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Smokescreen: Local football programs deal with smoky skies, prep for Week 2
by Dan Eckles
Sep 05, 2013 | 1673 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs tailback CJ Carrithers gets set to haul in a pass after scampering out of the backfield during a drill at the Cougars' workout Tuesday evening.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs tailback CJ Carrithers gets set to haul in a pass after scampering out of the backfield during a drill at the Cougars' workout Tuesday evening.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS ball carrier Mike Leland tries to fight through the tackle of a teammate during the Cougars' practice Tuesday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS ball carrier Mike Leland tries to fight through the tackle of a teammate during the Cougars' practice Tuesday.
It's Week 2 of the high school football season but two of the Rail City's three prep programs have not suited up in a game. The smoke-infested skies over the Truckee Meadows forced athletic officials at Spanish Springs and Sparks to cancel their season openers due to health concerns and no make-up dates will be set.

So you can bet the football players at both local schools are chomping at the bit to hit a player with another school's jersey. While the Cougars and Railroaders are gearing up to still make their season debuts, Reed was the lone local squad to get a game in last weekend and now its got a bye.

Here's a closer look at the two games involving local schools and brief about Reed's bye week preparations.

Damonte Ranch at Spanish Springs, 7 p.m.

•The smoky haze hovering over the Truckee Meadows for nearly three weeks has forced the Spanish Springs football team, like other high school programs across the northwest region of the state, to work out indoors. It hasn't been optimal, but eighth-year Cougars coach Scott Hare has tried to look at the bright side.

"The truth is, we do have the largest gym in northern Nevada, so if you've got to go inside, it's better to do it in our gym than anywhere else," he said with some levity. "If you looked at the width of our gym, it's gotta be close to the width of a football field.

"I told our kids, if we turfed our gym, we could play a 15-to-20 yard game inside. How many drills do you do in a football practice longer than 15 yards. Not

many. I don't think having been inside for so long will affect us on Friday night. Win, lose or draw, no matter what, we won't use it as an excuse."

The biggest gripe most local coaches have had with being indoors for practices is the tougher conditions for implementing full-contact drills. Do you suit kids up in full pads? Do you just work out in PE clothiers for non-contact drills?

Hare said that's been a non-issue for his squad.

"The long ball is the one area of the game I'm concerned about," Hare said. "That's the one thing you can't work on in the gym. But we're were banging around in the gym. Even when we practice outside, we don't go all the way to the ground, so there's no need to do that inside. Everything else is the same. We're hitting. Our line is going hard. Our linebackers are filling. Our fullbacks are come up and whacking each other.

"We can squeeze in 7-on-7s, our run game, short passing game, blitz pickup and defensive plan. I don't really think being in the gym is affecting us a lot."

It certainly didn't seem to faze Damonte Ranch. The Mustangs have dealt with the same smoky skies and the issues that's brought on, but they were able to get their season opener in last weekend, traveling to Winnemucca to face North Valleys Friday. The result was a 49-0 romp over North Valleys.

Second-year DRHS coach Shawn Dupris, who led the Mustangs to the Div. I North title game last fall in his inaugural season at the south Reno school, seemingly has his club ready to roll again.

"I think Damonte's doing a good job, getting its whole team to buy in," Hare said. "They play with a great deal of energy. They play hard. They're making good strides. It's going to be a tough week for us.

"Offensively, they have a couple of plays they run well. They stretch the field, get to the perimeter and their QB is improved. You can see the year of development from that kid. They look to be more balanced and play very fast. Defensively, they're not going to be in the same spot twice. They never end up where they start. They want you to spend time thinking instead of playing. It's a good scheme. We'll have to be prepared for it."

Elko at Sparks, 7 p.m.

•While Sparks lost its scheduled season opener last Friday, the good news for the Railroaders is it won't have to play an opponent with a game under its belt. Elko did not schedule a non-league contest to open its season last weekend, instead opting to just play its nine-game Div. I-A North league slate. Thus, the league rivals will both be suiting up for the first time when they don pads and uniforms Friday.

"It will be the first game for both of us, so that's good," Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. "But I'm sure they've been practicing outside more than us."

He's right. The smoky blanket of air over the region, caused by California wildfires, has not had the same negative impacts on air quality in the eastern half of the state. Sparks did get to practice outside Thursday, but was back inside Friday and Monday. Saturday, one of the best days for local air quality in the last two weeks, Sparks had a scheduled off day.

So what effect will all the indoor practice have on sparks players when they finally get to game day?

"I have no idea," Kittrell said. "Until we actually play, who knows? I keep looking at the positives. Maybe we'll come out fired up and be anxious to hit, have all that fire to come out and fly around. Then again, you look at fundamentally how much will it hurt you? That remains to be seen. Personally, it's driving me crazy, but with the kids we talk a lot about adapting. They've done a good job. But they do want tot get out and do all the football stuff."

Considering Elko has not played yet, Kittrell has not been able to watch any current film on the Indians. Still, he knows the tradition there and the eastern Nevada school's tendencies of the past.

"I don't know a whole lot about them with no film from this year," Kitttrell said. "What I do know is their guys coming back are athletic and their line was real young, like ours, last year.

"They still run the Wing-T. They'll try to outnumber you at the point of attack. They definitely want to out-execute you with their blocking schemes. We have to stay balanced and take away their favorite plays. That's always tough to do. Our special teams last year just killed us. It seems like every one of their drives started at our 30. We were just horrendous down there last year."

Kittrell noticed the passion and physical style North D-I powers Reed and McQueen played with last weekend, knocking off perennial Norcal powers, all despite minimal practice time outside. He hopes his squad can play with the same fire. The veteran coach admitted he was somewhat surprised to know that the Lancers' and Raiders' defenses excelled as much as they did, noting that would be a big step in the right direction for his club too.

"I was especially impressed with McQueen and Reed because of the level of competition they played. Hopefully, our kids have that same huge fire," he said. "I was most impressed with the defenses. That's where being inside affects you the most. Being in the right position with your gap responsibilities and then hitting too. Defense is all about angles and trusting one another. It's tough to do all that in a gym when there's a wall just over there."

Reed, bye week

The Reed coaching staff has worked for the better part of the last 10 months to find a Week 2 opponent, but it could not find a suitable partner. So the Raiders get a rare bye just a week after making their season debut.

However, given the RHS gridders' limited practice time outside, 13th-year Reed coach Ernie Howren said the bye has fallen at a relatively advantageous time.

"Everything we've been told, this may be the worst week (of smoky conditions)," Howren said. "So we're very excited. I fell like we're in a good spot. Unfortunately, we don't' have a game, but everyone locally lost double days. This a good time for us to make up some practices that we didn't get because of the new school calendar and the smoke. We like the spot we're in. If there's a year to have a Week 2 bye, this is it."

Howren gave his players the Labor Day holiday off on Monday and scheduled workouts just Tuesday through Friday. He said although his staff has worked in some game prep plans for Douglas during the week, it is largely using this week to focus on improve its own schemes.

"We'll work on each, our program's things that we saw from the film of the Foothill game that we feel we can do a whole lot better,"

Reed will travel to Douglas for its next game, Sept. 13.

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