Spanish Springs at Douglas, Friday 7 p.m.
With just one win apiece under their belts, both Spanish Springs and (1-2) and Douglas (1-3) are programs looking to looking to get on track and avoid hitting the panic button in their final tune-ups before the start of league play Oct. 4.
“We’re in similar situations right now,” Spanish Springs coach Scot Hare said. “They’ve had a tough schedule, played some of the top teams in the area in Reed and McQueen who are always up there. We’ve probably played a couple of the better teams from the Sierra League. So we’re both looking for a win ... Both teams are probably thinking about righting their ships and both teams are probably thinking they can win the game.”
Galena spanked Spanish Springs, 48-21, on the Cougars home field last weekend, improving to 4-0 in the process. Hare doesn’t think there have been any lingering effects from the 27-point shellacking as his team has prepared for Douglas. The Cougars coach said you tip your hat to the grizzlies and move on.
“I think we’ve bounced back,” he said. “Its’ a lot different than the (season-opening) Damonte loss. I’m not really sure we felt OK with that loss because we didn’t play a hard, driven game. After last Friday night, there is a sense Galena just beat us, they’re better than we are right now. It’s easier to bounce back when at the end, you feel like you played hard and just lost the football game. That’s easier to swallow than the one where you’re asking, ‘did we really play as hard as we could have?’”
Defensive breakdowns are killing the Cougars through their first three games. Spanish Springs has allowed 32, 35 and 48 points in its initial three outings. That’s a lot of points to overcome and still try to pull out a win. Hare pointed to inexperience as the biggest issue his defense is trying to overcome.
“We’re very young,” Hare said. “I say that and we are playing seniors, but the truth is only one senior is a true starter that played all the time last season. We have some other guys who played a lot, but we’re playing two safeties that were linebackers on JV a year ago, juniors who didn’t even play the same positions last year. Our secondary is trying to find its way.
“Our strength is our B gap to B gap. Nobody has really run the ball there, and then you look and we’ve got three state wrestlers, tough, strong kids, in the middle. We’re weaker on the outside, but the cool thing is we have seen a lot improvement and we’re going to. Right now it’s just being young and continuing to try and improve.”
Hare said he expects Douglas to try and rack up some running yardage on the perimeter, but he also won’t be surprised at anything Douglas throws at his Spanish Springs squad, noting the Tigers aren’t above trying to pull off some chicanery.
“Douglas runs a lot of formations,” Hare said. “They try to get you spread out and then bring it back tight. They have trick plays in their back pocket. They’ve got fake punts and ‘fumblerooksies.’ They’re trying to do a lot of things to generate points, all things we have to be aware of. We’ll definitely see something in the game we’re not used to and we’d better be ready for it. After watching the last couple of games, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to line up and go off tackle at us because that’s hurt us some.
“Defensively, right now, Douglas is definitely a lot like us, trying to find and identity. They are a 4-3 team that’s done some good things, but their coaching staff is cleaning stuff up too. We’re just similar. They’re trying to find an identity and get better every week, and that’s what we continue to try and do.”
Truckee at Sparks, Friday 7 p.m.
Oh how the times have changed at THS. The defending state champion Wolverines beat up on foes last year, but they were hit hard by graduation. Then highly successful and veteran coach Bob Schaeffer retired. Now, three games into the fall campaign, Truckee (0-3) is still looking for its first win of the season.
Sparks, which went winless last fall, is struggling this year too, also dropping its first three games.
“From what I saw on their Dayton film, Truckee looks very similar to us,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “You can’t give other good teams good field position because of your mistakes. Truckee shot itself in the foot with penalties. We’ve done the same things. We’re pretty similar right now.”
Truckee has been beaten by Lowry, Dayton and Elko while Sparks has been pounded by Elko, Spring Creek and Fernley. The Sparks offense has managed just two touchdowns in three games and been shut out twice during that span. Last week at Fernley it did not cross midfield in the first half.
‘Offensively, we have to clean everything up,” Kittrell said. “We have to be more crisp. I look back at summer camp and we were better. I’m not sure if it’s playing now under the Friday night lights or in front of people. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but we’ve talked to the kids that it’s not the same and we’ve got to get better.
“We’ve gone back to timing stuff in practice, focusing on getting the nuances of the running back hitting the hole and reading blocks, almost like a summer school practice. We’re really focusing on the finer points, all the little things that we’ve completely messed up the last three weeks.”
One of the most frustrating factors to the season’s rough start for the SHS coaching staff is the Railroaders inability to run the football consistently. Even in its down years in the large school division a decade ago, Sparks still ran the ball effectively.
“It’s very irritating for me that we haven’t been able to run the ball successfully. That’s always been something we’ve been able to hang our hat on. Even when we were in the old 4A and outmatched, we had guys get close to 1,000 yards. We should be further along then where we’re at and that all falls on me as the head coach. We’ll get it fixed or do our best trying.”
Kittrell said that despite the changes in Truckee’s final scoreboard results, the Wolverines schemes haven’t changed much. Kittrell has seen plenty of Truckee on the field and on film over the years and he expects to watch the Wolverines Wing-T offense once again.
Carson at Reed, Friday 7 p.m.
This game is a rematch of last year’s 32-30 game won by Carson at CHS, that featured a controversial ending in which officials ruled a Senators receiver held on for a touchdown catch on the final play of the game. Video of the play left many Reed supporters thinking Raiders safety Austin Warner jarred the ball loose before Carson ever had a completed catch in the end zone.
“After that game, Austin Warner has only gone out and hit more people. He proved in that game he could hit the opponent and do it very well,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said.
Publicly Howren said all the right things after the loss but he wouldn’t be human if it didn’t eat at him some. Still, the veteran Raiders coach has already addressed the controversial finish of last year’s game to his returners.
“We talked about it Saturday,” Howren said. “We talked about the emotion of revenge, but that it’s not something we can get caught up in. It’s not an emotion that’s positive. The focus should be on getting ready for league. This is our last chance to do that. That’s the progression and what’s most important to us.”
Howren doesn’t show his fiery, competitive side much away from the intensity of the football field during practice or games. He continues to downplay last year’s finish against Carson.
“I don’t even think about it. I said it last year when the game was over. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way. Eight to 10 plays should’ve determined that game that we had control over. We didn’t perform in those plays and it ended up being a loss.
“The thing I’m so proud of is if you go back and look at that, at that very moment, we were 1-3 and then we go on to win our next nine games in a row and a regional championship. That’s the most satisfying part of last season … We were able to right the ship and still put ourselves in a position to be successful. Our kids never say die. You must have a plan and stay the course.”
Carson has played Reed tough in recent seasons, beating the Raiders in a 2010 regional semifinal and again in last fall’s regular season meeting. Howren said one thing that makes Carson such a formidable foe is its attitude about being tougher than its opponent.
“The one thing that stands out on film is Carson is one of the most physical teams in the North. They are very fast explosive and as physical as any team we’ve seen yet. Their players play with great motors. On defense they fly around and get to ball. They pursue.”
Raiders coaches are going into the gridiron battle fully expecting Carson to try and exert its physical will on their RHS opponent. But Howren is quick to point out his teams, which have won three of the last four North crowns, didn’t accomplish what they have, by being soft.
“People hear ‘spread’ offense, like we run and assume we’re more of a finesse team, but that’s not the case. Carson’s philosophy is to be more physical than everybody else. We’ve been in some great games the last few years. I just think it’s a great week to have a team as physical as Carson leading us into our league schedule. I couldn’t ask for a better opponent to put us in a situation to be more successful down the road Carson.”