That didn’t stop head coach Rob Kittrell from savoring the win and enjoying his last game with a number of graduating seniors.
“For me, it’s sad like I just told them this group of kids put fun back in football for me this year,” Kittrell said after addressing his team. “The Henry Banks, Anthony Ayala, Martin Jordan first time evers came out and played football. It was a fun year, a really great year for us.”
Kittrell’s “great year” manifested itself in ways other than wins and losses.
“Just their attitude everyday at practice,” he said. “We had a rough year at times and they could have kind of given up, taken off throttle but they never did. The fact that they came out and worked hard everyday was just awesome.”
The Railroaders defense did much of the hard work Friday, accounting for two of the team’s four touchdowns. But it was the offense that got it started.
With 11:17 left in the second quarter, senior running back Banks capped off a 91-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. An Erik Garcia extra point put Sparks up 7-0.
Six minutes later, the Colts started a drive at their own 20 but on the first play quarterback
Connor Nielsen threw a pass into the waiting arms of Sparks defensive back Vittawat Sriphongngarm, who ran the ball into the end zone. The point after made it 14-0 going into the half.
Wooster got possession to start the second half, but Sriphongngarm again was on the prowl in the secondary. This time, his interception stopped a Colts drive when they seemed on the verge of scoring inside the Sparks red zone.
The Railroaders’ offense couldn’t convert the turnover into points, forcing the defense right back onto the field after the punt. Sparks seemed to have the upper hand after junior AJ Seve sacked Nielsen for a big loss, but on fourth-down-and 11, Wilson completed a dump pass to tight end Ricky Solorio to keep the drive alive.
With the ball just seven yards from the end zone, graduating senior Ayala picked off the pass attempt and scampered 86 yards for the score. The point after put Sparks up 21-0.
The Railroaders’ offense had one more contribution to the scoring. Starting at their own 28, the SHS boys drove to the Wooster 38-yard line before Banks broke some tackles around the left side and dashed into the end zone for a 28-0 lead with 8:47 to play.
The Colts showed they weren’t dead by putting the ball in the end zone twice in the final quarter.
After Sparks’ final scoring drive, the Colts got some help from Railroader penalties, moving the ball down the field. Wooster converted a fourth-down play at the 14-yard line and got a pass interference call that moved the ball to the 7. Senior running back Wyatt Fritz finally put his team on the board when he ran the ball 2 yards for a touchdown. Solorio’s extra point made it 28-7.
With less than a minute to play, the Colts mustered one more touchdown before time expired on the 28-14 final.
“We talked about sending the seniors off on a win and for juniors setting the tempo for next year, that’s always huge,” Kittrell said as his wife and children gathered around him for some final photos of the season.
“You know the big thing was our year was dictated by turnovers. Tonight, we created some turnovers, scored on them and we won those games.”
Kittrell was far from the only happy Railroader at the game’s conclusion.
“It felt good to go in, just having a blast, this is your last year you try and put everything out on the field,” Banks said before departing Reno on the team bus. “So it felt good for the seniors and stuff going out with a big bang and help the juniors come out next season and give them motivation.”
Banks said the team had to come back and post one final win of the season for themselves and to keep the fun coming for coach Kittrell.
“That’s a lot coming from him,” Banks said about helping put the fun back in football for his coach. “He’s like a second dad to me and that’s good to know we could give back to him like that.”