Friday night football fight: Truckee at Sparks
Sierra Sun sports editor
The Sparks High School varsity football team returns only two starters in 2004 ” which is actually good news when it comes to playing Truckee.
New to the Northern 3A after playing as an independent in 2003, Sparks will at least be able to throw some fresh faces at Truckee quarterback Paul Tierney and wide receiver Jamie Maehler.
Tierney threw for 333 yards in a win over the Railroaders last year ” and 227 of those yards were compiled by Maehler.
“Tierney’s a great quarterback,” said Sparks head coach Rob Kittrell. “And Maehler ” he’s as good as any receiver I’d seen in the 4A.”
That’s a legitimate compliment coming from Kittrell, who, entering his seventh season, coached Sparks for many frustrating years in the 4A. In the NIAA record book, Maehler’s 227-yard output against Sparks is the highest single game total of any receiver who did not play in an 8-man contest.
Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer realizes Maehler will draw attention, but he knows the personnel around Maehler is capable of doing the job.
“We’ve never gone into a game saying that Maehler and Paul are the guys,” he said. “If they try to take Jamie away, then that opens up a couple other receivers. If you look back at the Hug game, we had seven different receivers that we passed the ball to.”
Maehler is already Greater Nevada’s career receiving yardage leader, but Shaffer has not noticed a ball-hog attitude prevalent in the senior.
“Sometimes he feels like he needs to get the ball in his hands, but Paul and I have to remember that if they’re going to double or triple team him, we’ve got to get the ball to the other guys and not just rely on him,” Shaffer said.
It’s no secret that Truckee’s passing attack is strong, but Kittrell is ready for anything from Truckee’s offense when the two line up on Sept. 17 in the Northern 3A opener for both schools.
“Knowing (Truckee head coach Bob) Shaffer, we can’t just sit back and focus on the pass, or they’ll rush for over 300 yards,” Kittrell said. (To contain the pass), we have to line up properly and be disciplined on their patterns and stay in our zones.”
Kittrell called Truckee the best team in this year’s pool of Northern 3A teams, and to beat the Wolverines, he thinks his team will have to play a flawless game.
“We have to play a perfect game on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We can’t allow them to have a short field (on offense), and we have to get to our spots and be a good tackling team.”
Kittrell also didn’t want to come to any strong conclusions about Hug’s standout running back Isaac Porter’s 300-plus yard performance against Truckee in Week 2.
“Watching film, Truckee missed some tackles, but I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to Porter,” he said. “Truckee looked like they had things stuffed and plugged up pretty well, but it looked like Porter was the best athlete on the field.”
On the same subject, Shaffer said, “We made (Porter) look better than we should have, but of course I’m not taking anything away from him.”
Porter’s success against Truckee means the Wolverines defense will have to prove it can stop the run, and Shaffer thinks 80 to 90 percent of Sparks offense will be running plays ” led by one of the two Railroaders returning starters, full back/linebacker Chris Orsborn.
“They run the ball really well,” said Shaffer, who has compiled a 75-15 record in nine seasons as the Truckee head coach. “They have two good running backs ” #32 and #33 (Orsborn). 32 is more like a Porter kind of back ” really quick, elusive ” and 33’s a big kid, weighs about 220; he’s a good athlete and very powerful. We’re going to have to gang tackle him and guys can’t over-pursue and miss tackles.”
The necessity for Truckee to stop the run isn’t just limited to the Sparks game. Shaffer understands it will be a common theme throughout the year.
“We’re going to see other good running backs,” he said. “To win the state championship or to win our league, we’ve got to be able to stop the run.”
(Below: Your 2004 guide to Northern 3A varsity football)
Head coach: Rick Walker (9-12)
2003: 4-6 (2-5 Northern 3A), lost to Truckee, 30-20, in first round of Northern 3A playoffs
State titles: 0
Dayton is coming off two four-win seasons and its first ever trip to the postseason in 2003. Sounds unimpressive, but when you consider that the team has never had a winning season in 21 years, you begin to understand why a 10-point loss to Truckee in the first round of the 2003 Northern 3A playoffs was a major boost to the program.
The Dust Devils trailed the Wolverines by just seven entering the fourth quarter on the strength of then freshman quarterback Travis Wood. Wood, playing in only his second varsity game, completed 18 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns against the Wolverines.
Wood carried that over to the new season in Dayton’s opener, throwing two touchdown passes against 4A Damonte Ranch, a 4A south Reno school in only its second year of existence.
