Unfortunately for SSHS supporters, the squad that took the field did not look like the one that had worked its way to a 4-1 record. Behind a pile of penalties that cost the Cougs a number of big plays, Spanish Springs held just a 14-7 halftime lead over the winless Hawks. However, the seven-point deficit would prove to be the highlight of Hug’s homecoming.
Disappointed in their play, Spanish Springs football players did not need a coach to tell them to pick it up. Rather, the players gave themselves a pep talk that seemed to do the job and the Cougars crushed Hug in the second half en route to a 55-14 victory.
“The truth is, the first seven minutes of halftime the players talked to each other. Our coaches didn’t even go inside,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “When I went in there, I just calmed them down really and said ‘Hey, we’re fine.’ We just needed to understand we weren’t playing the game the way we can play.
"Really, I thought the players did a great job of saying ‘Hey, we’re not happy with what we’re doing right now. We need to play better than this.’ After they really jumped on each other, it was more of me just kind of going in and saying step-by-step 'We’re OK, let’s relax and breathe and do the things that we know we’re capable of doing.’”
Spanish Springs showed exactly what it was capable of and more as the Cougars swarmed Hug (0-6) in all three facets of the game.
To open the second half, SSHS rode CJ Carithers to the end zone. Following a pair of runs by Carithers, that totaled 32 yards, Zach Perez capped off the drive with a 35-yard bolt up the middle for a touchdown and a 21-7 Spanish Springs lead with 9:48 left in the third.
A three-and-out gave the Cougars the ball again, and again they scored.
Starting at Hug’s 25 after a 38-yard return from Ryder Lowry, Spanish Springs marched toward the end zone before Jeff Jurgensmeier took a 3-yard touchdown plunge to give the SSHS squad 27-7 advantage with 7:23 on the clock.
On the Hawks’ next possession, the home team looked to be building momentum, but that was quickly ended as Cougar defender Jacob Allen tracked down a Hug receiver and ripped the ball away before pouncing on it himself for the recovery. Spanish Springs then turned the turnover into points with a 4-yard touchdown scamper from QB Hunter Fralick. In a six-minute span, the visitors scored three times to open a 34-7 lead at the 3:47 mark of the third quarter.
After a Hug TD brought the score to 34-14 just before the start of the fourth quarter, Spanish Springs was making itself at home in the end zone yet again, but this time it was the special teams and defense getting in on the fun.
Forcing the Hawks to punt, Vance Lively set up to return for Spanish Springs. He took the ball at the 30-yard line. Lively hit traffic at the 25 but bounced horizontally to the left where only green stood between him and the end zone. With 10:19 left in the contest, the Cougars held a 41-14 advantage.
On Hug’s next possession, Spanish Springs’ linebacker Vinny Agliolo also got in on the act. Dropping back into coverage, Agliolo ranged over the middle before leaping up and snatching a pass out of the air. He took it to the house for a pick-6 and a 48-14 Spanish Springs lead with eight minutes to play.
Spanish Springs added another score on a 15-yard run up the gut from Perez to result in the 55-14 final.
“I thought we played a little flat in the first half. We missed assignments, and 30 percent of the plays we called, ended in some sort of penalty. We challenged them at halftime and I thought they responded,” Hare said. “We didn’t get 48 good minutes tonight, but we got 24 good minutes and obviously the outcome was still in our favor. We can’t play 24 minute games though. We have to play 48 minute games.
“I’ve tried to tell the guys, ‘It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Whoever shows up in front of us, we have to play hard. Every team we play is going to bring 11 guys and they’re going to put 11 out there and we have to respond to whoever the 11 are. If 11 eighth graders show up, then we have to play hard. It wasn’t physical tonight. It was more mental. We have to be mentally more prepared in our first 24 minutes. I don’t think we overlooked them as much as we just kind of mentally weren’t sharp. We weren’t thinking our assignments through. We just weren’t mentally sharp. I think it was just more of a mental lapse and not being as focused as we need to be.”
Fralick finished the game 10-of-20 on pass attempts, tallying 185 yards and one TD. Lively led the Cougars in the receiving department, accounting for 101 yards on four receptions and a score. On the ground, Jurgensmeier led the way with 75 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Perez also had a nice night with 55 yards on four carries and a pair of TD runs.
Spanish Springs (5-1, 1-0) will welcome Reno (4-2, 1-0) in an HDL showdown Friday at 7:30 p.m.