Unfortunately, the night also turned in the first loss for the Railroaders, who fell 25-24 at home to the Yerington Lions.
Not all was lost in defeat, however. It is rare that the team who controls most of the game comes up on the losing end, but such was the case Friday.
The game began inauspiciously for the Railroaders when the Lions scored on their second play from scrimmage with a tailback sweep around the right side that went 68 yards.
Sparks fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Lions capitalized with another touchdown. The Railroaders trailed 12-0 with nearly six minutes left in the first quarter.
But to its credit, Sparks rebounded and quickly captured the momentum with a sustained drive that resulted in 23-yard field goal.
Yerington then botched a shotgun snap deep inside its own 10-yard line. The ball went through the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety for the Railroaders.
After a free kick, Sparks quickly drove 45 yards for a touchdown, with quarterback Geovanni Vasquez delivering a number of strikes to wide-open wide receivers. Quinn Lightfoot caught a short pass in the end zone for the Railroaders first touchdown of the 2011 season.
The extra point was good and Sparks had clawed back to 12-12 tie with 9:44 remaining in the first half.
The Railroaders defensive intensity picked up noticeably, with solid tackling and hard hitting.
But a costly interception on the Railroaders next offensive drive led to a touchdown for the Lions.
The Railroaders trailed 18-12 at halftime.
Sparks owned the third quarter, forcing and recovering a Yerington fumble and pinning the Lions near their own goal line twice.
The Railroaders then drove the ball to the Lions’ 5-yard line before failing to convert a critical fourth down and one.
Sparks still had the momentum on their side, however, and finally knotted up the score at 18 when tailback Mario Guadron plunged into the end zone with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter. A missed extra point kept the Railroaders from taking their first lead of the game.
Yerington quickly responded with their only score of the second half, driving 80 yards to take a 25-18 lead.
But with a steady mix of runs and passes, Vasquez marched the Railroaders down the field and scored on a quarterback sneak with 1:12 to go in the game.
The smell of victory wouldn’t last long though. Yerington blocked the extra point that would have tied the game at 25 and ultimately ran out the remainder of the clock.
It was a disappointing end to a well-played, entertaining game.
“They got to keep their heads up,” said Sparks coach Rob Kittrell. “It would have been nice to come out with a win but that’s a darn good football team across the field from us.”
Kittrell said he was pleased with how both the offense and defense progressed as the game wore on.
“Our tackling got a lot better,” he said, and “we had some pretty good drives tonight offensively.”
But limiting penalties and staying out of third and long situations must be remedied, Kittrell said.
Sparks will have an opportunity to bounce back next week when they host Spring Creek at home.
“We told the team, ‘It’s not how good you are in August, it’s how good you are in October,’” Kittrell said.