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Reed, Sp. Springs coaches like progress; Sparks needs to improve
by Dan Eckles
Sep 17, 2012 | 4037 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed quarterback Mark Nowaczewski scrambles out of the pocket while preparing to throw down field.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed quarterback Mark Nowaczewski scrambles out of the pocket while preparing to throw down field.
After back-to-back losses against tough out-of-state competition to open the season, the Reed Raiders have returned home to the Truckee Meadows and posted back-to-back impressive wins.

The most recent of those was a 42-21 shellacking of Manogue on the Miners' home field last Friday. Veteran Reed football coach Ernie Howren liked what he saw from his Raiders at Manogue and more importantly he is pleased with the progression of his squad through the opening month of the season.

"Considering what we started with, this is a good spot to be in," Howren said. "I feel like our schemes, on offense, defense and special teams, will take care of themselves. My focus is the kids and their attitudes. That's what I've been most pleased with. The kids have stayed the course and stayed focused, tried to get better every week. We've had a string of good weeks of practice and that must continue."

Howren said a big part of Reed's Friday night domination of Manogue, a team that has given the Raiders fits in recent years, was its attention to detail and understanding the game plan.


"I thought the kids did a great job of executing our game plan," Howren said. "And there were some things we knew Manogue, with its speed, would try to do against us, to confuse our front. But I thought our kids understood that. They knew what was going on and how to attack it because they did a great job focusing all week and knew what they were expected to do."


Howren singled out the play of his quarterback, Mark Nowaczewski. He said his senior signal caller has been a sponge, soaking up everything he can about the position.


"Mark came out and had a great game against Manogue," Howren said. "He did a great job reading the coverage. Mark has gotten better every week. Every week he does his homework and every week he understands the game a little bit better."


If there was an area of concern for Reed coaches it was watching their team give up three fourth-quarter touchdowns, even though the outcome of the contest was never in doubt.  Still, Howren understands what happened and said it's part of a team's learning curve.


"You're always worried when you give up points but the reality is we had some young kids in there late in the second half and they did make some mistakes," Howren said. "But for some of those kids it was their first game experience. We need to get some backups in the game and we need them to learn."


•At Spanish Springs, the Cougars are off to a solid start, sitting 3-1 after last Friday's 20-6 win at Galena. Still, the SSHS gridders are far from perfect. Spanish Springs made enough plays to win but it went through long stretches of the game where it made mistakes followed by more mistakes.


Cougars coach Scott Hare alluded to a period in the non-league affair when his defense seemingly got off the field four straight times only to see a penalty or miscue keep it defending. That stretch illustrated the positive and negative.


"We had four times in a row where our defense got off the field and had to go back, on the same drive," Howren said. "And Galena still didn't score on that drive. That's pretty impressive by our defense."


Outside of its one scoring drive, Galena was bottled up all night by what looks to be a solid Cougars defensive unit through four games.


"We were gap sound," Hare said. "We played really physical football and I thought our secondary played well. Galena wanted to do some things against our secondary. They got us for a couple first downs but ultimately we covered pretty well, and even picked one off and took it back for a score that basically put the game away."


When the gun sounded after the final seconds ticked off at Galena, Hare was less than pleased with his offense's execution. Initially, Hare thought his club's offensive woes were due to a bigger problem. Upon further review, he thinks the miscues are more fixable.


"I don't think our offense played as poorly as I thought originally," Hare said. "Our O-line did make some improvements on things we'd worked on during the week. We had some missed assignments. Our communication is still a struggle at times in our no-huddle stuff. When we got the play correct, I thought we did a pretty good job. Our problems were more communication errors than blocking errors. I'm pleased with that because right after the game I thought Galena beat us up front. But that wasn't the case."


Hare would love it if his team was 4-0, but he knows his loss came on the road against a perennially tough California school when his club played without its all-league quarterback. He said the bigger picture is that his players are coming to practice hungry every day to make strides.


"We're still cleaning things up," Hare said. "We have to practice to get better. But our problems are not a talent issue and they're now a 'want-to' issue.  Our kids are playing hard and the mistakes we're making are process mistakes. It doesn't matter if you're the Super Bowl champion New York Giants or NCAA champion Alabama, you play and then you practice to get better. We're in the same boat."

•At Sparks, the Railroaders are still trying to get competitive. The Railroaders are 0-4 and have lost each game by at least 37 points.

"We've got to keep things simple," Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. "But when you're playing good teams, if you do that, it's a little easier for them to figure out what you're doing. There's not as much smoke and mirrors to what we're doing as there was 10 years ago. We've just got to keep it simple until our guys get up to varsity speed."

Despite the final margin of last weekend's 54-7 home drubbing at the hands of Fernley, Kittrell said there were some bright spots. He pointed out that the Railroaders' offense racked up more than 300 yards of offense despite the fact it was limited to the one touchdown. Two turnovers deep in FHS territory hurt the Railroaders' scoring chances.

"Offensively, I thought we took a step in the right direction," Kittrell said. "We had 300 yards off offense. Usually when you do that, you get at least three touchdowns. A couple of turnovers killed us. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We've got to get more consistent offensively,"

While the veteran SHS gridiron guru was able to find some positives from his offense, there were fewer good things to say about the defense, which has given up 50-plus points in all four of the local school's losses.

"Defensively, we've still got a ways to go," Kittrell said. "We're just playing a step slow compared to what the offense is doing. And that's a combination of things. We've been playing teams that are a little bit more athletic than us, but at the same time, you see good defenses that might not be as athletic, but still recognize where they need to go.

"I think we're having a hard time replicating the speed of another team's offense in practice. There are times in practice where we look like we're reading it right, but then in a game we get against bigger, faster kids."

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