While all three of the Rail City’s gridiron programs held optional non-contact summer programs, the first day of official practice was last week. Certainly the Sparks-area coaches welcomed the start of full-contact workouts Monday.
“It is definitely a progression that we look forward to,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “It lets you know that our first game is coming soon, but that feeling of being on the clock, started a long time ago.”
The football coaching staffs at Sparks schools, and across the state, are excited about the start of padded practices because they learn more about their teams.
“Football is an intense, physical game, so the ability to use pads allows us to practice at a very fast-paced intensity,” said Howren, whose Raiders have won three of the last four Div. I North titles. “Everything is moving faster and now you can get a better idea of who can process the play that is unfolding before them.”
Eighth-year Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare echoed those sentiments.
“Football is played with gear on,” he said. “It’s the one sport that really, when you’re not in gear, you’re doing workouts where you really do not evaluate most of your positions. Your goal without gear on is just that the kids understand your system. Then when you put gear on, you find out what they can do.
“There are kids who look fantastic in the summer but once you put the gear on, they fade backwards. And then there are other kids who, with no gear on, are in the middle of the pack, but then when you do put gear on, they make every catch and make every block. So then they do standout.”
Sparks coach Rob Kittrell, the dean of Washoe County prep football coaches, had a similar story.
“Some kids run a little slower in pads and some kids might step it up a little bit. When you can put the pads on, you find out who likes contact.
“I remember we got a running back, a kid who moved in over the summer eight or nine years ago, who looked all-world in the summer, like he could run for 2,000 yards. Then we put pads on and he was done after one day. And then vice versa, sometimes you see a quiet kid. Then you put pads on him and he starts going 100 mph. When you can put pads on, that’s when you find out more about what kind of team you have.”
Nevada’s high school football programs are allowed to attend a full-contact camp once a summer for a week. The camps often help coaches better evaluate the physical tolerance players can thrive under. Reed held its camp in June but Spanish Springs and Sparks competed in team camp less than three weeks ago.
“We had some kids missing from camp, but for the most part, I think we’ve got a pretty good feel for our team’s physical style,” Kittrell said. “Now it’s time to execute our schemes live and get our timing down.”
Hare, who organized the four-team camp that also included Wooster and Galena, is optimistic that the late timing of the camp will maximize benefits.
“We just had camp two weeks ago,” Hare said. “So I don’t feel quite that same sense of urgency that I usually do at this time of the year. I have a pretty good idea of where we’re at. Not a lot has probably changed in the last couple weeks. I think camp gave us a pretty good feel of who can do what.
“It’s absolutely crazy. A lot of coaches really felt like we’d miss double days, and I was one of them, but with camp (recently completed), I felt like we just had double days. Even if we could have double days this week, I wouldn’t.”
The Washoe County School District’s new calendar, which moved up the start of classes two weeks, did not allow schools in the district to host two-a-day workouts in mid-August as had been the norm for years.
The trio of Sparks schools will participate in scrimmages Saturday and then prep for Opening Night, Aug. 30.