All three Rail City squads will be looking for something positive to brag about when the final horn sounds on this weekend’s gridiron tilts. Here’s a closer look at the triumvirate of matchups involving local schools.
Spanish Springs at Scotts Valley, Calif., Saturday 2 p.m.
•Spanish Springs has high hopes for its 2013 fall campaign. So getting upset at home last week, after taking a lead into the final minute of play, was not exactly what the Cougars were looking for in their season debut.
Eighth-year SSHS coach Scott Hare said his team got beat up physically by a hungrier Damonte Ranch team, stressing that must change if his Cougars want to achieve the success they’ve dreamed about.
“We’ve got to improve our effort and habits, how we go about doing things from play to play in a football game,” Hare said. “We didn’t finish blocks. We didn’t get off blocks. And Damonte did all that stuff. They were impressive to watch. They tried incredibly hard that and made us look that much worse.”
So what will the Cougars’ coaching staff do to whip their players into shape? Let’s just say Spanish Springs practices this week could’ve been dubbed ‘Hell Week.’
“It’s already started. This is and will be a very difficult week of practice,” Hare said. “The kids will be sore Saturday afternoon when they play. We just have to prepare our bodies. We are in shape. That’s not the problem. We know how to run hard and in a straight line. Now we need to learn how to play tired and get behind our pads when we’re tried, but we’re definitely in shape.”
The Cougars (0-1) will need to be. According to Hare, Scotts Valley won’t pull any punches. The suburban San Jose school rolled to a 41-3 romp in its season opener last weekend, and Hare, a native of the south Bay Area, said Scotts Valley won’t look to run many trick plays or beat opponents to the outside.
“They are very physical and want to come up and hit us right in the mouth,” Hare said. “They’re almost the complete opposite of Damonte in that they don’t go around. Scotts Valley is very physical and everything goes through you, both offensively and defensively.
“They go double tight with two backs and they’re going to come downhill right at us with a very good running back. This will be a good test for us and a lot different than last Friday’s test. We’re definitely not going to avoid blocks.”
Spanish Springs has made a road trip out of northern Nevada a common occurrence, having made treks to the Bay Area and Sacramento in recent seasons. The Cougars’ caravan will leave mid-day Friday, attend the Santa Cruz Boardwalk theme park on Friday night and stay overnight in central California. A pregame walk-through on the beach is planned for Saturday morning.
“We only have so many teams in our area,” Hare said. “We’ve got to leave or take a bye. There are different philosophies there … Our kids work hard to raise money and because of that I want to reward them. Some schools reward kids with fancy helmets and fancy jerseys. I reward us with a trip. It’s worked out. The kids like the trip and get to see a different area. We’re going to run though pregame Saturday at the beach. That’s something different you don’t get to do every day.
“It’s kind of fun to get on a bus and hang out together. The kids seem to like it.”
Reed at Douglas, Friday 7 p.m. •Reed coach Ernie Howren tried for the better part of a year to fill his team’s bye week last weekend, but to no avail. So his team took advantage of the down time to work on its fundamentals and schemes without worrying about preparing for a game. Howren said he came away with mixed feelings.
“We didn’t get exactly what we wanted. It was tough on everybody involved,” he said. “You prepare for Friday night. That’s what you want. Unfortunately for us, that was a 45-play intra-squad scrimmage. I felt like we could’ve gotten more out of it, but if a bye was going to happen, I’m glad it happened when it did. It allowed us to make up for some double-day practices that we did miss.”
The Raiders (1-0) don’t have to worry about missing out this week. Traditionally tough Douglas (0-2) is next on the Raiders’ slate. Reed will try to recapture the intense, physical energy it played with on Opening Night (Aug. 30), when it earned a 38-28 road win at perennial Norcal power Foothill of suburban Redding.
With the off night last Friday, Howren and his staff got a chance to scout Douglas in person. So what did the veteran RHS coach see from the Tigers?
“I know their defense is very fast and physical,” Howren said. “Many times they gave McQueen a lot of problems up font with their blitz packages. They just come off the football tough. It’s typical Douglas football. They always play defense fast and hard and they try to out-physical you at the point of attack.”
Raiders coaches and players are anxious to get back on the field with uniforms on and the clock ticking away. Howren likes most of what he’s seeing from his squad, but he admitted there are areas that need to improve.
“I’m very impressed with the practice work ethic of our kids,” he said. “They definitely come out prepared and working hard. The physicality at practice, this has been one of our better teams. I’m really pleased with our attention to detail.
“But first and foremost, we’ve got to get better with our game speed. Missing double-day practices and missing the scrimmage didn’t help. We are not as fast as we need to be. The kids know that too. That’s probably why they’re working so hard. They understand they need to get up to speed very quickly.”
Sparks at Spring Creek, Friday 7 p.m.
•The wheels fell off the Sparks Railroaders’ football train last weekend in a 55-0 season-opening home loss to Elko. Now the SHS coaching staff is working frantically to get them back on.
Sparks coach Rob Kittrell is taking the blame and putting it firmly on his shoulders. He’s hoping his players can catch on quickly and help remove that burden.
“We were sloppy and our timing was off,” Kittrell said. “It (the first quarter) was probably the worst quarter of football I’ve ever coached or we’ve ever been prepared for. We had illegal procedure penalties. We had no rhythm.
“We’re behind and we have to get caught up. That’s the bottom line. I have to do a better job of demanding that we are caught up. We are a lot more intense in practice this week. Everything is high intensity with lots of repetitions. We’re doing it until it’s perfect.”
While Sparks was busy struggling last Friday with Elko, Spring Creek was busy bouncing back from a lackluster start to knock off Dayton, 30-16. The Spartans fell behind 16-0 in the first quarter, but did not allow another Dust Devils score and rallied for 30 straight points to post the comeback win.
Kittrell saw the film and was impressed with Spring Creek’s ability to persevere.
“Spring Creek looks quick on film,” he said. “It’s hard to tell how big they are. They look like they have quick athletes. Offensively, they try to get you running sideline while they go north and south. Defensively, they swarm to the ball well.”
Kittrell admitted Spring Creek poses a stiff challenge. Still, he believes his players will bounce back from a rough outing. He pointed to a higher intensity level and more physical style of play that he saw from his team during its full-contact summer camp a month ago as a reason to be optimistic.
“I expect our kids to bounce back and be competitive,” the Railroaders’ coach said. “We have a lot of seniors on this team who worked really hard in the offseason. I expect them to think back to all that hard work.
“Now it’s time to start bouncing back and being competitive … The bottom line is we have to be better and we have to be faster. The most disheartening thing is at camp, a month ago, I felt like we were playing at a pretty good pace. We must get back to that. I’ve seen it from them before. They know how to do it. Now it’s just getting it out of them.”