While last season ended in November for both Sparks and Spanish Springs, the Northern 4A championship run made by Reed pushed into early December. That left the defending regional champs and state runner-up Raiders little time to recoup before they began preparing for another title quest this season.
“Ending in December like we did, we didn’t have much time to hang out,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “We basically had Christmas break to kind of relax and then we got going lifting hard again come the beginning of January.”
The quick return to work is a result of the work ethic that has been instilled in the footballers at Reed and is what Howren said he expects from his players come offseason workouts.
“I want to see the same hard work that we’ve built the program on and I’ve seen it already,” Howren said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this group that we have and the effort that we’ve gotten. It’s such a hard time of year for kids. You have a bunch of seniors that are graduating so a lot of their friends are getting ready to go hang out during the summer and we’re gearing up. We’re starting spring ball which will lead into UNR camp and then we’ll be into summer weights while a bunch of their friends will be hanging out sitting by the pool. That’s not easy on the kids.”
Part of the reason the Blue and Gold finished 12-2 last season was because players spent time on the gridiron rather than soaking up the sun. Players now want to back up the reputation that has been constructed at Reed.
“I think you’re always hungry to prove yourself and that’s the key thing. We had an amazing senior class and the senior class that is coming up is just as amazing and they’re just as hungry,” Howren said. “I think that they’re at that point where they want to prove who they are. They want to show that they have the ability to go out there and do great things this season.”
Reed is not the only team that is thirsting to get back on the field and prove itself. After a disappointing 3-8 season, Spanish Springs is looking for a bounce back year.
“I’m real excited because it was a tough pill to swallow last year,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “We didn’t reach what our expectation level should be. There’ll be a lot of refining and some changing of the way we do things. It’s been back-to-back mediocre years. We were starting to climb a little hill there and slid down a bit so we need to get back up. So if we’re not excited to get back out there and prove there are better things that can be done, you probably don’t want to be playing for us.
“We want to establish a daily tempo, a tempo that says we want to play fast, we want to practice fast and we want to have excitement in what we’re doing. I think the really good teams year in and year out learn and grow that mentality during the summer. We’re kind of starting with square zero there to try to make sure our team has the right mentality moving into the fall. Everyday matters, not just Friday nights.”
While the majority of the attention for the Cougars will be set on applying the right demeanor for the season, another large part will be on the new-look offense that may take the field for the Purple and Silver come August.
“We had a pretty good sophomore quarterback that’s going to be a junior so we’ll probably put the ball in the air more than we have in the past,” Hare said. “We were a lot more run oriented last year so we’ll definitely probably spread it out a little more and put the ball in the air and try to utilize what we have. Three of our four wide receivers are coming back and we gain a couple from the JV so we’ll be throwing the ball a little bit.”
With the ball set to be winged around by Cougars’ quarterback Hunter Fralick, the aerial attack will be the center of concentration for SSHS this offseason.
“The teams that have had success in this area have been teams that might not be the greatest throwing teams, but they really use the summer to really develop that skill,” Hare said. “We’re trying to use the summer as an opportunity to really develop those skills. We have to be able to catch it if we’re going to throw it. That’ll be a lot our summer right there.”
The Sparks Railroaders, whose offseason program opens July 2, will also be looking for redemption this upcoming season after closing out their last campaign at 1-9.
“Everybody is excited and ready to go,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “We only have nine kids coming back but all nine of them didn’t like the taste in their mouth when we walked off the field that night against Wooster. So they’re ready to go.”
For the Maroon and Gold, workouts will be centered on the basics of football.
“We do off-season weights all year and we do a little bit during the school year of just introducing our base plays,” Kittrell said. “Once we get going in the summer we’ll probably have on the varsity 10 to 25 percent that didn’t play last year or haven’t played at all so we focus on a lot of fundamentals and just teaching them the game.”