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Sparks braves heat on first day of practice
by Dan Eckles
Aug 09, 2012 | 1776 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - The Sparks Railroaders ran through plays during the first day of official practice Thursday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - The Sparks Railroaders ran through plays during the first day of official practice Thursday.
Sometimes when a baseball team is getting waxed early in a game and you hear the expression, ‘pray for rain’ in hopes the game will be washed out before it becomes official. Veteran Sparks High football coach Rob Kittrell was clinging to a similar hope Thursday afternoon, but for very different reasons.

Kittrell said he’d be up for thunderstorms every afternoon for the next two weeks, but that’s not because he wants his teams workouts washed away by some rain. He’d just like some grey skies and cooler temperatures.

Sparks, like many schools around the Silver State, opened fall football practice Thursday with the mercury soaring into triple digits. The Railroaders’ longtime coach knows all too well the dangers of heat exhaustion during a team’s preseason camp. Still, with temperatures expected in the high 90s and beyond for the foreseeable future, a few unexpected thunder showers wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

“We’ve started our preseason camp with double-day practices from 4 to 6 p.m. and then 7 to 9 p.m. for awhile now and we get a lot more out of the kids in that second practice when it’s cooler,” Kittrell said.

“I’d like to see thunder storms every afternoon. We’ll have to be cautious with the forecast being what it is. We’ve never really had many issues when it’s in the 90s, but when it approaches and gets into the the 100s, that’s tough. The kids need to get out of the sun during the break and take care of their bodies.”

Sparks High is gearing up for a fall campaign in the NIAA’s new Division 1-A alignment. The Railroaders get three days of non-contact workouts, then can begin full-contact drills on Monday. The SHS gridders play Rite of Passage in a scrimmage on Aug. 18 and open their season at home Aug. 24 against Yerington.

“For our guys, today’s practice has a different feel,” Kittrell said before going out to lead his troops in their first official practice of the 2012 season.

Sparks held a five-week summer conditioning program that wrapped up last week. Much of that program simulates these first three days of practice, full of non-contact drills. An NIAA policy change in late June moved up the start date prep football programs could begin practice to Aug. 4. However, due to the relatively late change, many coaches around the state opted to keep Thursday’s original state date.

Sparks was among those.

“Our kids worked hard for five weeks in summer conditioning,” Kittrell said. “We got in everything we needed to. Our guys earned the last week off.

“These first three days are going to be a review over what we’ve done this summer. We’ll get our timing down so when we get into pads we’ll be hitting at full speed. Monday is when you really get going.”

Sparks has 69 players signed up to play football this fall. Thirty-nine of those are suited up and practicing on the varsity roster and 30 of those will comprise a freshman team. The Railroaders have only 11 sophomores in the program, leaving the local school to field only varsity and freshmen teams, no JV squad.

“We had 30 freshmen last year,” Kittrell said. We can’t lose 20 kids from a class. We’ve got to find a way to fix that. But some of these sophomores can and will help us. They are going to have to quickly learn the speed of the game.”

Kittrell admitted it seems like forever ago since his team was back on the practice field preparing for meaningful football. He’s excited about that and he’s not the only one.

“This is a wonderful feeling,” said Sparks senior Mario Guadron, who was all smiles as he got ready for the first Railroaders’ practice. “We’re one step closer to putting on the pads. I kill myself for this. I love it.”
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