In the second half, it was an entirely different story. Guillen was a beast after the break, racking up 174 of his 196 yards on the ground, leading the Railroaders to a 27-13 non-league victory in the teams’ season opener.
“He’s his own worst enemy. When he’s not using proper footwork and proper technique, he ends up stopping himself,” Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell said. “When he runs the way he’s supposed to, he does a good job.”
Guillen scored the Maroon and Gold’s lone touchdown in the first half, breaking a scoreless tie with a pick-6. Wooster quarterback Chad McSkimming threw a pass directly to Guillen in coverage and he took the interception into the end zone from 18 yards out. Rico Bravo’s extra point made it a 7-0 lead with 2:06 to play in the first quarter.
But the home crowd watched Colts running back Wyatt Fritz run over the Railroaders. On the ensuing kickoff, Fritz returned the ball to midfield, only to have a holding penalty bring the ball back to the 22.
However, on the first play from scrimmage, Fritz finished what he started. The junior collided into the line, broke an arm tackle and was gone for a 78-yard score. The point after by Ricky Solorio was good, tying the game at 7-7 with 1:42 on the first-quarter clock.
Fritz had 118 yards rushing in the first half but it was his backfield mate, Alex Hazeltine, who put the visitors ahead for the first and only time with a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked, so Wooster had to settle for a 13-7 edge with 4:31 to play in the first half.
The Colts looked to tack on more points in the opening drive of the second half, but their drive stalled as soon as they broke into Sparks territory.
Then the Railroaders got to work.
Following a sack to start its first drive of the second half, Sparks turned to Guillen and he broke through a huge hole in the right side of the line and was never close to being taken down. Sixty-five yards later, Guillen’s second of three touchdowns knotted the score at 13-13 at the 7:50 mark of the third quarter.
Again Wooster threatened to score, trekking to the Railroaders’ 23. But the Sparks ‘D’ came up with a stop on fourth-and-3 and forced a turnover on downs, setting up a 77-yard scoring drive.
A 30-yard run by Guillen sparked the drive that almost went for naught.
On fourth-and-goal, Puccinelli rolled out left on a bootleg and lofted a fade to the back corner of the end zone for wide receiver Bryan Orellana, who made a nice catch and was sure to get one foot down inbounds.
The 8-yard TD pass handed Sparks a 20-13 lead with 7:16 left in the game. Puccinelli was 4-for-6 for 44 yards in the game.
“It was frustrating to be in that situation. It was something we put into practice this week and knew if we were ever third-and-medium or fourth-and-long, it could be a play that would be open,” Kittrell said. “You’ve got to give (Joe) Puccinelli and Bryan (Orellana) a lot of credit...It’s easy to make play calls when you have Angels and Joes and Bryans.”
Even though it hadn’t been effective all night, Wooster was forced to go to the air late in the game. It worked once when McSkimming connected with Dana Henjum for 11 yards over the middle, but the next play ended with Orellana going up for a jump ball and pulling down an interception.
Sparks (1-0) was just looking to milk the last 2:27 off the clock, but two plays into the possession, Guillen got a block downfield and punched it in from 56 yards out for the final 27-13 margin.
Junior running back Henry Banks racked up 41 yards on nine carries in the winning cause.
“It’s nice to get a win. Our juniors were 0-9 last year, so they haven’t won since they were freshmen. For the juniors to be on the winning side is good,” Kittrell said.
Sparks is back in action at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Fallon and will look to avoid a repeat of last year when it suffered a mental breakdown in Week 2 in a lopsided loss to the Greenwave.