So when Reed, the defending northern Nevada large school champion, dropped those first two contests to tough foes, after long road trips, the whispers could be heard around the Truckee Meadows, “Were the Raiders down after nearly a decade of dominating regional foes?”
Reed answered that question in resounding fashion Friday night when it hung a 54-35 trouncing on Douglas, which had already knocked off another North power a week earlier in McQueen. The early season non-league victory meant a lot to the Raiders.
“Every one of us really wanted that game and needed it,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “That was the best thing that could happen for us. It was a big deal for us.”
Reed’s philosophy has long been to play challenging non-league foes early in the season. Still, even with that credo, the RHS gridders haven’t started 0-2 very often. While Howren was ecstatic for his team to get its first win under its belt, he wouldn’t go back and change a thing about his schedule.
“In the first two games, we learned a lot about things we need to get better at,” Howren said. “We found those out. The kids understand this is a process. We had two great weeks or practice after the losses. We knew we were a good football team and we kept working hard.”
Reed struggled to run the ball consistently in its first two outings, but those woes were long gone in the romp over Douglas. The Raiders rushed for more than 300 yards against the Tigers. Reed coaches watched film Saturday of the previous day’s Douglas win and it didn’t take long to notice the improvement in the trenches.
“When you see how we got off the ball up front like we did, you can see we’ve made huge strides,” Howren said. “We’ve shown dramatic improvements ... And then tackling, the kids did a much better job rallying to the football. Douglas has playmakers. We had to tackle and we did. But we can still improve everywhere. We need to get sharper and faster.”
Reed (1-2) returns to action Friday when it plays at Bishop Manogue at 7 p.m.
•Coaches always learn about the character of their clubs when teams face adversity. Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare found out a lot when his Cougars traveled to Sacramento for a game against a solid Inderkum Tigers squad, without their starting quarterback.
Spanish Springs lost 28-6, but despite a trio of inopportune turnovers and a struggling offense, the Cougars had a chance to make it a one-score game with four minutes remaining in the contest. The SSHS squad failed to do so, but Hare was pleased to see the emotion his team played with knowing it faced an uphill battle, playing without all-league signal caller Hunter Fralick.
Cougar coaches reviewed the game film of Friday’s frustrating road loss and found more positives than negatives.
“We played with a lot of heart on both sides of the ball,” Hare said. “That was very evident on the film. We really flew around.”
The Spanish Springs defense held Inderkum twice on fourth down and held a bevy of fleet-footed Inderkum ball carrier in check most of the night. Hare walked off the field Friday praising his defensive unit’s effort. After watching game film, he tempered that praise a bit.
“After getting some perspective, we didn’t play as well defensively as I initially thought,” Hare said. “We were not technically sound. We need to understand our assignments better. We were out of position a lot. We flew around and still made some plays because of that, but we need to be better.”
Hare was also less than thrilled that his Cougars could not muster a better rushing attack, especially when that was a focus knowing Fralick and his accurate right arm were unavailable.
“We didn’t get off the ball as well as we need to,” he said. “We may block the right guys but we’re not getting a push. We didn’t have that sense of urgency we needed knowing we didn’t have Hunter’s passing ability. It’s not just about blocking the right guy but how you do it.”
The Spanish Springs offense wants to spread opponents out with four wide receivers and use an up-tempo style to wear out defenses. That scheme was hard to sell with Fralick out of uniform but Hare said his players didn’t hang their heads and still played with an expectation of winning. That made him happier than anything else.
“I was really happy with the locker room afterward,” Hare said. “The kids were frustrated they didn’t win ... Now that’s all well and good, but we better not come out flat Friday. If that happens I’ll be really disappointed. We must come out and get better in practice this week and be ready to go Friday.”
Spanish Springs (2-1) hosts Galena in a non-league tilt Friday at 7 p.m.
•At Sparks, the state of the Railroaders football team is not good. The SHS football team opened its season with 58-21 and 62-0 losses to Yerington and Elko. Things didn’t get any better last weekend when Sparks was saddled with a 55-0 loss at home to Spring Creek, a game in which it was outscored 35-0 in the second half.
“Defensively, I thought we played pretty well in the first half, but we didn’t come to play in the second half,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “Offensively, we had stuff there, but we didn’t execute. And I don’t know why. I’d be a millionaire from writing a book or something if I had answers like that. Spring Creek is a good team, but it is really disappointing the way that ended.”
Sparks coaches know there is no way to improve except getting to work on the practice field. It won’t do Sparks much good to go into panic mode, but the toughness of Railroader players is being tested.
“I watch film and we’re better than we’ve showed,” Kittrell said. “But we have to step up. This is just unacceptable. We have to figure it out and get better.”
Kittrell is a veteran of more than few fall campaigns. He took over as the Railroaders’ gridiron leader in 1998. He’s seen Sparks compete and excel in the large-school ranks, then struggle before transitioning to the 3A classification (currently Div. 1-A) after Spanish Springs opened with a large chunk of former SHS student athletes. The longtime coach admitted these first few weeks of 2012 have been a mental strain.
“We’ve got to get competitive. We’ve been outscored 176-21 in our three games,” he said. “When we lost all those kids to Spanish Springs and struggled, back in ‘02, that was tough. But this year so far has been more frustrating.
“We can’t worry about the scoreboard and wins and losses. We’ve just got to better and give ourselves a chance.”