Spanish Springs (4-5) is the High Desert League's No. 4 seed and will travel to face Sierra League champion Carson (7-2) Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The injury bug has bitten Spanish Springs as hard as anyone in northern Nevada this fall, but if there's good news it's that the Cougars are getting healthier.
Eighth-year Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare has known his Cougars are on the mend. He's held some back in recent weeks and monitored how he's used other s in hopes of getting his squad as healthy as it can be for this weekend's postseason showdown.
"We're getting some guys back," Hare said. "We're typical of any football team. We've got some rolled ankles, but that's part of football. We shouldn't have anything major hurting us going into this game. This is the third week in a row we'll be starting the same linebacking group. That's a first all year. We've basically got six guys on the offensive line that we're rotating through. We're making strides at the right time. (QB) Hunter (Fralick) is fine. It's late in the season so he's got a couple ailments, but who wouldn't after taking some hits all season. He's ready to roll."
The Cougars have been up and down all season. They have only won back-to-back games once. Despite their 4-5 record, they've been very competitive, only getting stuck with two losses of more than 10 points. Friday's tilt may be a 1-4 seed matchup, but Spanish Springs goes into the game believing it should be in contention.
"We're in a good spot," Hare said. "I think our defense is playing pretty well. Our O-line is coming along. We've got it moving in the right direction and at the right time of year. There's not a lot of be upset about. We're playing better and getting better. I'd rather be saying that than the alternative."
Carson beat all four Sierra League foes to win its conference crown and account for its recent four-game winning streak. It's only losses this season have come to Reno, 23-17, in Week 2 and Reed, 64-26, in Week 5.
"Coach Roman's Carson teams are always very disciplined," Hare said. "If you don't pay attention to your assignments, they'll burn you and burn you fast. Carson has been very steady all season. Its defense is opportunistic. They want to strip you and get interceptions and when they do, they're not just going to fall on it. They want to take it for six. This is a typical coach Roman team. They have earned what they've got. They're 4-0 on that side. They beat McQueen. It will be a tough night for us but we're looking forward to it."
Most coaches around northern Nevada will tell you Spanish Springs has one of the most effective, and dynamic offenses in the region. However, if there is an Achilles heel for the unit it's been inconsistent play in the red zone. The Cougars have failed to put points on the board far too many times, leading to missed opportunities and league losses, specifically at Reno and McQueen.
Still, Hare will tell you there's no time like the present to clean up those woes. He says he'll have a few new wrinkles up his sleeve for Carson and that his coaches and players are excited to compete in postseason football.
"I think our kids are confident," Hare said. "They know they're playing a good football team. They know they were 2-3 in our league, but they also know in losses to McQueen and Reno they had 500 yards of offense. Our guys know they can move the football against anybody.
"I believe right now we're peaking and doing so at the right time. We respect Carson, but I don't believe we fear anybody. We could lose to anybody, but we also believe we can play anybody and have a shot to win."
Carson knows what it's in for. While the Senators did not play the Cougars this fall, the CHS coaching staff has seen plenty of film on the SSHS gridders and with Falick already giving a verbal commitment to play Nevada, his reputation guiding the Spanish Springs offense precedes him.
"Obviously offensively, the quarterback Fralick is a legitimate DI player. He's very, very good. We will have our hands full slowing him down ... Spanish Springs has looked real impressive at times. We expect a real tough first-round game.
"We've played solid football all year long. Outside of the third quarter against Reed, I feel like we've played solid all year and that's one of the biggest compliments I can give our team. I feel like there's six or seven teams that could win it (a North title). Reed is the favorite, but anyone can be beat beaten. I feel like we've got as legitimate a shot to win the regional title as anyone else and that starts Friday against Spanish Springs."