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In the thick of it
by Dan Eckles
Oct 10, 2013 | 1314 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs QB Hunter Fralick tries to elude tacklers during the Cougars’ Tuesday workout.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs QB Hunter Fralick tries to elude tacklers during the Cougars’ Tuesday workout.
High School football programs around the state are getting deeper into their seasons and further into their league campaigns. That often means the games get more and more meaningful.

Spanish Springs and Reed will both be playing their second league games of the fall while Sparks, which has a schedule consisting only its nine league games, has a conference clash as well.

Here’s a closer look at the trio of matchups involving local schools.

Spanish Springs at Reno, Friday 7 p.m.

On the surface, this looks like a matchup of teams going in opposite directions. Spanish Springs (3-2) has won its last two games and three of its last four. Reno (3-3) has been bounced in back-to-back weeks and dropped three of its last four games.

However, not much of that matters when the two teams meet in a league affair this weekend.

“I know Reno’s backs are against the wall, but in a six-team league, you’re up against it every week,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “If you lose even one or two games, that makes it tough. So yes, their backs are against the wall, but so are ours. After Reno, we still have to play three really good football teams. We’re 1-0 league but if we don’t think our backs against the wall in this short league season, we’d be kidding ourselves.”

Reno has started 0-2 in the High Desert League, dropping games to McQueen and North Valleys. The Huskies played without their starting quarterback last week and Hare said he’s not sure if the RHS gang will have him back this week. But the Cougars’ coach added it won’t matter in how his team prepares.

“Anytime you lose your starting quarterback, it’s tough. For the team it becomes a new way of doing everything. It’s such a vital position. It throws the whole team for a loop, even your special teams and defense,” Hare said, alluding to Reno’s predicament. “But we’ve seen film with both guys playing quarterback. They aren’t changing schemes from a spread to a triple option. We’ll prepare the same way.”

Hare likes the way his team has prepared in recent weeks, but he also likes the way it’s performed on Friday nights and continued to improve, especially on defense and along the offensive line.

“Our defense is improving every week,” Hare said. “Our tackling, the way we’re running to the football as a whole, we’re improving from week to week. Our O-line also took a step forward against Hug. I’m very impressed with those guys up front. I thought our O-line played the best game it’s played all year and we used seven guys. If that improvement keeps up, that’s going to be great.”

The Spanish Springs gridiron skipper hopes his team can continue to make strides and that those translate into wins. He mentioned that hasn’t always been the case in the past.

“We’re kind of at that point where the games we’re playing are against traditional teams in the league that we have not had consistent success against. Maybe we’ve won a game here and there but we haven’t been able to sustain success week in and week out. If we’re going to have that this year, we must play well for a few weeks in a row … And we have to take what we’re doing in practice and sustain it into Friday nights.”

Reed at Hug, Friday at 7 p.m.

Reed is riding high after a 5-0 start to its season and wining its league debut last weekend, in convincing fashion, over perennial North power McQueen last Friday. Veteran Reed coach Erie Howren wouldn’t trade any of that, but he always stresses there’s no time to be complacent.

“Our coaching staff told the kids we couldn’t be more proud of them for winning that first league game against one of the stronger opponents in our league,” Howren said. “To come out score and 35 points against one of the better defenses in our league, you have to take great pride in that.

“At the same time, we enjoyed that until about 8:30 Saturday morning because we started watching film on Hug. You enjoy the win and move on. It’s that time of year. Everything every week must be about that next opponent.”

Reed will need to be better with its ball security. The Raiders turned the ball over three times via the fumble against McQueen last week. Two of those came inside their own 30-yard line. Howren noted the issue has been addressed but not beaten like a dead horse.

“We actually haven’t said too much about it,” Howren said of the fumbles. “We talked about it Saturday during film session. The kids know two of those fumbles were not high and tight carries, which is what we preach. They’ll get it done. We mentioned it and moved on. We told them Friday night, very loudly. Then it was focus on film Saturday. By Monday, we’d moved on. We know those same kind of mistakes are not going to happen again.”

The Reed defense is showing its mettle more and more as the fall campaign progresses. It made key stops time and again against McQueen, holding the Lancers on a goal-line stand and limiting them to a field goal after a fumble deep in RHS territory.

“We’re so proud of our defensive guys,” Howren said. “In one stretch McQueen had eight plays inside our 10 and we only give up a field goal. That shows a lot of confidence and an attention to detail in understanding the schemes. Our guys are physical at the point of attack. Right now, we’re playing some of the most physical football we’ve played in a while. Our defense has set that tone.”

The host Hawks (0-6) quest of searching for its first win of the season will be a tall order against the undefeated Raiders (5-0).

Sparks at Lowry, Friday 7 p.m.

After scoring 46 or more points four times in five wins — and 30 points in another victory — the Lowry offense hit a speed bump last weekend, as the Buckaroos were saddled with a 26-14 loss at Elko, their first defeat of the season.

Sparks coach Rob Kittrell didn’t want to elaborate on whether the loss would make Lowry seem less than invincible or just more motivated on a rebound week against the Railroaders. Kittrell just knows the Winnemucca school’s football team is among the elite in the Div. I-A North League.

“Lowry has got athletes all over the field,” Kittrell said. “Lowry is good, but it just comes down to taking care of ourselves. If we didn’t think we had a shot at winning, we’d call and cancel the game. We’re still working hard  to play some consistent football. If we can play four quarters and get a few breaks, we’d be right there. Lowry is a good team. It will be their Homecoming and they’ll be fired up, but we’ have to go down there and give it our best shot. That’s all I ever ask of any of our teams.”

While the Railroaders may be winless at 0-5, Kittrell continues to say his team is getting better each week. He also knows that’s not good enough and that the local squad needs to keep eliminating mistakes if it wants to be in a game in the fourth quarter with a chance to win.

“What we’ve got to get to is focusing on the next play,” Kittrell said. “Being able to face adversity, looking it in the eye and fighting back, that’s what we’ve got to do. Everything happens in spurts. Whether it be bad offense or giving up big plays, it just always has been in spurts. We’ve to get the momentum because we play a lot better when momentum is on our side.”

The long-time SHS coach has also seen his starting lineup endure a lot of turnover through the first half of the season. It’s just another challenge his players are fighting to overcome, constantly learning new positions and assignments.

“It keeps their attention. They’re probably a little more focused, but it’s still tough,” Kittrell said. “We’ve got our ‘black shirt’ (incentive) program where we’ve pushed and demanded a lot out of the kids. Those kids’ mindset won’t waiver. They’re good kids who have put in time and effort. They’re still working hard. They’ve paid their dues and are going to get everything out of it that they can. I’m really proud of those kids and how they’re still working hard.”

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