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Football programs enter second half of season
by Aaron Retherford
Sep 26, 2012 | 2223 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne — Sparks players Mastor Sells (left) and Chris Cabrera (right) lock up in a tackling drill during the Railroaders’ Tuesday afternoon practice. Sparks will go in search of its first win of the fall when it travels to Churchill County to face Fallon Friday night.
Tribune photo by John Byrne — Sparks players Mastor Sells (left) and Chris Cabrera (right) lock up in a tackling drill during the Railroaders’ Tuesday afternoon practice. Sparks will go in search of its first win of the fall when it travels to Churchill County to face Fallon Friday night.
The time is finally here. Spanish Springs and Reed will open up High Desert League play Friday night, but the local schools are facing opponents on opposite ends of the spectrum. And winless Sparks faces its second stiff test in as many weeks.

Here is a preview of the games for all three Rail City schools in Week 6.

Sparks Railroaders (0-5) at Fallon Greenwave (4-0), Friday 7 p.m.

As if facing the defending three-time 3A champs on the road last week wasn’t difficult enough, Sparks will be getting back on the bus to take on the team that some think might end Truckee’s nationally-recognized winning streak.

Fallon has jumped out to a 4-0 record with very little difficulty, allowing no more than two touchdowns in each of its first four games.

The Greenwave has outscored Wooster, South Tahoe, Dayton and Elko by a 167-32 margin.

“They can throw it a little bit this year. I know last year we were able to sit on their run game a little bit more,” Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell said. “We can’t do that this year. They have a real good running back. Their quarterback has an accurate arm. Defensively, they’re pretty solid. I haven’t really seen anyone have success running the ball against them.

“We’ve got to come out and play mistake-free football and see what happens.”

The Churchill County school is coming off a 42-6 win over Elko in Week 5. The Indians beat Sparks 62-0 earlier this fall.

Fallon will be looking to give its Homecoming crowd something to cheer about Friday night. If past performance is any indication, the home team’s offense should provide some fireworks.

Junior quarterback Morgan Dirickson leads the way under center, having completed at least 10 passes against every opponent he has faced this season. Dirickson has completed 44 of 73 passes for 721 yards. He has 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, but hasn’t thrown a pick since the second game of the season and has found the end zone three times each of the past two weeks.

Fallon is plenty balanced on offense. While Dirickson is averaging 180 yards per game through the air, senior Tyson Ernst gives the Greenwave a weapon on the ground. Ernst is coming off a 226-yard, three-touchdown performance against Elko. He only needed 16 carries to accumulate a 14-yard per carry average. Ernst is averaging 149 yards rushing a game (596 rushing yards total) and has nine rushing touchdowns.

Junior Trent Tarner is also averaging over 10 yards every time he touches the ball, racking up 312 yards on 27 carries.

Sparks will continue to focus on the same areas, and Kittrell feels the kids have looked good in practice this week.

“They’re getting after it. Our intensity as far as us being physical has been picking up every week,” Kittrell said. “Monday and Tuesday have been more of our two physical practices of the year, so that’s getting consistent. That’s good to see.”

Spanish Springs Cougars (4-1) at Hug Hawks (0-5), Friday 7:30 p.m.

Confidence has to be pretty high within the Spanish Springs ranks after dismantling Douglas last Friday night. But the Cougars need to focus on business at hand when it goes on the road to Hug Friday night.

“They have really good athletes and they make some plays,” Hare said. “You watch their film, and they make some big plays. Against Douglas and Galena, they were able to move the ball downfield and got some scores. They have a tendency at times to kind of hurt themselves on some things they do with a couple penalties here and there and negate a few things.

“It’s funny a few years ago we were in a very similar situation. We were coming off a win and we kind of said the same thing. Hug makes some big plays, but also make some mistakes. That night against us they didn’t make any mistakes. They just made big plays, and they beat us. They’re definitely capable of getting a ‘W’ here.”

Despite being winless and only being competitive in one game this season, the Hawks do have the ability to score points, posting three touchdowns in four of its five games. However, that stat is slightly misleading. Forty of Hug’s 85 points this fall have come in the fourth quarter when the outcomes of the games have been decided.

Still, Spanish Springs knows it has to be weary of the Hawks’ athleticism.

Hug has become a very pass-happy team. Senior quarterback Jawon Smith-Bennett has completed 71 of 130 passes for 974 yards. But going through the air has led to more turnovers than touchdowns. Smith-Bennett has nine interceptions and seven passing touchdowns.

Senior running back Jonathan Watson is leading the Hawks in rushing with 384 yards.

 Still, Hare is hoping his team’s style of play will provide the edge the Cougars need.

“It’s not their fault, but they do have a smaller roster. We do hope our tempo of offense is one of those things that’s able to grind a team down with only 25 guys,” Hare said. “That makes it tough. I’ve been there. That’s going to be our philosophy, to wear them down with only 25 guys.”

Reed Raiders (2-3) at McQueen Lancers (1-3), Friday 7:30 p.m.

Reed and McQueen didn’t need any extra motivation, heading into their HDL opener against each other as the top two preseason favorites to win the North.

But after the endings of Week 5 action for both teams, there are likely to be some pretty big chips on shoulders.

Reed lost at Carson on a last-second touchdown pass that easily could have been called incomplete, while McQueen lost a fourth-quarter lead to bitter rival Reno, falling to the Huskies for the first time since 2003.

However, all that is still in the past and coaches are making sure their players don’t feel sorry for themselves.

"To be honest with you, I think it's eating them up a little bit," Reed football coach Ernie Howren said. As a program, we've been on both ends of a last-second game. Not that you get used to losing, but you realize the emotions that come with a game like that and how to keep them in check. It's been a little quieter at practice than we would have liked, but the kids are still working hard and getting ready for McQueen."

Friday should be a physical game between two programs that need to right their ship. The Lancers don’t want to fall to 0-2 in league and make it nearly impossible to earn a top seed for the playoffs.

"One thing about McQueen is they are as physical as any team," Howren said. "Coach Snelling and his coaching staff pride themselves on that every year. We have to understand as a program that we need to match their physical play."
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