Unfortunately for Maroon and Gold fans, it wasn’t the Railroaders who got it going as Spring Creek rolled to a 55-0 Northern I-A victory.
Spring Creek racked up 101 yards on 20 plays in the first quarter and the Spartans were sniffing the end zone as time expired in the first period.
The visitors opened the second quarter inside the Sparks 1-yard line with the game still scoreless. Even a false start penalty that pushed them back outside the 5 couldn’t prevent the Spartans from changing the score.
On the first play of the second quarter, senior running back Josh Hull ran up the middle off the left tackle and crossed the goal line for the game’s first score - four seconds into the second quarter. Kicker Colby Patton split the uprights on the extra point, making it a 7-0 game.
Spring Creek kept rolling after that. The defense, which held the Railroaders to 38 yards of offense on 18 plays in the first half, got the ball back for the offense and the Spartans got back to work.
Spring Creek started its next drive on its own 38. It went 62 yards on six plays. A 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Austin Plank to wide receiver Austin Campbell capped the scoring drive. The PAT was low for a 13-0 score with 7:35 on the second-quarter clock.
Plank was 4-for-4 through the air in the first half for 27 yards.
Spring Creek tacked on one more touchdown in the first half for good measure.
The Spartans took over at their own 48 with 5:52 to go before halftime and went to senior running back Levi Bliss on seven straight plays.
Four consecutive runs by Bliss marched the ball down to the Sparks 15. Bliss then caught a pass for eight yards, and two plays later, he was over the goal line on a 3-yard touchdown run, giving Spring Creek a 20-0 edge at the break.
Bliss was the workhorse in the first half. He rumbled for 150 yards on 21 carries. Hull added 58 yards on seven carries as the Spartans outgained the hosts by 200 yards in the first half.
“Defensively, I thought we lined up well,” Spring Creek coach Joel Jund said. “We flew to the ball and hit some people. That’s what it takes.”
The second half didn’t get any prettier for the Railroaders. After unsuccessfully trying to recover an on-side kick to start the second half, Sparks watched Spring Creek strike for a touchdown in less than two minutes.
Plank rolled out to the right and hooked up with a wide-open Campbell for a 25-yard touchdown reception and a 27-0 advantage with 9:58 showing on the clock.
Sparks went backwards on the ensuing drive and punted away after a three-and-out. The Spartans set up at the Sparks 40 and plowed their way to a 34-0 lead on a 4-yard toss play in which Hull barreled in for the score.
Then it began to unravel for the home team. After picking up their fourth of five first downs in the game, the Railroaders turned the ball over at their own 14 when a snap went through the hands of quarterback Geo Vasquez.
Three plays later, sophomore back-up running back Braxton Williams scored from 6 yards out in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. That left Spring Creek leading 41-0.
Not that they needed it, but the Spartans enjoyed some good luck when Sparks was forced to punt again. Punter Hennessey Banks shanked the punt and the line drive kick went directly to Matt Virgin, who was attempting to jam the gunner on the outside. Because the punt was so low and the coverage team wasn’t ready for a return, Virgin was able to catch the ball at the Sparks 40 and nearly sprint his way to the end zone. However, he was taken down and fumbled it at the 2, but Spring Creek was able to maintain possession.
Two snaps later, Cory Beach plowed into the end zone, increasing the gap to 48-0 and started the running clock with 5:42 to play.
The Spartans got the ball back one more time, but instead of running out the final two minutes, Williams took it in from 32 yards out on the first play from scrimmage.
Spring Creek, which is coming off a 22-0 loss to Dayton and had only scored 13 points in its first two games, sent Sparks to its second straight shutout loss.
“It’s a process. I thought we got better this week. We just have to keep going now,” Jund said. “We play Wooster next week. We take another trip up here. We need to get ready for the next one. It definitely was a step in the right direction. I thought Dayton was really a more physical team than we were last week. I thought our kids responded well. That’s what it’s going to take in this league. You’re going to have some tough games. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. You can’t let one loss become two.”
Sparks (0-3, 0-2 in Division I-A) will look to pick up its first win of the season when it hosts Fernley at 7 p.m. Friday night.