Conference administrators did not approve a Northern 4A league format and corresponding master schedule until March 12. That’s more than four months later than has been standard. The late scheduling start had local coaches concerned over whether or not they could fill their open dates as many other schools from Nevada and surrounding states had already concluded their schedule work.
While that was the concern two-plus months ago, both Sparks schools that are members of the Northern 4A — Reed and Spanish Springs — were able to round out their schedules in recent weeks with a full 10-game slate.
“It was hard,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “It would’ve been nice to get our schedule earlier and know our open dates to have some options. There is almost nothing there when you get your schedule as late as we did, but we got lucky because I think we got a good matchup for us.”
Before the schedule was approved in March, schools did not know how many open dates they’d have to fill and what those dates would be. As it turned out, The Northern 4A was broken into two leagues. That format left Reed and Spanish Springs with five league games, three non-league crossover games against Sierra League opponents and two open dates (Aug. 24 and a second date) if the schools chose to play the optional tenth game, an NIAA Hall of Fame game.
The one constant Northern 4A coaches could count on was an open date Aug. 24, the weekend for optional Hall of Fame games. Both Reed and Spanish Springs coaches had already found foes for that weekend but without knowing initially which and how many other weekends would be open, their hands were tied.
Reed was able to set up a road game against James Logan of Union City, Calif. for its season opener Aug. 24. Then, after finally getting its master schedule, Reed coach Ernie Howren learned he had a second open bye, Aug. 31. After posting his opening on a few web sites, and exchanging some calls and emails, Howren was able to find that Foothill High of Palo Cedro, Calif, had a common opening. Howren agreed to another road game and now his RHS program is set to play a pair of tough out-of-state foes on the road to open its fall campaign.
“To be honest, we were quite lucky to get the teams we did to fill our schedule this coming year,” Howren said. “We are satisfied. It’s definitely a challenging schedule for us, considering the two out-of-state games are against teams that are normal powerhouses in their region.”
Spanish Springs stayed a little closer to home to round out its fall slate. The Cougars had already agreed to play Reno’s Bishop Manogue in the season opener Aug. 24. The Cougars and Miners have not met since the 2007 season.
Spanish Springs will follow that up with one of its three non-league crossover games, on the road against Damonte Ranch, Aug. 31. The next week, Sept. 7, is where SSHS found its open date and the Sparks school has agreed to a road game against Inderkum High of Sacramento.
“I’m happy we were able to fill that date and I’m glad it’s against a team that I like the matchup with,” Hare said. “We’re not playing ‘Sisters of the Poor’ and we’re not playing national powerhouse Del Oro like last year. Getting a competitive game like that this late, usually doesn’t happen. It was more luck than anything. I’m pleased with our schedule. For as late as we got it, it looks good.”
The first week of High Desert League play for the two Sparks schools is Sept. 28. Reed opens league play against rival McQueen while Spanish Springs gets its first conference clash at Hug. The late September league start means both Reed and Spanish Springs will have five games under their belt before they play a contest with any potential postseason ramifications.
“We play the two out-of-state state teams and then Douglas, Manogue and Carson,” Howren said. “That will definitely get you ready for league. There’s nothing I’d want to change. We get five games before league. We’ll find out who we are in those five weeks. Those teams are going to test us and then some.”
Hare had similar sentiments.
“This schedule is definitely a change,” the Cougars’ seventh-year coach said. “Before, we jumped so fast into league. There are positives and negatives, but I’m fine with where we are.”
•The Rail City’s third high school is Sparks, but the Railroaders are not a Northern 4A member and thus did not experience the same scheduling scramble as their local counterparts. Sparks, which will reside in the North’s new 4A Division II next fall, knew its 2012 schedule the day the 2011 season wrapped up.
With a 10-team league, Sparks has a nine-game league schedule that starts Aug. 31. The only opening veteran SHS coach Rob Kittrell had to fill was the optional one on Aug. 24. He did and the Railroaders will play Yerington at home to open their season before running their league gauntlet through the following nine weeks.
Kittrell was pleased to get Yerington for his Hall of Fame game as the schools have played competitive affairs in recent years.
“It’s a pretty good matchup,” he said. “They’re always a solid 2A team. Last year I think they won their league. It’s a good one for us to start off with.”
But what about playing a league contest in Week 2 and every game the rest of the way in the regular season?
“You’d better be well prepared, but at the same time, it’s fair for everybody,” Kittrell said.
Kittrell, who coached Sparks in the Northern 4A ranks, from 1998 through 2003, is familiar with the large-school ranks. He was not envious of the scheduling dilemma those coaches faced this past winter.
“I’ve been in that boat,” he said. “One year we only had eight games and three open weeks because we never could fill those byes. That makes it tough. What we’ve got is real nice. We don’t have to worry about finding games.”