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Countdown to Kickoff
by Dan Eckles
Sep 19, 2013 | 1385 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs quarterback Hunter Fralick (with ball) follows the lead block of teammate Gehrig Parks during Tuesday afternoon’s Cougars’ workout.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs quarterback Hunter Fralick (with ball) follows the lead block of teammate Gehrig Parks during Tuesday afternoon’s Cougars’ workout.
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Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - Reed safety Austin Warner tries to knock down a pass while Raiders receiver Wade Eiler slides to make a tough grab during the RHS team's Tuesday practice.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - Reed safety Austin Warner tries to knock down a pass while Raiders receiver Wade Eiler slides to make a tough grab during the RHS team's Tuesday practice.
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Week 4 of Nevada’s high school football season is underway and yet for a variety of reasons all three Sparks-area schools are gearing up for just their third game of the young season.

Here’s a closer look at the three games involving local schools.

Galena at Spanish Springs, Friday 7 p.m.

•The SSHS coaching staff is hoping a road trip to California last weekend and a win over a south Bay Area school helps the Cougars get pointed back in the right direction after a disappointing season-opening home loss to Damonte Ranch on Sept. 6.

Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare questioned his team’s toughness after the defeat in its debut. He then put the Cougars through one of their toughest weeks of practice during his eight-year tenure at the school. The team responded by blowing out to a 49-14 lead and holding on for a 49-35 win at Scotts Valley, Calif. last Saturday.

“We responded very well,” Hare said. “Our running game was much better in terms of getting off the football. We clogged up the middle really well ... I’m pleased with how we played tackle to tackle.

“I think we have some athletes but I don’t think we’re overly athletic. We have to be a physical football team if we want to be successful. We need to utilize our physical attributes more and to do that we must harden our bodies and get used to being physical.”

Spanish Springs (1-1) is now gearing up for a Galena team that should not be unfamiliar. The Cougars and Grizzlies (3-0) competed in team camp at length against each other six weeks ago. Unfortunately for Spanish Springs, Hare said Galena, already a strong football team in his mind, has improved in leaps and bounds since summer camp and has wins against Lassen, Calif., North Valleys and Reno to show for it.

“Galena looks really good,” Hare said. “They’ve done a lot of work since camp and it shows. They look crisp. Coach Struzyk has got those guys firing on all cylinders. Everything they’re doing is clean, fast and physical. They’re very impressive to watch on film.”

Hare liked the way his team answered his challenge to be tougher physically and mentally in the win over Scotts Valley, but he admitted there’s still plenty for his squad to clean up. Both Damonte and Scotts Valley have beaten Spanish Springs for big yardage on the perimeter. Hare said his team must contain outside running better and bring down playmakers before they make big plays.

“We need to clean up our issues on the outside,” he said. “Galena is going to be a super-charged Scotts Valley. They run almost identical offenses ... We missed 75 tackles on Saturday. The only way to get better at tackling is by tackling. We’ve got to block and tackle. We must do it and do it a lot. Tackling means being physical.”

Bishop Manogue at Reed, Friday 7 p.m. •Reed got stuck with a rare Week 2 bye, but after an impressive season-opening win at Foothill of Redding, the extra time off didn’t seem to hurt the Raiders. The Raiders donned their uniforms again last weekend for a non-conference clash at Douglas and dumped the Tigers 48-28.

Veteran Reed coach Ernie Howren had mixed feelings last weekend after watching his club win. He was happy to see to Raiders prevail and deal successfully with the early bye week, but he also holds his squad to high standards and he thought it fell short in some areas. 

“After watching film, there are a lot of things we can build on as the season goes on so we can be successful down the road. I’m pleased with that part, but we always tell our kids, ‘we never settle’ and there’s still a lot of things we can get a whole lot better at. If we want to make a deep playoff run, we have to get a whole lot better and we’ll preach that to the kids.”

Despite the 20-point win, Reed coaches believe they left opportunities out on the field at Douglas. Howren cited unfinished drives on offense and late scoring drives by Douglas as areas that need to be cleaned up.

