Here’s a closer look at the three schools as they prep for upcoming action.
- Bishop Manogue (3-2) at Reed (5-1), 7:30 p.m. -
The Reed High football program is the winningest in the North over the past eight years, but if there’s a team that has snake bit the Raiders in recent years it’s been Bishop Manogue.
In 2005 and 2010, Reed was a heavy favorite to beat Manogue but both times the Miners pulled the upset and handily on both occasions, 40-14 in 2005 and 41-14 last year. You can bet the RHS coaching staff is well aware of Manogue’s traditional ability to play Reed tough.
“There’s never been a game that I’ve walked into that I’d thought we’d lose,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “That’s just how I’ve always felt. Now, there have been some disappointing losses to Manogue, one of those being last year.
“We have talked about last year, simply because it’s natural to think about it a little bit, but I think we gave it it’s just due and moved on. It’s not like it’s been grinding on us. There’s a lot more important things to worry about than last year, like Manogue’s offensive and defensive schemes.”
Reed has been on quite a roll as of late, outscoring its last four opponents 211-8. Additionally, the Raiders have wasted no time jumping out to early leads. Nevada’s running clock mercy rule has been forced on more than a few RHS opponents.
“There’s not a coach out there who wouldn’t want to be able to do that,” Howren said. “We’ve been very fortunate to do that this season. It’s definitely been an advantage but there also have been times where we weren’t able to do that and we’ve been fine. That goes back to the type of kids we’ve got. They don’t let anything faze them and they manage their emotions. Whether they are up or down or tied, they don’t ride their emotions. They just go out and do what they’re supposed to.”
Reed has indeed been dismantling opponents, but given Manogue looks to be a tougher foe, and the Miners have a knack for playing Reed tough, not many in the Raiders camp are expecting a lopsided affair tonight.
“Manogue is a team that could easily be 5-0. They have lost two close games at the end,” Howren said. “They are fast and physical. They definitely mix it up well. They have weapons … Manogue is well coached and they have a great group of kids who play with great pride and emotion. You don’t expect a team like that to roll over.”
- Dayton (4-3) at Sparks, (1-6), 7 p.m. -
•As rough as the season had been for Sparks through the first six weeks of the season, all losses, you can bet SHS players and coaches are feeling a lot better after getting their first win in a rare Thursday night game against South Tahoe last week. Veteran Sparks coach Rob Kittrell even joked about looking into moving more games to Thursday nights if that’s all it was going to take to steal wins.
The Railroaders are back under the Friday Night Lights this weekend and with a tough test ahead of them, but they seem ready to tackle it.
“The kids have had an extra bounce in their step this week,” Kittrell said. “They are excited, but then our attitude has been an issue this year. Where we’ve seen an improvement this week in practice is the kids have just a bit more focus. Their effort has always been good.”
At 4-3, Dayton has not yet been able to string together more than two wins together but it has played Northern 3A powers Truckee and Lowry closer than other opponents of those traditionally tough programs. Kittrell said the visiting Dust Devils will provide plenty of opposition in tonight’s tilt.
“Dayton is another run team with double tight ends and double wings; and they do it well,” Kittrell said. “They do not run a lot of plays, but what they do, they execute well. They want to possess the ball and keep it out of your hands. Defensively, they have always been very good, probably one of the most disciplined teams in the 3A year in and year out.
“We definitely have to gang tackle, especially on their main back. You don’t bring him down with one guy. We’ve got to make reads, maintain our areas and fly to the ball.”
Sparks coaches have not been pleased with the progression of the Railroaders offense this fall. In fact, Kittrell said it was a sharper unit earlier in the season, noting costly penalties and mental errors have run rampant in recent weeks.
“Offensively, we have to get back to playing mistake-free. We need to get back into a good rhythm so we can get some confidence and move the ball,” Kittrell said, adding the Railroaders’ win a week ago was helped immensely by some big plays outside of the offense. “Anytime you get special teams and defensive touchdowns, those are huge. They really help, but our offense is not clicking like early in the year. We are making mistakes we did not make early in the year and we’ve got to get those cleaned up.”
Tonight marks the annual Homecoming celebration for Sparks High. As usual, that means a week full of activities that can take the attention away from game preparations. Railroaders coaches have done their best to mitigate that issue.
“Homecoming tends to be a distraction,” Kittrell said. “There is so much other stuff going on and we’ve addressed that. We’ve talked that Homecoming is about the game. Without the football game, there is no homecoming. It’s all about the game.”
- Spanish Springs (3-4) Bye -
•With 11 weeks available to play 10 games on the Northern 4A schedule, each school takes a bye somewhere along the line. For Spanish Springs, that down time hits here in the second full week of October. It is much needed. Just ask Cougars coach Scott Hare.
“Our No. 1 goal on the bye week is to get healthy,” Hare said. “Against McQueen last week, we had nine different guys who did not start our opener against Del Oro. We’ve been beat up. I think we are finally getting back to being healthy and that stabilizes both sides of the ball. Fewer guys are going both ways. Fewer guys are moving around from offense to defense to special teams. Every week we’ve had different guys on kickoffs and punts. Hopefully, being healthy stabilizes all three areas.
“We need this bye week. We needed this bye last week. We were saying a couple weeks ago, ‘we need to get to our bye.’ We’ve got 52 guys on our roster and at one recent practice we had 36 suited up. That’s ridiculous. So we absolutely need this week off.”
The Cougars haven’t just been beaten up on their depth chart. You can bet their confidence took a hit after blowing second-half leads in consecutive weeks against Damonte Ranch and Reno. Last week, the Cougars were just straight beaten up by a physical McQueen team that dominated play en route to handing the SSHS gridders a 38-7 loss.
“Part of that was McQueen, but part of that was we ran into a bad night,” Hare said. “We were making mistakes we had not made. We’ve been having good practices. Sometimes with losses come a solid stretch of bad practices but that hasn’t been the case with this group. These guys have been pretty resilient.”
Riding a three-game skid and with no game this weekend, Spanish Springs coaches have let off the intensity brakes this week. Hare stressed that the focus in practice has been mental toughness, not physical toughness.
“It has not been ultra-physical, but more ultra-mental,” Hare said. “Next Monday, the kids will have to understand we get back to physical practices ... It’s been a good week and one we’ve needed. There’s been a lot more laughter and less intensity. We’ve talked a lot more. We want to make sure we’re learning and understanding.”
Hare said his coaching staff will use the rare Friday night off to watch next week’s Cougars opponent, Carson, in person. He added that he hoped his players would want to do the same.
“I hope we all go. We’ve got one game left, Carson. That’s our mindset right now,” Hare said. “We have hurt ourselves but we are still in the thick of this thing. I hope our guys want to go watch Carson. We’ve worked so hard all spring and all summer. It boils down to now we have to play Carson with all our guns blazing.”