Some are learning they wish their team had a faster learning curve while others like their club’s progression early on. All three Sparks schools are in action tonight. Here’s a closer look at their matchups.
- Sparks (0-2) at Fernley (1-1), 7 p.m. -
•The Sparks gridders have been in contention through much of their first two games only to see late mistakes, namely turnovers, prove costly. Sparks turned the ball over twice in its opener against Yerington and watched the two giveaways turn into 14 Lions points in a one-point loss. Last week, Sparks turned the ball over three times and watch those miscues turn into 21 Spring Creek points en route to a 50-29 defeat.
“If we do turn the ball over, we have to be able to stop a team and slow them down,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “And we can’t turn the ball over. Last year at this point we were 2-0 and plus four in turnover margin. This year we’re minus three and that’s why we’re 0-2.”
The Railroaders veteran coach said his team must stop being so generous if it is to have a chance to pick up its first win, this weekend in Lyon County. The SHS coaching staff knows its team needs a win to replenish its players confidence tanks.
“It’s very important to get a win,” Kittrell said. “It’s no fun being 0-2 and 0-3 is even worse. We’re coming into the meat of our schedule so it’s very important to try and get a win this week … We’re shooting ourselves in the foot with mental lapses. Our problems are definitely fixable. With the 25 kids we have, we can’t be a team that makes the mistakes we have. We won’t get away with it.”
While turnovers have plagued the Sparks offense and special teams units, all-round poor defense has also kept the Railroaders from experiencing much success. Missed assignments and poor tackling are the biggest culprits
“We have to tackle better and plug holes better,” Kittrell said. “All-around, our defense has to get more aggressive. We are slow getting to the right spots. We’re just inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball. They’re just not confident in what they’re doing and I attribute that to lots of inexperience. They are getting there, but we need to get there a little bit quicker.”
Sparks knocked off Fernley a year ago, but Kittrell says this is far from the same Vaqueros team.
“Fernley is a better team than what they were last year,” he said. “They seem to have a lot of team speed with a lot of kids playing really hard. They’re a good team.”
So, ultimately, what do Sparks coaches hope to see from their squad tonight?
“A win,” Kittrell said simply. “Offensively, we’ve got to clean up the turnovers. Defensively, we’ve got to be better at stopping people and slowing them down. If we do those two things, I think we’ll be in the game at the end, where we want to be to have a chance to win it.”
- Douglas (0-1) at Reed (0-1), 7:30 p.m. -
•This Friday night match features a pair of two teams in similar situations. Reed lost in a shootout, 41-37, in its opener to a tough out-of-state-foe, Granite Bay, Calif. Douglas did the same, falling 49-36, to Pocatello, Idaho.
Reed played two weeks ago and got a bye last weekend, while Douglas started the season a week later and made its debut six days go. Having not played in 14 days, Reed players and coaches are anxious to get back on the gridiron.
“The hard part is we’re coming off a loss. Then we had the bye week,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “Anytime you lose a game you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth as soon as you can. At the same time, I think the bye week told us a lot about our group of kids. These guys are focused, intense and ready to work hard. I thought we had two great weeks of practice, and as a coaching staff, we couldn’t be more pleased with the kids.
Howren saw the film of the Douglas/Pocatello game, which was played last Saturday in Pocatello at Holt Arena on the Idaho State campus. He was impressed with the quick, effective pace of the Douglas offense.
“They run an up-tempo, no-huddle offense and they’re a doing great job of getting to the line and getting their play call in as soon as possible,” Howren said. “And with Douglas, you have to guard against the pass and run. They pride themselves on being a 50-50 run-pass ratio.”
While Douglas had some success on offense, its defense was gashed by the big play en route to allowing 49 points. However, Howren cautioned Reed fans against thinking the Raiders will score with ease in tonight’s matchup.
“You watch the film and see Pocatello put up 49 points, but sometimes that can be misleading,” the RHS coach said. “A lot of those were big plays that took Douglas by surprise. It was their first game. I can’t imagine a well-coached team like Douglas making those same mistakes twice. I don’t see those same mistakes being there in Game 2.
While the Tigers and Raiders are both Northern 4A league members, tonight’s tilt is not a conference clash. The two schools were not set to meet this fall, but scheduled the contest as both had bye weeks this weekend.
Howren is glad his team has another non-league affair to sharpen its schemes while most of the Northern 4A field opens league play. He’s also issued a challenge to his squad.
“We are fortunate to have another preseason game to clean up things in our run game and passing schemes, to get ourselves on track for league,” he said. “The one thing I challenged our kids is to get better tackling and we can always get better in blocking, our pass protection and combo blocks. We challenge everyone to be the best blocker they can be on every single play.”
- Spanish Springs (1-1) at Hug (0-2), 7:30 p.m. -
•A week ago, Spanish Springs bounced back from a season-opening drubbing at Del Oro, Calif. (55-14) to drill local rival North Valleys, 34-14. The win was good for a team with high expectations coming into the new year after it licked its wounds a week earlier. Still, Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare stressed a win does not fix all ills.
“The win was nice,” he said. “And we needed it to make the kids continue to believe in what we’re doing, but really, we’re in the learning phase. The kids are putting so much together right now. We’ve had good practices and we’re preparing for opponents, but we’re not talking about them. I like that. We’re just learning and continuing to get better.”
Spanish Springs will try to continue to get better against Hug tonight. The Hawks have struggled in back-to-back outings to open the new season dropping a 48-37 heartbreaker to North Valleys in Week 1 and then getting smoked by Bear River of Grass Valley, Calif. last weekend, 42-13.
In spite of Hug’s early woes, Hare knows his team had better respect the Hawk’s athleticism.
“They have athletes. There’s no doubt about that,” Hare said. “They always have athletes who can move around and play in space. This year’s team is no different.
“I think we’re prepared, but when you play Hug, there’s a difference between knowing what to do and stopping them. “We were better last week than we were against Del Oro, but we must take another step forward. We are in league play this week. Now, you have to do the right things, playoff positioning is on the line.”
The Spanish Springs football program has struggled to find a consistent pass threat at the quarterback position for the decade of its existence. That may be changing as Cougars sophomore signal caller Hunter Fralick looks to have the “It Factor.” He threw for 278 yards in just his second varsity start last week, one of the top totals in the brief history of the SSHS program.
But while the Cougars passing game looks like it has huge potential, Hare said its the rushing attack that has been the focus in recent workouts.
“We are really focusing on our running game. That is tantamount,” he said. “We must get it ready before it turns cold. If you don’t, you’ll struggle. So that’s our main focus, really understanding our front side and back side blocking in the run game. We understand in most plays where the holes are, but we’re still trying to understand the little nuances.
“We’ve got a group of kids willing to learn. Our film sessions have been tremendous. They’re finding the coaches are more intense after a win than a loss. It’s not about winning or losing, but doing things the right way. This week we’ve heard from the kids, ‘do it the right way.’ That’s the mindset that’s definitely developing. The kids are buying in and want to be better.”