Cross-town rivals Reed and Spanish Springs conclude their regular season schedules with the rivalry game they have been waiting for all fall in preparation for the upcoming playoffs.
Unfortunately for Sparks High football fans, this week will be the last chance to see their favorite players don the Maroon and Gold when they travel to Wooster.
Both games will be played tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Spanish Springs (5-3, 4-3) at Reed (7-2, 6-1)
While both teams have already clinched a postseason berth, for the Raiders, this final game is full of playoff implications.
With a win, Reed gives itself a chance to have home-field advantage for at least the first two rounds of the regional tournament by earning the No. 2 seed. The Raiders could still finish in a three-way tie for first if Carson falters in the final week, but that would drop Reed into the third seed.
While Reed has only had three home games so far this season, its only losses have come on the road, so Reed coach Ernie Howren is looking forward to some home games in the playoffs.
“I think it’s extremely important on so many levels,” Howren said. “For a playoff game, it’s called home-field advantage. It’s exactly what it says it is. It’s an advantage and you’re at home.”
However, the Cougars already know their likely playoff destiny, barring any huge upsets by North Valleys, Galena or Reno. A loss means they’re likely the sixth seed. A win means the same thing. The only thing that would change is their first-round opponent.
Even though there isn’t as much on the line for Spanish Springs, Howren expects the Cougars to come out with fire.
“You’re looking at a team in Spanish Springs that has so many motivations to come out and play well,” Howren said. “I think you have a team that is always well prepared to play. That’s what we’re preparing for. They’re a team that’s very fast and play very physical on offense. They’re very motivated right now.”
Spanish Springs is currently on a three-game losing streak after losing to McQueen, Carson and Douglas.
Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare isn’t too worried about tonight’s outcome. He doesn’t put a lot of credence into heading into the playoffs on a winning note to secure some momentum. He’s more worried about his team playing well.
“Everyone is looking at us like we’re Galena. There are three teams in our league that haven’t won a game, and Hug and Galena make the playoffs every year,” Hare said. “We beat North Valleys and we beat Reno and they’re both in the playoffs. I think it’s one of those things right now that if we were 5-3 and those losses were spread over the course of the season and we were coming off a win against Reno, everyone would have been talking about this totally differently. Because of when the losses happened, now it’s a bad thing…
“Ultimately I don’t think the losses have any bearing on the playoffs. The only thing that has happened is we’re not going to get a home game, but we’re not going to leave town.
“Our school has never been to the playoffs two years in a row, which we are. And our school has never won a playoff game, which will be at our fingertips. I think we’ll just keep pounding away and tell them we’ve just done something that has never been done in school history.”
The Rail City rivalry game is almost always a good one. Each coach knows what it will take to earn some bragging rights with the win.
Reed is big, physical and strong and it has shifted its offensive focus a bit this year by going with the run more. Hare said Howren has done a good job turning quarterback Brent Showalter into a really good runner.
Hare said if the team plays balanced football and comes out like it did against McQueen and Carson and the five games before them, he expects the Cougars to be just fine.
On the flip side, Howren said the Raiders will need to do whatever they can to disrupt the Cougars offensively due to the team’s speed. He singled out Dylan Woll and Austin Rauh as a couple of speedsters, and also said QB Tanner Oates is doing a solid job.
Sparks (3-6, 2-6) at Wooster (2-7)
Sparks and Wooster have a recent history of playing each other in non-league match-ups.
The big change this year is the non-league match-up is coming at the end of the season instead of the beginning.
The 2007 and 2009 seasons saw the Railroaders and Colts battle it out in a pair of competitive contests with Sparks taking 17-15 and 27-13 decisions.
However, neither team will be playoff bound this fall. Therefore, both will be playing for pride tonight.
Wooster, which is playing an independent schedule this season, has been playing for pride all season, so this is no different. It will be the team’s final home game, so intensity should be high on the Colts’ sidelines.
On the other hand, Sparks appeared like it might be a playoff contender after winning its first three games of the season. A six-game slide has knocked the Railroaders out of the list of playoff hopefuls though.
Still, the Railroaders are working hard and will be ready for the last game in a chance to go out with a win.
“We talked about for our seniors how it would be nice to have that one last memory of winning the game,” Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell said. “Obviously for our juniors, you head into the offseason on a positive note. It’s very helpful if you can do that. They’re excited to play. They gave a great effort last week for most of the game, and that’s carried over to practice this week.”
The clash between Wooster and Sparks could have had some interesting playoff implications had the Colts played in the Northern 3A this year. It would have meant the Fernley-Dayton game this week, combined with the Wooster-Sparks game, could have decided the final postseason berth and all four teams could have earned that berth.
Kittrell still expects a good game under the temporary lights. The Colts are hoping to have permanent lights installed by next season.
“I think it will be an exciting and close game. There are a couple teams we beat that they lost to and a couple teams they beat and we lost to,” Kittrell said.