This is the Hall of Fame weekend, where Nevada’s prep programs can add an optional 10th game to their schedule if they pay a fee to benefit the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s Hall of Fame program. All three Sparks schools were game and they’ll all be making their 2011 debuts under the lights Friday night.
Here’s a closer look at the trio of matchups involving Sparks schools. All three kick off at 7 p.m.
- Granite Bay, Calif. at Reed -
The two teams opened last season against each other as well with Granite Bay handing Reed a 42-24 defeat in east suburban Sacramento. Now, Reed gets a rare return trip from a California foe.
“To play such a quality opponent and to have the home and home setup, it’s what we really wanted,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said of the unique opportunity.
Reed has not had tremendous luck facing California foes early in the season. In addition to last year’s Granite Bay loss, the RHS club was saddled with a 31-13 defeat by Oceanside, Calif. in 2009 and a 44-28 loss to Rocklin, Calif. in 2006. However, in spite of those tough non-league losses, the Raiders have always bounced back in fine fashion, using the defeats to get better.
Howren was asked Wednesday what he wanted his club to take away from Friday night’s contest and his answer indicated he was a lot more focused on improving than winning.
“In the first week, the biggest thing you want to see is your kids flying around with good intensity,” the Raiders 11th-year coach said. “Will the kids manage their emotion going into the game? There will be mistakes made, but how will they respond? You want them to get right back for the next play. That’s when you don’t want to see them letdown.”
The coaching staffs at Reed and Granite Bay have exchanged films of their respective scrimmages last weekend. However, Granite Bay played an intrasquad scrimmage so how much the Raiders prepare from that may be limited. Howren was sure to have some game film on the Grizzlies from last fall to get a better idea of their schemes.
“We have to go back and look at last year’s film,” Howren said. As far as schemes and how teams try to attack their opponents, you stay pretty true to that year in and year out.
“They are a five-speed team ... This is probably one of their more balanced offenses. They have a good quarterback and good receivers. They run a fly-sweep inside run game. Defensively, we have to play good assignment football and manage the play, meaning we have to be in the right spots with good intensity.
While the Raiders have only been practicing for two weeks, Howren said his Raiders are ready to play a game.
“It’s time. The kids are excited,” said the veteran RHS coach. “This is why you work so hard all year long.”
- Yerington at Sparks -
Like Reed, Sparks is facing a familiar Week 1 foe. Sparks and Yerington met last season in their fall debuts with Sparks snagging a 29-22 triumph in Lyon County. It was one of just four wins 3A Sparks racked up last fall. The loss was one only two for Yerington, which reeled off eight straight wins before falling to Lovelock in the first round of the 2A regional playoffs.
So what should they expect from each other this time around?
“They will be good up front,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “I know they lost a good running back, but I’m sure they have someone to replace him. They want to be a little more balanced than last year. they’ll be one of the best teams in the 2A.”
Also like Howren and Reed, Kittrell believes his team is ready for a game.
“It’s time to put the jerseys on, turn the lights on and keep score,” he said. “Considering our summer program, we’ve been going at it since June. It’s time to go. The kids are tired of going against each other. It’s time to go against someone else, someone who doesn’t know what’s coming.”
The Sparks coaching staff has known for a year it will open the 2011 campaign against Yerington. The Railroader coaches believe they know what Yerington has in store for them.
“They want to run the ball and run to set up the throw,” Kittrell said of the visiting Lions. “Defensively, I think they’ll probably be prepared for our four-vertical passing game as we had success with that last year. They’ll want to put more pressure on (SHS QB) Geo (Vasquez).”
Unlike a year ago when Sparks played its season opener on the road, the Railroader gridders kick off this season on the friendly confines of the SHS campus, but Kittrell said that matters little.
We’re not even in school yet,” he said. “So it’s not like we’ll have the whole student body at school to get them pumped up for the game. It’s just nice to play a game, regardless of the location.”
- Spanish Springs at Del Oro, Calif. -
There’s a good chance that Spanish Springs plays the toughest team on its schedule in its opener. Del Oro won a California section championship last fall, which is similar to winning a Nevada state crown. Additionally, the Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 100 in the nation by USA. Conversely, Spanish Springs is ranked 6,152 by Maxpreps.com.
So, on paper, the contest looks to be a mismatch. Still, Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare believes his team has plenty to gain by playing a perennial California power to open the year, regardless of outcome.
“I want our kids to take a shot and be able to hit back,” Hare said. “That’s what I want to see from us. I know Del Oro will hit us under the chin. Whether we win or lose, I want us to hit back. I want to see us respond when they hit us. That will tell us if we’re for real.”
Hare believes he’s got the best team in the brief 10-year history of Spanish Springs varsity football. That’s a big reason he wanted to challenge his team early in the year. He also wanted to play this game away from northern Nevada.
“I like playing these games on the road,” he said. “I like the environment. It’s something different for the kids. I’ve been to Del Oro a couple times. It’s a fun environment for the kids to play in. They will see that when they play McQueen and Reed. It’s good to get used to it now.”
Hare says there’s not much fancy to what Del Oro wants to do. However, while the Eagles may not be tricky in their philosophy, they’re very good at what they do run.
“They are going to run the ball right at us,” he said. “That’s their mantra, and, they run fast on defense. Their linebackers move to the football quickly. The two biggest questions are can we stop the run and can we match their speed?”
Hare added that the Cougars have plenty of size to match up with Del Oro. His team will not be at a disadvantage from a size standpoint, but it won’t be able to play chase either.
“Angles will be so important. With their speed, if we don’t take good angles, they’ll go right by us,” Hare said. “We must take the right angle to the ball and hold their defensive players off.
“It’s time to go. We’re ready for this. You have to start sometime. It’s Del Oro’s first week too. This is not their team that won a section championship. They are good, but it’s still the preseason. There are fresh faces on both sides.”