This offseason, local coaches knew they were heading into the second year of a two-year scheduling plan. It would leave them with the same open weeks and a mirror image of last season's non-counting crossover games followed by conference clashes, meaning all the same opponents with an exchange of host sites.
"I've always believed, if you know what's coming, you just prepare for it," said veteran Reed coach Ernie Howren, whose Raiders have won three of the last four D-I North titles. "I never had a problem with the 11-team league just as long as I knew what it was. Now that we have two split leagues, I'm fine with that, too. We'll go with it. I wouldn't say I prefer one over the other. Neither one bothers me."
Not much off the gridiron, including scheduling formats, seems to get Howren too fired up, but that doesn't mean the Raiders' coach doesn't face scheduling challenges. Reed's current High Desert League schedule gives the Raiders five conference games, three non-league crossover games against Sierra League opponents and two open weeks.
Reed's two open dates are the first two weeks of the season, Aug. 30 and Sept. 6. Reed, which played at Foothill last fall, gets a return trip from the Redding, Calif. school on opening weekend. However, while most local schools have filled their 2013 schedule, Reed has not. The RHS gridders still have an open date to fill in Week 2.
"I'm concerned, but not frustrated. We'll find a game," Howren said. "We were in this situation in 2009 and then in the first week of June we got a call from Oceanside, near San Diego and we filled it. So, it's possible. We're still looking."
Reed's vacancy is not for a lack of trying.
"We put feelers out to Vegas-area schools and got nothing back," Howren said. "We've talked to teams in northern California. Obviously, if we could stay in Norcal and get in a day trip, down and back, that's what I'd prefer. I have not pursued anything in Los Angeles or southern California yet."
Reed has the luxury of looking for home or away games. A year ago, Reed played seven road games and just three at home. This year, Reed has six scheduled home games and just three away games so it wouldn't be a stretch for the Raiders to pick up another away affair.
Howren does not want to settle for a bye week and play only nine regular season contests.
"Our kids practice their butts off," he said. "They start getting ready for each season in December. We want to get them as many possible games as we can get. If we can get 10 regular season games and a few more in the playoffs, that's what we want to do. We want as many chances to compete as possible."
The rest of Reed's schedule is as follows: at Douglas (9/13), Manogue (9/20), Carson (9/27), McQueen (HDL 10/4), at Hug (HDL 10/11), at North Valleys (HDL 10/18), Reno (HDL 10/24) and Spanish Springs (HDL 11/1).
At Spanish Springs, eighth-year coach Scott Hare has had his schedule set since January. The Cougars filled their two open weeks, which fell in Week 1 and Week 3, with games against Bishop Manogue, at BMHS on Aug. 30 and at Scotts Valley of suburban San Jose on Sept. 14.
A non-league game at home against Damonte Ranch (9/6) is set between the two aforementioned matchups. The Cougars contest against Manogue is a return game after the schools opened the 2012 campaign at SSHS.
"I feel really good about our schedule," said Hare a native of the south Bay Area. "We knew where we had a bye (Week 3) and I had even been looking during last season. I have a lot of connections in that area. I feel very good about getting Scotts Valley. They will be a very similar opponent to Damonte and Galena, who we play after them. So all those opponents will be similar in structure and in what they do. I thought it was a good match."
After its home game with Galena (9/21), Spanish Springs wraps up its non-league slate at Douglas (9/28). The Cougars' five league games follow: Hug (10/4), at Reno (10/11), at McQueen (10/18), North Valleys (10/25) and at Reed (11/1).
Three of the SSHS squad's five league games are on the road and they come against the league's traditionally three toughest teams, Reed, McQueen and Reno.
"We also have Douglas and Manogue on the road and we're going to Scotts Valley," Hare said. "We have six away games and four at home. If we're going to win, we'd better figure out how to be successful on the road. During our tough league stretch, we'll be on a bus. So we had better figure out how to deal with that."
In the Division I-A ranks, Sparks coach Rob Kittrell had a pretty easy scheduling assignment. Each year he gets a master schedule with nine league games. That means he's only got an open date on the first weekend of the season to fill. This upcoming season, Sparks' lone non-league meeting is on the road at Yerington on Aug. 30. That game is the return trip of a two-year agreement in which Yerington played at Sparks last fall. So Kittrell's scheduling efforts consisted of a phone call to Yerington to confirm that indeed Sparks would return the game at Yerington this time around.
While the scheduling task is easy, Kittrell said there are pros and cons. The long-time Railroaders skipper admitted it would be nice to have more than just one non-league games to prepare for a league schedule.
"For us, it would probably be a little better to get a couple more games under our belts before league," he said. "But the bottom line is we don't. So we must be ready to get after it.
"We just see a lack of football experience in a lot of our kids so it would be nice to get them a couple more non-league games. But we don't really stress with the kids that they're playing league games early. We just talk about getting better every week and finishing strong."
After the season-opening trek to Lyon County to play Yerington, Sparks' league schedule is as follows: Elko (9/6), at Spring Creek (9/13), at Fernley (9/20), Truckee (9/27), Fallon (10/4), at Lowry (10/11), at South Tahoe (10/18), Dayton (10/24) and Wooster (11/1).