Considering Reed looked pretty good to the average outsider, if the Raiders (2-0) have gone back to practice this week and indeed sharpened up their tools, that could be bad news for Manogue (2-0) when the lights come on Friday night.

“I know a lot of people would be pretty satisfied with scoring 48 points, but we’re not. We feel like there are things we can do to put more points on the board, and on the defensive side, we feel like there were a couple drives where we gave up points and we feel like that’s not us. We’re a whole lot better than that.

“We coaches don’t yell at our kids because we don’t like the kids. We’re trying to motivate them through a little pressure. We love coaching high school football and we have standards we believe in. We’re going to get on our kids. The kids know that and that’s why we get excitable on the sidelines. This group can do things even better than it’s shown so far. We’re in a great spot as a program. We have a lot of good football ahead for us.”

Reed was scheduled to have seven home games this fall, leaving it with only three road games. However, those figures changed when the RHS gridders were forced to move their season opener against Foothill out of the Truckee Meadows and to northern California due to local poor air quality. So after a bye and one of the few road games on its slate, here in Week 4, Reed finally gets to play on it east Sparks campus.

“It is funny how that’s worked out,” Howren said. “It is going to be nice to finally have a home game and play in front of our crowd. It is Homecoming. It’s our 40th year of Reed being open. It’s going to be a special night. To finally be at home in familiar surroundings, it’s nice.”

Sparks at Fernley, Friday 7 p.m.

•There wasn’t much positive to say when Sparks was whacked 55-0 in its fall debut two weeks ago at home against Elko. Long-time Sparks coach Rob Kittrell responded by saying he needed to be tougher on his team in workouts and stop accepting mistakes.

The scoreboard margin didn’t change much a week later as Sparks was spanked 49-14 at Spring Creek, but Kittrell said his team improved and that’s his biggest area of focus. The Railroaders were improved in their second outing. In the opener against Elko, Sparks trailed 21-0 after the first quarter and never competed. A week later, Sparks looked to have pulled to within 16-14 with six minutes left before halftime. Unfortunately for the Railroaders, a touchdown was called back, leaving the margin at 16-7. Spring Creek then held Sparks out of the end zone and tacked on two quick scores before the break to lead 30-7 at halftime.

“We gave them a touchdown after a turnover in the end zone. We had a touchdown called back,” Kittrell said of the first-half turnaround. “We shot ourselves in the foot and gave up a couple big plays defensively. Instead of being down 16-14 at halftime, we were down 30-7.

“Offensively, we were much better moving the ball ... Defensively, we were more efficient than the week before. We’ve talked that there’s some wins out there for us, but we have to keep getting better every week. We have to compete against ourselves to get better. The wins and losses will take care of themselves but we control effort and attitude.”

Sparks heads to Lyon County for its game at Fernley Friday. The Vaqueros are 1-1 after beating South Tahoe but losing to Elko. Kittrell has watched the FHS squad on game film and he says the Orange and Black looks fast.

“It’s hard to tell size on film. They don’t seem overly big but they sure make up for it with athleticism,” Kittrell said. “Their front four, their defensive line will definitely be the fastest we’ve seen to this point. Their offensive skill guys are fast and get out in the open. They can block and if we’re not doing our job, if we’ve got the wrong assignment, it’s going to be a big play.”

In spite of taking its licks the first two weeks, there are bright spots for Sparks. Neither of the Railroaders’ first two opponents has lost yet, meaning the SHS crew has not lost to cupcakes. Kittrell said his offensive line is a team strength and should continue to be.

“Both games up front, believe it or not, the score hasn’t reflected it, but our offensive line is coming off the ball and doing a great job,” Kittrell said. “Our offensive problems have been more backfield timing. When everything is clicking, we’re OK, but one little mistake hurts us. Once our timing gets disrupted, then we’re not moving the ball.

“From our first game to our second, our quarterback, Mastor Sells, is coming around. Friday will be only his third game ever. We saw some huge strides out of him last week. We look to get those same strides out of him. I love our offensive line. Once the offense gets clicking, we’ll be a lot of fun to watch.”
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