Here’s a closer look at the three Rail City clubs as they gear up for Week 7 of the regular season.
- Sparks (3-3) at South Tahoe (2-4), Friday 7 p.m. -
•At South Tahoe, school officials are bringing in portable lighting to illuminate their field for this week’s 3A North battle. South Tahoe, which has always played afternoon games on Saturday since its field has no permanent lighting, will be playing its second night game this fall as it hosted Lowry earlier this fall under the lights.
Veteran Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell said he doesn’t expect the special occasion to affect his players much but believes it could have an effect on the host Vikings.
“Having always coached up there during the day, it will be a little different for me being in the bowl at night, but as far as the kids go, it won’t be any different for them,” Kittrell said. “I’m sure South Tahoe will be fired up. They did it once before and they definitely played with a little extra hop in their step.”
No player on the Sparks roster has played at South Tahoe so the nocturnal experience won’t be new to them.
The Railroaders have been derailed lately. After opening the season with three straight wins, the SHS gridders have been handed a trio of consecutive losses. So where do they go from here?
“We’ve taken the approach that this is a fresh start to our season,” Kittrell said. “We’re 0-0. We need to win two of the next three to put us in playoff position. We’ll focus on that and if we can win three of our next four, that will give us an above .500 record, which is quite an accomplishment at Sparks High.”
The Sparks coaches make no bones about their recent woes. Kittrell said his club has not played well enough to win and it needs to get better in a hurry if it wants to find the win column.
“The teams we’ve played (in the losing streak) have been a little better than us and we haven’t made it easy on ourselves,” Kittrell said. “The mistakes we’re making are turning into scores for the other team. That’s the biggest thing that has killed us. We’re not taking care of the football.
“Until we get that cleaned up, we’re a below average football team. We’re not athletic enough, or good enough, to make up for those mistakes. If you look at the first three weeks, our defense was forcing those mistakes. The shoe was on the other foot. We’ve got to get back to where our defense is forcing those mistakes and we’re taking care of the ball.”
- Reed (5-1) at Bishop Manogue (4-1), Saturday, 1:30 p.m. -
•Reed will play the one and only day game of its fall campaign this weekend, but don’t expect Raiders coach Ernie Howren to gush about suiting up in the sunshine. He’s taking the rarity in stride.
“I’ve never been one to side either way about playing on Saturdays. It doesn’t really matter,” Howren said. “It’s just another game and the kids are excited to play. That’s what’s important.”
The Saturday affair is likely the best game, on paper, in northern Nevada this weekend. It features two of the top local programs. Manogue won its first four games this season before falling to Carson two weeks ago. The Miners had a bye last week. Reed dropped its opener at Granite Bay, Calif. but has reeled off five wins in as many weeks since.
Howren knows his club is in for one of its bigger tests of the season.
“I know Manogue plays a really tenacious type of defense. They have a lot of speed in the secondary. Their D-line is going to try and hold guys up and let their linebackers fly to the football,” he said. “Offensively, one thing I’ve seen in a couple games is when they feel like they have an advantage in the passing game, they’re not afraid to throw it. They have a lot of confidence in their quarterback and his ability to spread it around the field ... That makes them a balanced offense.”
Reed has scored 49 and 42 points the past two weeks, but has had just 14 at halftime in both wins. Howren admitted he’d like to see more consistent scoring production.
“Coming out at halftime last week, we really challenged ourselves,” Howren said. “We talked about the mistakes we made and I really felt like the kids came out and answered the charge.
“But it (scoring in the first half) is something we definitely have to get better at. I’m not overly concerned about it because I feel like the ids are working their tails off and doing what they need to be successful. It will start coming and you’ll see us put up more points in the first half.”
Reed is one of just two teams left that is undefeated in league play. Carson, which Reed does not play, is the other. With the Raiders’ lone loss coming to one of the top teams in northern California, it’s not a stretch to believe the RHS crew is in for a deep playoff run this fall. Still, Howren is not getting ahead of himself.
“I’m pleased with the progression we’re making,” he said. “But I still feel like there’s a lot of football left and there’s a lot more room to grow as a team. I do feel like we’re in a good position right now.”
- Spanish Springs (5-1) bye week -
•When Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare saw the Northern 4A’s revised master schedule last summer, it didn’t take long for him to notice his bye week came the second weekend in October. He wasn’t elated as the later in the year a bye comes, the harder it is to fill. Most teams across the West are well into their league schedules and when you can find a school with a like bye week, travel costs usually scuttle any hopes of getting together for a gridiron clash.
“I worked really hard to fill it,” Hare said. “And now, I’m really glad we didn’t. We were pretty banged up last week. I would have loved to have had it last week. It’s been good to kind of catch our breath a little bit. we took Monday off. We had pictures Tuesday. Today (Wednesday), we looked refreshed and it was our best practice in three weeks.”
Spanish Springs was handed its first loss a week ago, falling at home to McQueen, 20-14. It was a game in which the Cougars led 14-12 with just over a minute to go but gave up a 31-yard touchdown on a swing pass on a fourth-and-six play. So how have the Cougars dealt with the heart-breaking loss?
“We’re getting after it,” Hare said. “We came back to practice focused. I thought the last couple weeks of practice we’ve gone through the motions a little bit and we got stagnant. We kind of hit a wall and today I didn’t see that wall. We look ready to make another run at it. That was encouraging.
“We didn’t play well enough last week to win that game and the kids needed to understand that. They needed to refocus and practice harder. Losing that game helped us do that. If we had won that game playing like we did, that might have sent the wrong message and hurt us down the road. It was a tough pill to swallow, but in the long run, it may help us more than one loss hurts us.”