With the high school band, cheerleaders and flag twirlers pumping up players, the Railroaders enjoyed the festive atmosphere and provided some fireworks of their own to start the 3A Northern Region boys soccer tournament.
Sparks lit up Lowry for seven goals in a 7-0 rout, advancing to the regional semifinals and earning a chance to capture a state tourney berth.
“We always worry about Lowry because they always come ready to play in the postseason. They’re a good team over there,” Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla said. “We’re getting ready. Hopefully, the soccer gods continue to shine on us and we stay injury-free. We were able to play all 22 of our roster today pretty much equally, and I’m happy with that. We didn’t see much of a difference when our subs came in, which is a great thing.”
Second-seeded Sparks, which had not lost to a Humboldt League team all season, kept that streak going with solid defense and a nearly constant offensive barrage, scoring on seven of its 17 shots.
It took a while to get going, but once Andrew Garcia broke the ice in the 21st minute, off an assist by Pepe Mercado, it was all Maroon and Gold.
Four minutes later, Garcia received a pass in the box from Eric Ojeda and ripped a shot into the back of the net.
In the 30th minute, Cesar Garcia got into the scoring act when Abi Quintino fed him a pass and he unleashed a shot with his left foot into the far corner of the goal for a 3-0 lead.
Quintino made it a four-goal lead heading into halftime with five minutes left before the break. The senior forward used some fancy footwork to get by the Buckaroos’ defense and beat the goalkeeper with a low shot just inside the far post.
Even playing mostly reserves in the second half, the Railroaders were able to add to their lead over the No. 3 team from the Humboldt League.
Midway through the second half, Eduardo Cervantes sent a ball to the right side of the field to Mercado on the run. Mercado lofted a high cross to the far post and Vincente Cervantes jumped backwards to get a head on the ball and knock it into the goal for a 5-0 edge.
In the 65th minute, Christian Cordova one-timed a shot mid-stride into the right side of the goal thanks to an assist by Eduardo Cervantes.
With three minutes left, Edgar Casillas launched a shot from 30 yards out that sailed over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net, making Sparks’ first 3A home playoff soccer game a memorable one.
“It’s our first time hosting, and we’re very proud of that,” Avilla said. “We wish it was a different time of day, so more people could get here. We hope we can continue to host it every year now. It’s a good format they have.”
The Sierra League asserted its 3A North boys soccer dominance in the quarterfinals, sweeping all four games by a 26-1 margin. Surprisingly, the lone goal was given up by top-seeded Incline to fourth-seeded Spring Creek. The Highlanders were 8-0-0 in league play to earn the Sierra’s seed.
Sparks (12-3-2) will get No. 4 seed North Tahoe Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon in Fallon. The Lakers only won one league game this year though, and the winner of that semifinal game will face either Truckee or Incline for the regional championship on Saturday.