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Sparks schools prep for playoffs
by Dan Eckles
Nov 05, 2009 | 432 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed running back Christian Thompson hauls in a pass during the Raiders workout Thursday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed running back Christian Thompson hauls in a pass during the Raiders workout Thursday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare talks with players during an offensive huddle at the Cougars workout.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare talks with players during an offensive huddle at the Cougars workout.
The High Desert League’s postseason football representation has “Rail City” written all over it this fall. For the first time, Reed and Spanish Springs have both qualified for the Northern 4A playoffs. Not only that, but the two Sparks schools earned the top seeds from the HDL and will each host a regional quarterfinal playoff game tonight at 7 p.m.

“It’s a special feeling that two Sparks schools made it into the playoffs,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “That’s very cool.”

Here’s a closer look at the two postseason clashes involving local teams.

Manogue (6-3, No. 4 Sierra) at Reed

(8-2, No. 1 High Desert)

A lot has changed since the final Saturday in August. That’s when Reed handed Manogue a 26-10 defeat on opening day of the 2009 campaign. Reed hit on a pair of long touchdown bombs in the 16-point win so you can bet Manogue coaches and players feel they weren’t that far away from an even affair against the Raiders.

“Just like any team still playing at this point, Manogue’s linebackers are doing a better job filling against the run,” Howren said. “They are blocking better and doing a great job with their reads. We’d all like to think we’re a whole lot better than Week 1. They’re better in all phases of the game.”

That may indeed be true, but Howren’s club is certainly better as well. After its season-opening win against the Miners, the Raiders dropped their next two games. However, Reed has bounced back with a fury, winning seven straight games since, including all six of their HDL contests.

“I’m very proud of where we’re at and what the kids are doing,” Howren said. “But our kids and coaches are continually striving to get better. And if you’re not, that’s when you get beat. The kids have had a tremendous week of practice and that’s because they know we’re not there yet. We ask ourselves, ‘What have we done?’ We know we haven’t done anything yet. We have to come out and prepare ourselves for this week.

“The kids and coaches, we’re all striving for perfection. If you go into our film session, we’re talking about things we can get better at. But overall, we’re doing the things we need to do. The kids are in a good spot. They’re winning games and coming back to work hard at practice.” There are all kinds of adages fans hear at playoff time. For instance, one-and-done, loser out and ‘there’s no tomorrow’ all refer to the fact that a loss ends a season for a team.

Howren said you didn’t hear any of those terms coming out of his team’s workouts this past week.

“We talk about this being the playoffs and the importance of getting yourself another game,” he said. “We don’t talk about ‘one-and-done.’ That’s a negative in my eyes. We expect to never be in that situation. We just talk about putting yourself in position to get another game. That’s how we approach it and that’s how we talk about it.”

The Raiders and Miners have boasted two of the top programs since Manogue joined Nevada’s large-school 4A ranks in the fall of 2004. They have proven they’re among the best again this fall and Howren expects their postseason meeting to reflect that.

“I think you’re going to see a smash-mouth football game,” the Raiders veteran coach said. “When you get to this point and look at the teams that are left, they have all got pretty good offensive and defensive lines that can get after people. I think you’ll see teams that get after each other and I think you’ll see some pretty good football.”

Galena (6-4, No. 3 Sierra) at Spanish Springs

(7-3, No. 2 High Desert)

These two teams won’t be totally unfamiliar foes when they hook up for tonight’s gridiron clash. The schools met in Week 3 at SSHS where the Cougars took a 42-20 victory. However, Galena goes into the postseason having won four of its last five outings, including an upset over Manogue seven days ago in their regular season finale.

“I’m sure they feel like they can beat us,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “They’re telling their guys that we returned a kickoff for a touchdown, returned a fumble for a touchdown and had a 70-yard run. If you take those away, it’s a 20-20 game. Their coaches are selling it that ‘those are all things that aren’t normal and aren’t going to happen again. If we play them straight up, we’ll be fine.’ They are also riding high after just beating Manogue and scoring 35 points against a pretty good defense.”

The Galena coaching staff knows what it’s in for against Spanish Springs. Grizzlies coach Steve Struzyk said he doesn’t believe his team will see a big change in schemes from the Cougars and he knows his team can’t afford to make the same mistakes it made the first time the two squads met.

“We’ve got tons of film on each other. I don’t expect a big philosophical change. I don’t think winning teams do that during a season,” Struzyk said. “Spanish Springs is a good team. We’ve kind of had a roller coaster ride where our highs are high and lows are low. We can’t afford to make some of the mistakes we’ve made or it could be a long night.”

Hare believes Galena’s Jekyll-and-Hyde act is not the result of a lack of talent. He also doesn’t expect their struggles to surface in tonight’s tilt.

“Galena’s downfall is not a lack of weapons,” he said. “They just don’t have a lot of guys. So they have a lot of guys going both ways. If they found a way to rest some guys, they could be really dynamic. “In a playoff game, adrenaline flows for all 48 minutes. That’s where they can be scary. In their win against Manogue, their adrenaline stayed up. I thought in our first game against them, they wore down a bit, but they did not look tired against Manogue.”

Like Galena, Spanish Springs is also coming off a big win, likely the biggest in school history: a 23-14 victory over traditional state power McQueen. That victory clinched a league runner-up slot and with it a home playoff game for the SSHS gridders. Despite the emotional win, Hare said he does not expect a letdown when kickoff rolls around tonight.

“We had our best practice of the year Tuesday. I’m not worried about that,” Hare said. “We’ve kept our same routine and I think that just makes this feel like Week 11, nothing more. Our philosophy all year has been to not hype things up and not make things bigger than they are. Even though we’re in the playoffs, it feels just like another week. That’s how we coaches want it.”

The enthusiasm of a first playoff game in seven years and a first-ever home playoff game has the Spanish Springs community buzzing, especially within the walls of the high school. Hare said it’s a special feeling he embraces.

“I think this is great,” he said. “We’ve got a pep rally Friday before the game. This is all hands on deck from our administration, to our student leadership to the student body. Right now everyone wants to be involved and that’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of hard work that’s gone into this and now everyone’s enjoying the process.”
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