Reno did just about everything but pull a rabbit out of a hat en route to coming from behind to capture a 25-21 triumph in Northern 4A League prep football action.
Reno showcased its array of tricks by scoring on a halfback pass, a wide receiver pass on a reverse and it recovered a surprising on-side kick in the third quarter. Additionally, Reno offensive coaches made unorthodox and aggressive play calls all night to keep the Cougars’ defense guessing.
“We want to win football games,” Reno coach Dan Avansino said. “We had all those things in the game plan and I don’t want to save them for when the season’s over.
“We had the on-side kick in the game plan and wanted to use it at some point. It’s not that we didn’t trust our defense. We just had not stopped them. So we decided to go for it.”
Trailing 21-10 with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter Reno responded with a touchdown when quarterback Justin Cartlidge found plenty of open field on a keeper and bolted 62 yards for a score. Daniel Aninio added a two-point conversion for the Huskies and they trailed 21-18 with 2:20 to go in the third.
The Huskies then proceeded to recover the on-side kick. That set the guests up at the SSHS 49 and they cashed in on the short field. The big play again hurt Spanish Springs. Reno found success with a 34-yard touchdown when Chad Savage took a reverse from his wide receiver position and found a wide open Justin Crow near the goal line for an easy score. The Huskies took the 25-21 advantage thanks to the chicanery.
“We counted 52 formations in four games,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said, alluding to his staff’s film preparation of the Huskies. “So we weren’t surprised at anything they did. The frustrating thing is everything they did to us, we practiced against. We are not out of position so much as we’re just not doing things the way they are supposed to be done.”
Despite the big momentum swing, Spanish Springs still had an opportunity to steal the momentum away and possibly go ahead. The Cougars used a 57-yard Hunter Fralick to Vance Lively reception to get in the red zone, but the drive stalled when Conrad Tanyi dropped a pass on a fourth-and-7 play that could have given the SSHS crew a key first down or even a score.
Instead, Reno took over with 4:15 remaining on the game clock and chewed up more than three and a half minutes to essentially ice the win.
“We adjusted well in the second half. Our defensive staff kept changing things up,” Avansino said. “Stopping the running game is important. We didn’t do that as a whole, but at some key moments we did.”
Spanish Springs looked in control when it scored on its first drive of the second half. The Cougars ate up six minutes off the clock on a 12-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard touchdown run by Jesse Berry. The SSHS gridders led 21-10 at that point, but that’s where the momentum took a turn against the hosts.
“Right now, we’re not getting after people in the second half,” Hare said. “That’s got to change before we can look at changing schemes … This was a lot like last week. We had our opportunities. We have to execute. We are not playing with the same intensity after halftime. At some point, you have to suck it up and make plays.”
Spanish Springs took a 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Cougars got some early offense when they marched 80 yards on 10 plays on the game’s opening drive. Tanyi capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and the Cougars had a 7-0 lead five minutes into the conference clash.
Tanyi finished with 190 rushing yards on 31 carries.
Reno tied the game at 7-7 with 7:31 showing on the second-quarter clock. Cartlidge handled the scoring chores on an 11-yard keeper around the edge. A 26-yard gain on a halfback pass play keyed the Reno drive.
The two teams traded punts before Spanish Springs got back on the scoreboard to take a 14-7 lead. That came when Fralick hooked up with Lively over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown reception that left 1:06 remaining before halftime.
Reno (4-1) racked up some yardage in its two-minute offense and drove to the Spanish Springs 28 inside the final minute of the first half. That led to a 46-yard Alec Staley field goal in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
Spanish Springs (3-3) returns to action Friday when it goes to McQueen for a 7:30 p.m. tilt.