But it wasn’t meant to be this year. The Colts picked up their second victory of the season, first in league play, when the Railroaders came up inches short on a two-point conversion try with 45 seconds left and fell 28-27 to WHS.
“I wanted this group of kids to have a win. I wanted them to feel it,” Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell said.
Sparks also came up inches short on a drive that led to Wooster’s final go-ahead touchdown.
Early in the drive and with under nine minutes to play in a tie ballgame, the Railroaders converted a fourth-and-1 play deep in their own territory in a make-or-break situation.
But when it was fourth-and-4, the luck wasn’t there for the visiting crew as a run play came up inches short.
The Colts took over on their own 43 with 5:34 remaining in the contest.
Wooster quarterback Josh Carnemolia sparked the drive by completing a 14-yard pass down to the Sparks 24, but he was also roughed on the play, advancing the ball up 12 more yards. On the next play, he couldn’t find an open receiver, so he scrambled down to the 2, setting up the go-ahead score by fullback Alex Anguiano with 2:27 left.
Senior Sparks quarterback Geo Vasquez played the next drive like he didn’t want to end his career with a loss. He rifled a 32-yard pass to Cedric Sanchez to start it off. Sanchez caught another ball for 21 yards at the Wooster 14 with under a minute to go.
The next play saw Vasquez connect with Mario Guadron over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown, bringing the Railroaders to within one point, 28-27, with 45 seconds on the clock.
Kittrell chose to go for two points, and at first glance it looked like Trinidad Anguiano carried the ball over the goal line, but the officials said his knee was down first.
Sparks still didn’t give up as it recovered an onside kick at the 50.
However, Vasquez underthrew Garrett Swaim over the middle and Wooster defensive back Michael Sowers jumped the route, picking off the pass to seal Sparks’ winless fate.
“It was a great effort by our kids. I’ve said that all year,“ Kittrell said. “We’ve talked to these guys about not quitting and giving everything. Tonight, down two touchdowns, down another touchdown and another touchdown, they just kept coming back. They didn’t quit. I’m proud of our kids.”
Not many things have gone right for the Maroon and Gold in the opening minutes of games this year. But Thursday night saw Sparks receive the opening kickoff and start with prime field position after Hennessey Banks fielded a line drive kick and just ran up the middle with ease all the way to the Colts’ 37. Four plays of no yards later, and Sparks was handing the ball back to its hosts.
The Railroaders then watched Kenny Davis rip off a 63-yard touchdown run on the Colts’ first play from scrimmage.
Following a Sparks three-and-out, Wooster took over on its own 27 and trekked downfield for another touchdown. Harprett Dhaliwal scored from 25 yards out. The point after was blocked, leaving the home team ahead 13-0 with 5:28 to go in the first quarter.
It seemed all so familiar for the SHS faithful. But what happened next had not happened all season.
After Wooster fumbled near midfield at the beginning of the second quarter, the Railroaders erased the memory of their first three possessions ending either by a turnover on downs or by a three-and-out. They then proceeded to get on the scoreboard when Banks punched one in from 14 yards away from the end zone, starting left and cutting back right for the touchdown run. The extra point cut the deficit to 13-7 with 8:25 to play in the first half.
The Colts started their next drive with great field position, taking the ball at their own 42. However, Sparks’ defense stepped up, sacking Carnemolia for a 9-yard loss on third down. Wooster punted and Sparks began its next drive at its own 15.
Sparks (0-10) had sporadic success with its run game through the first quarter and a half, but something clicked on this drive. Banks rumbled for 19- and 17-yard gains on back-to-back runs, bringing the ball down to the Wooster 9. Two plays later, Banks went up the gut for a 4-yard touchdown run. The PAT was good, giving Sparks its first lead of the season, 14-13.
With 2:29 on the second-quarter clock, Wooster was hoping to put some points on the board before the half in order to regain the lead. Arturo Herrera had other ideas, picking off a pass. Sparks took over on the Colts’ 47-yard line.
Vasquez led his team inside the Wooster red zone with short passes and was set up to add to the advantage. But poor clock management inside the 5-yard line left the score the same heading back into the locker rooms.
Wooster (2-8) tried to help out Sparks to start the second half as well. On fourth-and-10, an ill-advised fake punt play came up empty and gave the ball to the Railroaders inside Colt territory.
Sparks couldn’t do anything with the opportunity, losing a yard on the drive and punting back to the home team.
Two plays into the ensuing possession, Carnemolia tossed up a severely underthrown ball into double coverage, but receiver JJ Harloff was the one who came down with it, catching the pass at his waist. He turned and took off for a 73-yard touchdown, Wooster went to the air for the two-point conversion and made it a 21-14 game at the 8:37 mark of the third quarter.
Late in the third and at the start of the fourth quarter, the Colts shot themselves in the foot with big penalties. A punt was fielded by Sparks’ Cedric Sanchez, who rumbled down to the Wooster 12. A block in the back penalty brought the ball back to the 23, but it didn’t discourage the Railroaders. Banks took the handoff on the first play of the drive and sprinted 23 yards to the end zone for a game-tying score with 11:22 to go in the game.