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Rumble, Bumble and Tumble: Reed rolling over foes while Sp. Springs fights late-game blunders and Sparks struggles to win
by Dan Eckles
Oct 05, 2011 | 1349 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Sparks High receiver Elias Martinez hauls in a pass at a recent Railroaders workout.
Tribune file photo - Sparks High receiver Elias Martinez hauls in a pass at a recent Railroaders workout.
The Sparks area’s three high school football teams could not be in more different situations six weeks into the fall season. Fans of the prep gridiron can run the gamut in watching quality football — just by driving around the Rail City.

Reed, at 4-1 overall and with a perfect record against in-state foes, looks to be the cream of the crop in the Northern 4A League. Spanish Springs, at 3-3, is giving off the impression it’s an inconsistent squad that probably belongs somewhere in the middle of the pack. And an inexperienced, undermanned Sparks High club has struggled to an 0-6 start.

All three schools are looking for good things in Week 7. Here’s a closer look at their upcoming matchups.

- So. Tahoe (2-4) at Sparks (0-6), tonight 7 p.m. -

•It’s a rare short week for Sparks. The Sparks-South Tahoe tilt was moved from Friday to Thursday as part of the Northern Nevada Officials Association’s plan to avoid a shortage of crews on busy Friday nights.

The shortfall in time to prepare for a new opponent has not been easy for Sparks.

“It’s been a quick week,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “I’ll let you know Friday if I like playing on Thursdays or not. It doesn’t seem like we’ve had enough time to get better and we’ve just been working on our stuff. We don’t need to put in anything new. We’re not good enough at what we do yet.

“I’ve watched film on South Tahoe and I see a lot of us in them. They will play really well for awhile and be competing. Then, all of a sudden, the wheels fall off. It’s like watching ourselves on film.”

The SHS defense has not helped the Railroaders’ cause. It’s given up 50 or more points in four of the school’s last five outings. That has got to change if the Railroaders want to be in contention to win a game in the fourth quarter.

“Tackling and assignment football, those have been our problems,” Kittrell said. “We get in a situation where a big play happens against us and pretty soon we’re somewhere we shouldn’t be, trying to over-compensate. Then, rather quickly, we’ve got guys out of position. It’s a matter of playing our assignments, wrapping up and then getting 10 other hats to the football.”

Turnovers have killed Sparks this fall and yet, in a rare set of circumstances, Railroader running backs and receivers have not put the ball on the ground once this fall. Every Sparks turnover has come on special teams or via an interception. If the Railroaders could clean up those issues, it would go a long way toward stealing a first win.

In spite of a few picks, Kittrell has plenty of faith in his junior quarterback, Geo Vasquez.

“He hasn’t played as well as I’d like or as well as he’d like the last couple weeks, but that comes from pressing too much,” the Railroaders veteran coach said. “When you get in those ruts, you start working harder to try and do more; and the end result isn’t always good in trying to fix things.”

When you are 0-6, a team’s confidence is far from rock solid. That makes it all the more important to have some early success and not find yourself in an early hole. Kittrell agreed, but he also stressed early success is not a cure all.

“You always want to have early success,” Kittrell said. “But something we’ve been stressing to our kids these last few weeks is things are not always going to go well for you. You must fight through adversity. We’ve had some success early in games and that hasn’t always worked for us, but you do want it, to get the momentum going your way.”

- Reed (4-1) at Galena (1-4), Friday 7:30 p.m. -

•Reed is gearing up to face a Galena team that dropped its first four games, but then got into its bye week and bounced back with a resounding 63-7 romp over Hug. Galena has a reputation for getting steadily better as a season wears on, more so than any other school in northern Nevada.

The Reed coaching staff is expecting to see the best Galena performance yet when the Raiders and Grizzlies get into action Friday night.

“Galena has always shown if you watch their results, that they get physically tougher and seem to win more games as the season goes on,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “They are well coached every single year. This year is no different as far as getting better each week. Their record does not indicate what kind of team they are.