But if you believe that statistics don’t lie, it seems that Dayton has relied on its running game more than the arm of Wood so far this season. Against Damonte, running backs Kevin May and Zane Walker both rushed for over 100 yards. Walker then rushed for 121 yards on 19 carries versus Faith Lutheran (Southern 3A, up from 2A) in Week 2. Lutheran jumped out to a 26-7 lead over Dayton and held on to win 26-20. Turnovers were a problem for Dayton, as Wood threw two interceptions and Lutheran recovered two fumbles in the game.
Dayton hosts Lowry Sept. 17 in the Northern 3A opener for both schools.
Head coach: Dave Hart (26th season, record n/a)
2003: 2-7 overall (1-6 Northern 3A) Missed playoffs
State titles: 2 (1952, 1956), both in six-man
Fernley has not made the playoffs since 1998, and it might be another case of deja vu for the Vaqueros in 2004 if they don’t find players that can produce at the skilled positions.
The strength of the team is on the offensive and defensive lines because of players like Chris Leonard (6-1, 235) and Joe Carter (6-1, 240).
Cody McDougal and Bryan Jones are the running backs that will have to find running lanes behind a veteran offensive line that returns all five starters from a year ago. Junior Dan Henderson will be the Vaqueros quarterback this season, as well as a linebacker in Fernley’s 3-5 defensive scheme.
In its season opener against visiting Yerington ” which moves down to 2A in football only ” Fernley ran back two fumbles for touchdowns in an easy 40-12 win. In Week 2, however, Fernley met up with a 4A Fallon team that dismantled the Vaqueros defense, 40-8.
Fernley travels to Spring Creek Sept. 17 to face Greater Nevada’s leading rusher James Edwards in the Northern 3A opener for both schools.
Head coach: Chris Ward (5th season, 22-17)
2003: 4-6 (4-3 Northern 3A), lost to Spring Creek, 33-22, in first round of Northern 3A playoffs
State titles: 2 (1959, 1965), both in 1A
Devastated by problems in the classroom, about one-third of Lowry’s JV and varsity football players were ineligible when practice started on Aug. 12. But with the new Northern 3A alignment (which makes for two less league games with Manogue, Rite of Passage and Yerington now out), the timing could allow Lowry to get key players back for the start of league play.
Lowry throws an option offense at opposing defenses on the strength of backs Andrew Reed and Shane Goodale, two players with sensational open-field speed. Tyler Crnkovich takes over the quarterback duties after ample experience last season. With Reed and Goodale in the secondary, Lowry’s strength on defense figures to be their speed.
Lowry is off to a 2-0 start in 2004, but both wins are against 2A opponents ” a 43-6 whipping of Battle Mountain in Week 1 and a 39-6 thrashing of White Pine in Week 3. In the victory over White Pine, Lowry’s kicking game was suspect, missing two field goals and two extra points.
Lowry travels to Dayton Sept. 17 in the Northern 3A opener for both schools.
Head coach: Scott Everist (2nd season, 5-7)
2003: 4-6 (2-5 Northern 3A), lost to Manogue, 65-0, in first round of Northern 3A playoffs
State titles: 1 (1986, 2A)
By Tripp Mickle
Sun News Service
Gavin Lofstedt, the Lakers’ promising 2004 quarterback, is as laid back in the pocket as he is riding a wave off the coast of his native Hawaii.
With a minute to play and his team down 25-19 in their season opener versus Quincy, the senior dropped three steps on a play action draw and lofted the ball 20 yards to Julio Tarrazas deep in the end zone. North Tahoe went on to lose 31-26, but Lofstedt made the throw calmly and cooly, even after playing both cornerback and quarterback the entire game.
“It’s the same for him as kicking a field goal,” Everist said. “It’s hang loose.”
The 5’11”, 170-pound Lofstedt, who runs a 4.6 in the 40, first showed promise late in the Lakers’ final game of the season last year against Manogue when he replaced Brian Carrillo at quarterback. He scrambled for close to 40 yards in his first series in the pocket. His effectiveness outside the pocket has inspired offensive coordinator Skip Piechocinski to add the Air Force option to the play book.
“With Gavin, we’ve got the talent back there,” Piechocinski said. “We just have to work on it to get it to work better.”
Lofstedt has a lot of work to do before he becomes the well-rounded player the Lakers coaches want in the pocket. Against Quincy, he carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards and, of his eight throws, two were interceptions. But out of his three completions, two counted for touchdowns.
“We have to get Gavin turning down field and get him taking over the leadership of this team by example,” Everist said. “He needs to become a more confident quarterback with more swagger.”
Some of that swagger will be fed by the success of those around him. Senior Julio Terrazas could serve as a major offensive catalyst. His 12 carries for 195 yards and two touchdown receptions sparked the Lakers fourth quarter comeback against Quincy.
