While more than a few fans left SSHS grumbling over a lackluster 13-6 Spanish Springs win over Elko Friday night, Cougars coach Scott Hare was not one of them.
“I don’t know who said you have to score 40 points and win. It’s a week-to-week thing and you just have to score one more point than your opponent,” Hare said.
“Right now I feel like our defense is a strength. We play good defense and understand situations. Honestly, at this point, I don’t expect us to put up 45 points a week.”
Neither team scored in the second half, which kept Elko (2-4, 0-3 HDL) in contention until the final horn. Trailing by the final seven-point margin, Elko took possession on its own 11-yard line with 3:08 to go in the contest. The Indians drove to midfield, but on a third-and-10 play with just over a minute and a half to go in the game, Elko quarterback Ben Suyematsu was intercepted by Spanish Springs’ Jalen Dixon. The Cougars’ free safety returned the pick 34 yards to the Elko 26, effectively killing any Elko hopes of a comeback.
“We prepared all week. We read our keys and held them to six points,” Spanish Springs senior linebacker Luke Arciniega said. “That’s what counts. We could’ve come out with more intensity, but we can’t change that now. We will next week. A win is a win.”
The first half seemed like an offensive fireworks show compared to the second half. Spanish Springs (5-2, 3-1) got on the scoreboard first when Tanner Oates found a seam up the middle, ran into open field and bolted 73 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Cougs, Brandon Pelfrey’s extra point kick sailed wide and the SSHS gridders were left with a 6-0 lead at the 6:39 mark of the first quarter.
The lead was short-lived. Elko marched 61 yards for a game-tying score. Ray Schroeder did the scoring damage with a 3-yard run, but the big play on the drive came when Suyematsu hooked up with Ty Wilson for a 42-yard pass-and-catch combination. Elko’s extra-point kick failed as well and the scoreboard read 6-6.
“It was a great effort by our kids. We had opportunities,” Elko coach Mike Tournahu said. “We just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. In the last couple weeks we’ve made a lot of mistakes and we wanted to clean those up. We were better. If you’d told me before the game we’d hold them to 13 points, I’d have thought we won. But we weren’t able to score.”
Spanish Springs found the end zone again when Oates broke loose for another big gain. The fleet-footed signal caller outran the Elko defense 54 yards for the Cougars’ second touchdown of the night. The PAT kick was good and Spanish Springs jumped ahead 13-6 with 3:39 left before halftime.
Oates finished the night with 131 yards on just four carries. Dom Smith racked up 94 yards on 17 carries. Spanish Springs finished with 232 rushing yards on 23 carries.
However, the Cougars were limited in their passing attack. Oates completed just 5 of 14 passes for 30 yards.
Spanish Springs gets a bye from High Desert League play next weekend but will host Santee High of Los Angeles in a non-conference affair. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Cougars then conclude their regular season with a pair of league games against traditional northern Nevada powers, Reed and McQueen.
“In the big picture, I don’t care how we win. We’re 3-1 in league and we get to play Reed and McQueen in the next couple weeks for a league championship,” Hare said.