Yerington asserted itself early on the ground, gouging the Railroaders all night as the Lions racked up 393 yards rushing.
“We weren’t tackling when we were there,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “They were just better than us. They’re good.”
While Sparks did not have an answer defensively, it was also unable to form a response on the offensive side of the ball.
The Railroaders’ offense managed little to start the game as two consecutive three-and-out drives gave the Lions prime opportunities to put points on the scoreboard, and they made sure to take advantage.
After the Railroaders' opening drive stalled, Yerington took possession of the ball and marched down the field unhindered. Using their ground attack, the Lions ate up large chunks of yardage en route to a 72-yard drive that was capped off by a 35-yard scamper from Josh Lauderdale for a 7-0 lead at the 7:03 mark of the first quarter.
Following Sparks’ second straight three-and-out, Yerington again wasted little time getting in the end zone.
A 33-yard pass from Jeremy Foli to Tylor Thomas got things going for the Lions, followed by a 35-yard dash by Christian Hazel into the red zone. Standing 5 yards out, Yerington handed the ball to Sam Monahan to seal the deal, bringing the score to 13-0 with 3:54 remaining in the first.
On Sparks' third drive of the night, the Railroaders managed their first first down of the night. Unfortunately for Maroon and Gold supporters, any momentum was cut short as a pass attempt glanced off the hand of Mario Guadron and into the awaiting arms of Yerington’s Ramiro Ramirez.
Taking over with 2:08 still in the first quarter, the Lions used less than a minute to put seven more points on the scoreboard. Sweeping out to the left sideline, Alex Brown raced past would-be defenders, turning a third-and-8 into a 53-yard touchdown run to make the Yerington advantage 20-0.
After Yerington added a 30-yard field from Monahan, Sparks finally managed to create some production of its own.
Back-to-back 6-yard gashes from running back Hennessey Banks, ignited the Railroaders before quarterback Geo Vasquez connected with Cedric Sanchez on a quick slant down to the 2-yard line. From there, Banks finished what he started with a plunge over the goal line to cut the deficit to 23-7 at the 3:31 mark of the second quarter.
Yerington countered Sparks’ score in less than two minutes. Initially it looked as though the Railroaders might hold their counterparts to a field goal try, but with fourth-and-inches from the Sparks 30-yard line, the Lions elected to gamble. Pitching the ball out left to Monahan, it seemed the Railroaders had all their gaps covered, but Monahan quickly turned a loss into a huge gain with a halfback pass to a wide open Thomas for six.
With Yerington holding a decisive 29-7 edge and just under two minutes left in the first half, Sparks tried to get something going heading into the locker rooms. Just reaching midfield, Vasquez hit wide receiver Mastor Sells across the middle, where he was greeted by a Lions defender who dislodged the ball from his grasp. Yerington’s Dakota Thompson quickly snatched the ball out of midair before he weaved his way 45 yards to the opposite end zone to give the visitors a 36-7 lead at the 1:35 mark of the second.
Down by four TDs plus some, Sparks decided to again go for a score before half but this time prevailed.
Using short dump-offs to pick their way down the field, the Railroaders found themselves on the 6-yard line with 0:01 before halftime. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, Vasquez delivered a swift pass to Sanchez on a slant where he was sandwiched by a pair of Yerington defensive backs but held on to the ball, leaving the score at 36-14 at intermission. The comeback effort proved too little, too late though.
Yerington took its opening possession of the second half and once more sped down the field. Following a 49-yard dash from Brown down to the 5-yard line, Monahan tallied his second score of the night with a 4-yard dive as the Lions took a 43-14 lead with 9:57 to play in the third.
The Lions added another score on their next try, this time on an 11-yard run from Jacob Ackley to push the advantage to 50-14 with 5:23 on the third-quarter clock.
The scoring for the night was capped off as each squad added a touchdown. Vasquez connected with Andrew Chamberlain to bring the score to 50-21 with 9:10 to play, before Lauderdale scored for a second time to result in the 58-21 final.
Brown led the way for the Lions, totaling 133 yards rushing on five carries. Lauderdale and Monahan each added a pair of scores, running for 85 yards on four carries and 64 yards on 11 carries, respectively. Hazel and Tyler Schlegelmilch both chipped in on the ground as well, with Hazel tallying 60-yards on three rushes and Schlegelmilch grabbing 40 yards on five carries. Thomas finished the game with 62 yards on two receptions and a TD.
For the Railroaders, Kittrell said there were some positives.
“Mario Guadron ran the ball really hard. Mario, like them, just ran through first-tacklers. That’s the difference between two yards and six yards. Aside from that I thought Geo threw well and I thought we had some receivers step up.”
Vasquez was 13-of-24 for 102 yards through the air. Sanchez was on the receiving end of four of those passes, totaling 41 yards and a score. Guadron rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries, while Banks tallied 47 yards on 15 attempts.
Moving forward, Sparks will try to shore up its areas of need.
“We have to work on everything,” Kittrell said. “We have to work on being a more physical football team. There was a lot of not coming off the ball and a lot of arm tackling. We have to find a way to become more physical and better tacklers. We can’t be a timid team. We’ve been a finesse, throw-it-all-over team the last couple years, and we have to toughen up.”