Evans could not have imagined a better first half, returning a kickoff for a touchdown to go along with two TD receptions. He even had an interception on defense.
When the Spartans decided to slow the game down and milk the clock, Irvin, a junior running back, was there to help the Elko County school march down the field. Irvin racked up 155 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on 30 carries to account for over half Spring Creek’s 300 yards of offense.
The first quarter was all Sparks in the stat column though.
A muffed punt by Spring Creek’s Marty Shanks allowed Sparks to continue its possession on the Spartans’ 37. The first play after the punt saw Railroaders quarterback Joe Puccinelli break two tackles and sprint into the end zone for six points. The PAT was blocked.
However, after the touchdown run, an unsportsmanlike penalty was called on the Maroon and Gold and was assessed on the ensuing kickoff. That ended up being a dagger for the home team.
Evans caught the kickoff at the 23 and was off to the races for the long touchdown return. Louis Nolte’s point after was good and Springs Creek led the rest of the way.
“Any momentum we had from that we lost and didn’t recover from that,” Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell said. “Anytime we started to get momentum going again, we turned the ball over.”
Spring Creek only had 23 yards of offense in the fist quarter, but more than doubled that on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Nate Hofland to Evans for a 14-6 lead.
After forcing the third three-and-out of the half, the Spartans took over on their own 45 and turned to Irvin. On his fifth straight carry during the drive, Irvin rumbled into the end zone from 13 yards out, pushing the gap to 21-6.
When Sparks’ next drive began, it looked good when Puccinelli scrambled for 28 yards on the initial play, but somehow the ball popped straight up in the air at the end of his run and Spring Creek recovered what would be the first of many turnovers.
“That’s hard to say, but the turnovers didn’t give us much of a chance to find out if that was (the difference),” Kittrell said. “We’re not a very good passing team, and it’s something we’ve been focusing on to try and get better.”
The Spartans trekked 60 yards for the score on an 11-yard fade pass to Evans in the corner of the end zone with 3:07 to play in the first half.
Sparks (1-5, 0-2 3A North) tried to answer back, but three plays later, Puccinelli was picked off by Evans.
The halftime deficit could have been worse than 28-6, but the Spartans fumbled an exchange on a reverse play and handed the ball back to Sparks.
On the Railroaders’ first possession of the second half and after holding their opponents to a three-and-out, Puccinelli was sacked and coughed up the ball for a second time.
Spring Creek (3-3, 1-1 3A North) took over at midfield and capped an eight-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by Irvin.
Sparks turned the ball over one more time on the night but it did not translate to any points.
The Railroaders were able to put six more points on the scoreboard with 30 seconds remaining in the game. The defense picked up a key stop on fourth-and-2 at the Sparks 33, and the offense went 67 yards in three minutes.
Puccinelli tossed a swing pass to Henry Banks, who took it in from 12 yards out for the final 35-12 margin. Puccinelli was 5-of-10 for 52 yards through the air. He also ran for 44 yards on 15 carries, while Angel Guillen led the rushing attack with 70 yards on 17 touches. Sparks had 166 yards of offense.
With losses to Dayton and Springs Creek, Sparks has dug itself a huge hole in order to reach the postseason. The Railroaders will likely need to knock off preseason favorites Truckee or Fernley. Kittrell was careful to note his team will need to take care of business in its next two league battles at Lowry and at home against Yerington in order for the final two weekends of the regular season to matter.