So what do the Raiders expect here in the 2011 midseason?

“Offensively, they want to play power football. They want to run the ball and play smash-mouth up front,” Howren said. “They want a power running game and they’ll play-action pass off that. Defensively, they do what they have done well for so many years. They’re really good at reading their keys and executing off that. Galena does not change a lot week to week. They just get better at what they do ... Each game I’ve seen, they play harder and faster. I’ve just seen a great effort out of them.”

Reed is coming off a three-week stretch where it has dump-trucked opponents by a combined score of 155-8. It seems safe to say the Raiders are in midseason form. While that may indeed be true, you won’t find a Raider coach resting on his laurels. Howren said there is plenty for his team to improve on.

“We attempted four field goals last week so that’s four drives that stalled. That’s something we need to get better at this week,” Howren said. “One of the things we’ve talked to the kids about is we have to get better running the ball. Last week, we averaged five yards a carry and we strive for better than that.

“Defensively, you can always get better at tackling, but the numbers don’t lie. I feel like we’re playing really well. Our coaches have done a great job getting our kids focused and coming up with great game plans. To only give up six points on defense over three weeks is pretty outstanding.”

When a team like Reed is rolling along, the biggest thing its coaches focus on is getting better at executing its stuff. That’s probably a scary thought for Galena, which has done nothing but watch the RHS gridders steamroll foes, specifically with their quick-strike offense.

“The thing I’ve most appreciated watching this group of kids is their attention to detail,” Howren said. “One of the things we’ve emphasized is getting in shape since we have this up-tempo offense. The kids have bought into that. They have bought into conditioning each day and having an up-tempo offense. They’ve learned to appreciate the effort that is needed there.”

- Spanish Springs (3-3) at McQueen (3-2), Friday 7:30 p.m. -

•Spanish Springs has watched two-score leads in the second half evaporate each of the last two weeks. The meltdowns resulted in back-to-back losses after the Cougars had strung together three-straight wins. SSHS coaches came into the season with sky-high expectations and now they’re scratching their heads.

“I wish I knew the answer,” SSHS coach Scott Hare said. “In my 11 years of coaching, this is the most confused I’ve ever been. We’ve had great practice. The kids are conditioned. The fact is we’re good enough to beat just about anybody, but the teams we’re playing are good enough to beat us too. We have to finish.”

Finishing is exactly what the Cougars did not do in a key conference clash against McQueen last fall. Spanish Springs took the lead into the final 75 seconds of play and had McQueen facing a fourth-and-six, but the Lancers capitalized for a 31-yard touchdown when no Cougar defender picked up a McQueen tailback on a wheel route.

Spanish Springs had started the season 5-0 to that point. It did not win again, suffering five straight losses to end its year. The Cougars schedule gets considerably tougher from here. After McQueen, Spanish Springs still faces recent playoff contenders in Carson, Douglas and Reed.

“We come up against some teams that are traditionally tough. I know we won’t go into this stretch thinking we’re pretty darn good, like last year,” Hare said. “We’ll find out how important winning is to us. Usually, you have a pretty good idea, answers to why you’re struggling. I just don’t think it’s any one thing.

“I watch the film and we are dominating up front. I told our guys, We want to win and we are winning most of the plays but we are not winning the games. We are doing a pretty good job, but we have to get all 11 guys playing correctly on every play. I just don’t think we’re understanding situational football.”          

While Spanish Springs is trying to find a way to get over the hump and finish off quality opponents, McQueen is a team that knows how to win and has already found ways to win games this year where it looked beat late or trailed early. What will they do against the Cougars this weekend?

“They want to be more balanced pass-run, probably than ever before,” Hare said. “They have made a lot of changes with their new offensive coordinator, but they are still going to run the ball right at you. And defensively, that’s still all Coach Snelling. They want to fly around, force you into mistakes and turnovers and score off those.”


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