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Conference Grind: Sparks schools ready for league home games
by Aaron Retherford
Oct 04, 2012 | 2665 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs football coach yells out play calls during his team's workout Tuesday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs football coach yells out play calls during his team's workout Tuesday.
With all three Rail City football squads at home this week, local gridiron fans will have a full slate of games from which to choose during Week 7.

Here is a preview of this week’s games.

Reno Huskies (4-2) at Spanish Springs Cougars (5-1), Friday 7:30 p.m.

Reno opened its fall campaign looking like it might be in for a long season after dropping games to a pair of Sierra League foes, Douglas (56-44) and Carson (13-10), in the first two weeks of action. Both of those games were on the road.

But once the Huskies returned to the friendly confines of Foster Field, it’s been a whole new story.

In its home opener, Reno routed Galena 51-14 and sparked a run of four straight victories, including a come-from-behind win over bitter rival McQueen two weeks ago.

While the McQueen victory was the most quality win in that streak, the Huskies will have a chance to find out where they stand when they head to Spanish Springs, a team that is riding its own three-game win streak.

However, the Cougars are also a team that might not have faced a good measuring stick on the opposing sideline. Spanish Springs’ 59-28 demolition of Douglas in Week 5 looked like a quality win against the No. 1 ranked team in the North at the time. But the Tigers are reeling, having lost three of their last four, including a 57-43 decision to Galena last week.

Still, Spanish Springs is only concerned with the effort it puts forth on the field, and so far the Cougars look good.

“I feel great about us. I think the kids are responding well to some success. They’re practicing hard,” SSHS football coach Scott Hare said. “We’re relatively injury free. I feel real good about where we’re at right now. The kids have bought in and seem to enjoy playing together and going to practice everyday and getting better. As a coach, that’s all I can ask for.”

It’s pretty simple to see why Reno has had success the past four weeks. It’s not about individual talent, but about the team concept.

“They play a physical brand of football, and they will be the most physical team we have played all year,” Hare said. “They bring a lot of different formations. We counted 35 formations in the four films we have. It’s one of those things; you have to be mentally sharp. They also bring a very physical game. So we better be physically ready to play. It’s what you expect from a team that has won its last four games.

“Their quarterback (Chad) Savage is a really good athlete. He could probably play multiple positions on the field. He makes a lot of things happen with his feet as well as his arm. They’ve got a couple good backs. I think with football, if you play as physical as they do, you’re going to have some success. That’s really what their mantra is. They make you mentally think about what they’re doing, and then they get after you.”

Spanish Springs counters with some stars of its own on offense, starting with junior quarterback Hunter Fralick. In the past two weeks, Fralick is 29-of-49 for 530 yards passing and six combined touchdowns.

Hug Hawks (0-6) at Reed Raiders (3-3), Friday 7:30 p.m. A week after suffering a 55-14 defeat at the hands of Spanish Springs at home, Hug will hit the road to face the other Rail City Division I program.

It will be only the second home game of the year for the Raiders, who have back-to-back home games against likely non-playoff teams from the High Desert League before closing out the season at Reno and Spanish Springs.

“It’s definitely a big deal. Seeing as it’s just our second of three home games this year, we’re definitely looking forward to playing in front of our fans,” Reed football coach Ernie Howren said.

Reed knows what happens against Hug if the offense isn’t consistent. Despite winning by 41 points, the Cougars only led 14-7 at halftime over the Hawks due to inconsistent play.

The Raiders have also been looking for offensive consistency this season. Inconsistencies have been a main reason for their .500 record through six weeks. Even in Reed’s 31-24 win over McQueen, the Blue and Gold used two defensive touchdowns to emerge victorious.

“We’ve been saying that for a couple weeks now, so hopefully this is the week we get more consistent,” Howren said. “Moving the ball hasn’t been the problem. We’re averaging 440 yards a game. The problem we’re running into is not finishing drives. That speaks volumes about our execution.”

Like Howren said, Reed is accumulating plenty of yards. Senior quarterback Mark Nowaczewski has thrown for 1,676 yards on 136-of-206 accuracy. He has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

On the ground, senior Ty Shepard is leading the way with 728 yards on 95 carries, an average of 121 yards per game.

Lowry Buckaroos (5-1) at Sparks Railroaders (0-6), Friday 7 p.m.

Lowry opened up the league schedule with a 27-7 loss to Truckee. Since Week 2, the Buckaroos have rattled off four straight victories.

In those wins, Lowry has allowed two touchdowns only once, giving up a combined 31 points to Wooster, South Tahoe, Dayton and Elko.

The Buckaroos’ offense is also firing on all cylinders as it has averaged over 40 points in its five wins.

Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell knows the key to slowing down Lowry will be stopping the run game. Even with the graduation of all-state running back Jace Billingsley last summer, the Buckaroos’ ground attack has not skipped a beat.

“We’re going to load the box and do the best we can to slow it down,” Kittrell said. “They have about three or four guys who can carry it. Their offensive line comes off physical and fast. They’re a good team.”

Lowry is racking up 328 yards a game on the ground. Leading the way is junior Brandon Okuma, who has 451 yards on 62 carries. He and junior quarterback Calvin Connors have five rushing touchdowns. Connors has carried the ball 45 times for 342 yards. All seven players who have run the ball for Lowry are averaging at least six yards every time they touch the ball.

Connors doesn’t get a lot of chances to throw the ball, but he is 37-of-61 for 532 yards and five touchdowns. More importantly, he hasn’t been picked off. Connors has spread out the receptions to eight different players.

Interceptions have been a problem for Sparks quarterback Geo Vasquez, who has been picked off six times the past three games. However, Sparks played its best game of the season in Fallon a week ago, and Vasquez was only intercepted once.

“I think we’ll keep getting better,” Kittrell said. “We’ll see improvement. The confidence is getting there.”
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