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Down to the Wire: Cougars, Raiders face key HDL tests under the lights Friday
by Aaron Retherford
Oct 17, 2012 | 2928 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs junior quarterback Hunter Fralick leads the Cougars into a key High Desert League affair at North Valleys Friday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs junior quarterback Hunter Fralick leads the Cougars into a key High Desert League affair at North Valleys Friday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
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Northern Nevada prep football fans are getting the late-season matchup they want Friday night between two undefeated teams in the High Desert League, a matchup that could decide the regular season champion.

Another Rail City matchup features two potent offenses and the third matches up two struggling teams that could lead to a competitive game and the first victory for a winless team.

Here is a preview of all three Sparks teams’ games.

Spanish Springs (6-2) at North Valleys (1-6), Friday at 7 p.m.

Spanish Springs fans will be watching the action at NVHS, but some will also be looking for updates on the Reed-Reno game. A Huskies win and the Cougars will lose their chance at a co-regular season championship. A Reed victory and those hopes will still be alive.

At the same time, Spanish Springs will have to take care of its own business in its final two games.

“At this point, we’re not even in the playoffs yet. If we lost to North Valleys and then Reed, we’d be the ones out,” SSHS football coach Scott Hare said. “We have to focus on this week.”

The Purple and Silver will face an opponent this week that has the potential for putting up points, but also gives up plenty on defense.

North Valleys’ opponents are averaging 46 points per game, which means Friday night could see some big numbers by SSHS quarterback Hunter Fralick — who is coming off a school-record performance against McQueen — and the rest of the Cougars‘ offense.

The Panthers have lost four straight games after recording their only win of the season in their third game, a 55-48 decision over Bishop Manogue.

North Valleys is still putting up big numbers on offense in those losses. Junior quarterback Daniel Lewis is averaging around 300 yards a game through the air.

“Their offense has been good. Some of the reason we’ve been doing the no-huddle stuff and throwing it around is kind of what I saw North Valleys doing for a few years,” Hare said. “They’ve always had a really good offense. They’re a little on the smaller side on the front, and that hurts them on the defensive side. Teams are able to run on them a little bit.

“On offense, they’re able to get rid of the ball and their size doesn’t really hurt them. They do a good job emphasizing quickness. We just have to stay the course and make plays. They have the capability of scoring, no doubt about that.”

Reed (5-3) at Reno (6-2), Friday at 7:30 p.m.

There is a lot on the line in the battle of the RHS football programs. At 4-0 in the HDL, Reno is one win away from clinching a top seed for the playoffs with only a non-league meeting with Manogue remaining after this week.

The Huskies are riding a six-game winning streak and are a perfect 4-0 at home. They are also sitting in a position that many outside the Reno High ranks didn’t expect heading into this season, earning even more respect from other programs.

“We’ve always had a lot of respect for coach (Dan) Avansino and his kids and the staff he has up there,” Reed football coach Ernie Howren said. “The kids always play with great heart at Reno. Coach Avansino has always been a great coach, and his staff are just a bunch of great guys. You always expect a great football team to come out of Reno High every year.”

Reed is in the position most expected, although it still is looking to put together a full game. The Raiders are 3-0 in league and are primed to make a run at a league title and No. 1 seed for the postseason.

However, the final two weeks are dangerous for the Blue and Gold as it must face cross-town rival Spanish Springs in the last week of the regular season. Considering how well Reno and Spanish Springs are playing this year, it is conceivable that Reed could drop its final two games and go from having a chance to earning a top seed to falling into third place, which would send the Raiders on the road in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’ve talked to the kids, and they understand the playoffs started this week,” Howren said. “We’re sitting in a situation where this game determines where we fit in for the playoff race. This week and next week are huge, but of course you have to take one week at a time and focus on Reno because it’s such a big game.”

Reno has won its four league contests by an average of 17.25 points, but it hasn’t done it with flashy players. That’s what has impressed Howren the most.

“The number one thing is they play with great emotion and they fly around both offensively and defensively,” Howren said. “You see kids who are playing with great energy and great emotion.”

Sparks (0-8) at Dayton (2-5), Friday at 7 p.m.

Sparks is running out of chances to earn its first win of the season. The Railroaders will need to take to the road to achieve that goal as they finish out the season with two games away from the Rail City. The fortunate thing for Sparks is it closes out the schedule against two teams that are struggling almost as much as it is.

“It’s good. They’re practicing hard like they would at the beginning of year. They’re focused on getting better and what they have to do,” Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell said. “We’re seeing small improvements each week. Hopefully, we will get over the hill here and get a win or two.”

On the opposite sideline this week will be Dayton, which has only beaten Spring Creek (22-0) and Wooster (20-14) this year. The Dust Devils have also not won a game at home.

Dayton’s offense, much like Sparks’, hasn’t been firing on all cylinders this fall. In seven games, Dayton has scored more than two touchdowns in just three games and has scored 135 points, while allowing 205 points.

In comparison, Sparks has only scored 60 points in eight games. However, the defense hasn’t stopped anyone as opponents are averaging over 50 points per game against the Maroon and Gold.

“They’ll want to run the ball and milk the clock,” Kittrell said. “Defensively, they’re quick to the ball. They’ll want to stop the run. Hopefully, if we hold their run game down, it will be a good matchup. We’ve been better running the ball the past two weeks. We’re going to have to be perfect on offense and keep our defense off the field. It’s definitely a time of possession type game.”
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