That week is here and all three of the Rail City’s prep squads will play their season openers. The intensity level couldn’t be much higher as players get set to don their uniforms for the first time.
“The football season started in January (with offseason conditioning). We’ve had a lot of time to prepare for this first game,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “Our kids just can’t wait.”
Coaches across Nevada are echoing those thoughts here in the final days before season openers. Here’s a closer look at each of the three debut contests involving Sparks schools.
Wooster at Sparks,
Friday 6 p.m.
Rob Kittrell is set to start his 12th season at the helm of the Railroaders program and after his decade-plus of coaching he knows there’s something special about season openers.
“When you put the jersey on for the first time and turn on the lights, you feel a little more energy in that first game. The kids are ready to go,” he said. “We’ve talked about it. Friday night, it’s for real. The scores are going in the paper and will be on the news. It’s the real deal and we’re definitely excited about it.”
Sparks, a 3A North playoff team last year, opens its fall campaign against a 4A opponent in Wooster. The Railroaders and Colts coaching staffs exchanged film last weekend after both had played scrimmages. So what did the SHS coaches learn about Friday’s foe?
“Wooster is very well coached and they do a good job defensively of everyone getting to the football. Fundamentally, they are pretty sound,” Kittrell said. “I anticipate a good ball game. The team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win.”
The Railroaders veteran skipper had mixed feelings after watching his team in a jamboree of scrimmages last weekend. He liked the effort but expected a little more from his returners.
“We need to be a lot sharper than what we were in the scrimmage and what we’ve been in practice,” he said. "We have high expectations for this team and there’s lot of stuff we need to work on to become a good football team.
“We can’t put the ball on the ground. We had some turnovers in the scrimmage that were just uncalled for. They were unforced turnovers. There were times where we looked pretty good, but other times when we didn’t. You expect that at this point in the season, but we’ve got to be more consistent.”
Carson at Spanish Springs,
Friday 7 p.m.
You can bet Spanish Springs would like nothing more than to see a repeat of something similar to last season’s opener between the two schools. At Carson, Spanish Springs racked up 19 unanswered points after halftime and cruised to a 33-14 triumph over the host Senators.
However, the lopsided final wasn’t indicative of how each team would fare throughout its season. Spanish Springs rolled through its early non-league schedule only to struggle in league play and miss the postseason for the sixth straight year. Carson struggled through its preseason slate, but improved in its league schedule and advanced into the playoffs.
So what should Spanish Springs expect in 2009?
“I know they’ve got 16 returning starters, and as last season went on, they got better,” fourth-year Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “They should compete for a Sierra League championship with the guys they have returning and they should feel better about their schemes. I think this will be a good game, a good test for us.”
Like most football coaches, Hare is a pigskin junkie. He lives for the fall and says it feels like forever ago since his Spanish Springs club ended the 2008 season. It’s unclear who is more excited to start the new season, Hare or his players.
“We’re ready to play a game,” he said. “I’m glad it’s a non-league game, but after summer stuff and double days, I think we’re ready to find out where we’re at. We’re ready to hit somebody else. After we play, we’ll look at the film and see where we need to get better, but we’re definitely ready to get on the field.”
Spanish Springs and Carson coaches also exchanged films of their scrimmages last weekend. Hare was impressed with what he saw from Carson.
“They have made some adjustments from a year ago to play more to their strengths,” he said. “Their D-line is aggressive and gets up the field. In their scrimmage against North Valleys, they looked good. They took it to North Valleys and I’m sure they’ll try to take it to us.”
Reed at Bishop Manogue,
Saturday 1:30 p.m.
RHS coach Ernie Howren has said time and again he wants a tough non-league schedule. He’s got just that this year playing California schools Franklin and Oceanside. However, before the Raiders get to those tough tilts they open the season against defending Sierra League champion Manogue.
“They are reloading, not rebuilding,” Howren said of the Miners. “They lost some good players, but they have guys filling their shoes. Their quarterback has a good arm. Their receivers have good hands and they’ve always got a good offensive line. It is a little bit smaller, but they still get a good push up front.”
The two teams may be similar in those areas. Reed returns one of the top signal callers in the Northern 4A in Tyler Pine, a solid receiving corps and an experienced offensive line. But, while Howren has been pleased with his team’s preseason workouts, he says his team is far from sharp in its offensive execution.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “But, then again we’re not supposed to be playing our best football right now. We’re supposed to be working really hard, and we have. But that crisp, sharp play will come, hopefully as we get ready for league.”
Along those lines, Howren stressed that physical play will be key Saturday afternoon.
“Because we’re not going to be as sharp as we’d like to be early in the season, we need to be physical. You always want to out-hit your opponent, but we really have to be up to hitting this first week. That’s important.”