Still, Reed coach Ernie Howren says it doesn't sound like a broken record in the Raiders locker room. He just stresses that everyone donning the Blue and Gold team colors knows there are improvements to be made, and until they are, those areas will continue to be addressed.
"We're a big family here at Reed," Howren said. "We're not afraid to put stuff out on the table. We've talked about it. We call ourselves out. We know offensively we have to get better. We're going to keep plugging along. We're not in a panic mode."
While the Raiders have been able to put points on the board, they have not been able to put long drives together on a consistent basis. That is the biggest area of frustration for the RHS gridders as they work their way through the final weeks of the season.
"It's the same old thing," Howren said. "We're still very inconsistent on offense. The bright spot we take away from the film is, it's one block away, one read on a pass. It's one little thing holding us back from consistently moving the ball up and down the field. How are we going to fix it? That's something we as a team must figure out. It's a concern only because we have yet to put together a consistent stretch. That's the part I think will come around."
While Howren still wants to see more from his offense, the Raiders defense continues to impress. Reed's first-string defenders have given up just one touchdown in their last seven quarters of play.
"The thing I keep taking away after reflecting each week is our No. 1 defense has been great," Howren said. "For our defense to basically only give up six points in seven quarters speaks volumes about the effort our defensive coaching staff is making. Those guys are just doing a great job. A lot of credit must go to our starting 11 and our three defensive coaches. We started off a little slow early in the season but we never lost faith in what we were doing."
Reed improved to 5-3 overall and 3-0 in conference clashes with its win over North Valleys last Friday. Reed still controls its own destiny in terms of winning a High Desert League title. Two wins in its last two games — against Reno and Spanish Springs — will help the east Sparks school accomplish just that. However, both Reno and Spanish Springs are still striving for that same goal.
"At this point in the season, we might as well feel like the playoffs have started," Howren said. "Every game counts and puts us in playoff position, determines how many home playoff games you may get. For all intents and purposes, the playoffs start this week."
•At Spanish Springs, the Cougars are coming off one of the biggest wins in their program's history. A 45-36 victory over perennial region and state power McQueen. The euphoric win came a week after a frustrating home loss to Reno. While the win over the Lancers felt good and was pivotal in the Cougars' hopes of staying in the league championship hunt, by Sunday morning, SSHS coach Scott Hare was already watching game film on Spanish Springs' next opponent, North Valleys.
"It is amazing in this business how fast you have to move on, and on both sides of it," Hare said. "We're already thinking about North Valleys and yet we couldn't dwell on the loss to Reno last week either ... But I definitely think the McQueen win was huge. We're staying the course and playing well right now. We're right in the mix of this HDL race."
The Cougars (6-2, 2-1) are indeed in that mix and that's because they're learning from their mistakes. In the loss to Reno, the Spanish Springs offense was waiting for longer passing routes to come open and passed on open short routes in the face of Huskies pressure. The result was Cougars quarterback Hunter Fralick was often scrambling for his life. The SSHS offense never got into a rhythm and it struggled. Against McQueen, the Spanish Springs offense did a much better job of taking what the Lancers' defense was giving and it paid off.
"I felt like we did a much better job of allowing Hunter to get into a rhythm and our receivers to catch some balls," Hare said. "We spread the ball around and got a lot of first downs. We moved the football and got a lot of good throw and catches. Hunter threw to the right guy in the right spot and guys made the catch. That was really good."
The Cougars' seventh-year coach also praised his offensive line, noting his linemen made their blocks time and again, missing very few assignments and then getting a good push for the running attack as the game wore on.
On multiple occasions during Hare's tenure, his Cougar teams have ridden hot starts into league play only to come up short of achieving big goals because they couldn't beat the 'big boys' of northern Nevada football when it mattered most. Additionally, the SSHS crew allowed those tough losses to steamroll and turn into losing streaks.
The McQueen comeback win after the Reno loss has Hare excited about club's ability to fight through adversity.
"The way we played against McQueen, getting down and coming back, has emotions high," he said. "I do feel like this team is different. We beat Douglas when it was ranked No. 1 (in the North). Now our Galena win looks pretty good. I like the way we're playing right now, rising to the occasion."
•At Sparks, the winless Railroaders suffered through another tough loss, 50-14 at home to South Tahoe. It's been a long season for an SHS squad that for the most part has not been in contention in the second half of games.
However, that was one positive to take away from its weekend defeat against the Vikings. A Sparks touchdown late in the third saw the Railroaders hanging around. They were down just two scores with a quarter yet to play.
"We were down 29-14 going into the fourth quarter," Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. "We just don't have that big play potential. South Tahoe went in and scored that touchdown to go up three scores and we had to try and open it up little bit. We had a couple receivers out and we just couldn't get clicking. We had to get out of our comfort zone."
South Tahoe scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to put the game away, but Sparks had something to play for late in a game. That hasn't been the case this fall, so Kittrell is most pleased that his team is not quitting on a season that hasn't had many positives.
"Our sideline was pretty fired up Friday night," Kittrell said. "We hadn't seen that all year. The kids are feeling it. They are seeing their improvement. We're so young. That's good for our younger kids, seeing that by working hard every day, they are getting better. That stuff is encouraging."
The fall campaign has been tough on Maroon and Gold players and coaches. The scoreboard hasn't been kind but in most matchups, the Railroaders just haven't had as many special athletes as their opponents.
"That's really what it boils down to. Every week, we're the slower team," Kittrell said. "When you have to make up for that lack of athleticism, you need to be more disciplined and smart. We're getting there slowly but surely. Our offense is pretty close to hitting a good stride. Defensively, our tackling has been better. We've had guys in better spots than what we've had. We're starting to make more plays defensively."
Sparks has two games left on its fall slate, on the road against Dayton and Wooster the next two Fridays. There won't be any playoff berth for Sparks this fall and a winning season was long ago gone, but Railroaders coaches and players know there is plenty left to play for.
"We just want to keep getting better," Kittrell said. "Our focus will be more of a run team, getting back to some of our old 'I' stuff. Defensively, we're becoming more sound in our jobs and duties. We want to still get better a those things. This is momentum building toward next year. And we want to get these seniors, and all these kids a win. We want them to walk off the field, feeling that reward."