets of Damonte Ranch and Arbor View the last two weeks, has coincided with the rise in the level of play of Scolari, a 6-foot-1 sophomore listed at 165 pounds.
“The thing you can see is our success has gone as he’s gone,” said Manogue head coach Ernie Howren, who is coaching in his fourth state championship game. “As he’s improved, and he really has over the course of this season, we have improved, too, and I think it’s because of Drew. He’s been able to help us manage the game where we’re not just a running team only. He’s really brought that to our game.”
Manogue’s offense is predicated on record-setting running back Peyton Dixon, who has rushed for 2,944 yards and 44 touchdowns. But the improved play of Scolari, who was on the freshman team last year, has taken the Miners to the next level. In Manogue’s first four games, Scolari broke the 100-yard passing mark just once and completed only a single touchdown pass. But after getting accustomed to the increased speed, Scolari has become a weapon, passing for 23 scores in the last 10 games.
“Drew’s a beast,” said big-play wide receiver D.J. Jackson, who has 35 catches for 920 yards and 10 touchdowns. “His reads, his arm has definitely gotten better, I think he’s not as nervous. You’re a sophomore coming into varsity, you’re going to be nervous, but that nervousness is gone now.”
Scolari, one of 10 Ault grandchildren, including seven boys, is running his grandpa’s offense as the Miners shifted to the Pistol this season. Ault beams from the stands when watching his grandson guide the program he led from 1969-71 (Manogue was Ault’s first head-coaching job). The two watch Wolf Pack games together from the sideline, Ault dropping morsels of knowledge to the eager-to-learn Drew.
“Sometimes he’ll break down film with me when I ask and he’ll show me something, but he’s also just that supporting grandpa in the stands who you’ve looked up to for your entire life,” Scolari said.
Scolari said Ault has helped him in preparation for games and understanding defenses and coverages. His main advice has been to trust his teammates and just do his job, coach speak as Ault pioneered the saying, “Do your 1/11th.” Scolari has certainly done so this season, completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,966 yards and 25 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He’s rushed for 361 yards and four more scores.
“It’s as good as anybody I’ve seen,” Howren said of Scolari’s football IQ. “Obviously he gets that from Coach Ault, and Coach Ault has done a great job of teaching him the game of football and Drew’s bringing that to our team. I love his demeanor, I love his quiet confidence. He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to get it done and nothing seems to phase him.”
As Scolari’s presence has grown on the field, it also has increased in the locker room. On a senior-laden team, Scolari took a backseat from a leadership perspective early on before emerging there, too.
“The stuff he’s doing in the locker room, you’d think he was a senior the way he speaks, the way he carries himself,” Dixon said. “He’s so mature and has been a great addition to our team.”
The North hasn’t won a state title since 2008 when a star-led McQueen team (that included Martinez, who kicked that game-winning field goal against Boise State) topped Palo Verde. That also marked the last time Bishop Gorman didn’t make it to the state championship game. Given his youth, Scolari is hopeful he’ll get future state title chances, but he knows this could be his only shot. He wants to take advantage of it.
“I think it will more sink in once the season is fully over, but it’s pretty awesome what we’ve been able to do so far,” Scolari said. “We just have to finish the job on Saturday.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.