Randy Jansen, Brandon Pfennig, Jeff Bahrke and Thomas Hill will share the team’s running duties. Jansen carried the ball twice for 20 yards and Hill ran five times for 46 yards in the team’s opener. At 5’9″, 220-pounds, Jansen is one of the hardest fullbacks to stop in the league.
Success on the ground was keyed by a more physical and experienced offensive line than the Lakers had a year ago, coaches said. Led by seniors Stephen Kirk and John Wallis, the team created ample running room for the Lakers late in the game. According to Piechocinski, the line just needs to strengthen their vision up field on running plays – something he believes will come with time.
In the air, senior receivers Spencer Wright and Michael Cruz open the offense up to a new spread set formation. The duo, both of whom top six-feet, give Lofstedt speedy, athletic options. Cruz rejoins the team after taking fourth place in the state in the 100-meter dash last spring.
“They’ve both got wheels,” Piechocinski said. “They have to run precise routes to make the three-step drop work.”
Defensively, the Lakers will shift from a 5-2 formation to a 4-3. Everist hopes the change will yield a more attack-oriented defense. Down 19-3 to Quincy, the front seven forced a fumble in the end zone that sparked a fourth quarter comeback. Linebacker Evan Thomas led the team with eight assists and four solo tackles against Quincy, while Jansen added two solos, five assists and a sack attack from the linebacker position.
The defense lost three key members of the secondary to graduation. Without Dan Bagan, Ryan Marrple and Jamie Faulkner’s speed and instinct, the team will look to a mixture of Pfennig, Barhke, Terrazas, Wright and Lofstedt to limit other teams’ pass offense. Against Quincy, the group gave up a 63-yard reception that set up the Trojans winning score.
“We have the personnel to run this defense,” Everist said. “We’ll have to improve our pass rush and combo blitzes to make it work. Our secondary will need to improve.”
Still, Everist believes this team can find success in a new, Manogue-free Northern 3A. The team’s motto ” unfinished business ” plays on its inability to progress past the first-round of the playoffs last fall. With only 20 players, the Lakers ability to finish business will depend on the team’s ability to stay healthy and fit.
“If we stay healthy, finishing business will be winning a playoff game,” Everist said. “Just making it will be tough enough.”
North Tahoe beat Damonte Ranch, 37-0, in Week 3. The Lakers open Northern 3A league play on Sept. 25 versus Lowry.
Head coach: Rob Kittrell (7th season, 17-45)
2003: 3-6, played as independent
State titles: 6 (1935, 1940, 1941, 1945, 1948, *1959) *2A
Along with Reno High School, Sparks High School is going on nearly 100 years of existence and should be viewed with a certain respect based on history alone. But when it comes to sports, the growth of the Reno/Sparks area and the many new high schools that have accompanied that population boom has taken talent away from what is now a beleaguered program.
But 2004 brings new hope for Sparks, who has moved down to 3A after many years of non-competitive play in 4A football. After playing as an independent last season and earning an impressive win over Lowry, Sparks is 2-0 to start the new season.
With only two returning starters and five seniors on a 30-man roster, Sparks beat 2A Incline 34-14 in Week 2 and trounced Sierra Ridge (San Andreas, Calif.) 48-6 in Week 3.
The strength of Sparks offense looks to be a persistent rushing attack led by Gabe Villacorta and Ben Coffield. Villacorta had 144 yards and three touchdowns, while Coffield found the end zone twice on only six carried, as Sparks ran for 367 yards against Sierra Ridge. More impressively, Sparks held Sierra to minus-52 yards rushing.
A boost of confidence against some weak opponents is what Sparks needed to prepare mentally for its season opener Sept. 17 at home against Truckee, which finished 6-1 in the Northern 3A last year.
Head coach: Joel Jund (6th season, 36-19)
2003: 8-3 (5-2 Northern 3A), defeated Lowry, 33-22, lost to Manogue, 49-8, in Northern 3A playoffs
State titles: 1 (1997, 3A)
James Edwards. The two words that flash in the minds of high school coaches preparing to face Spring Creek in 2004.
Edwards, a junior, won the Greater Nevada rushing title as a sophomore, finishing with 2,287 yards in 11 games, including four games in which he rushed for more than 200 yards. It was the third best single season total in NIAA history.
Edwards is only 5-11, 180, but he has his eye on Chance Kretschmer’s all-time NIAA career mark of 5,021″ achieved over four years (1996-99) at Tonopah by the now senior running back for the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Speed is not necessarily Edwards’ strength, but he has the ability to make tacklers miss or deliver a punishing blow. Spring Creek has played a full schedule thus far, helping Edwards to be Greater Nevada’s leading rusher.
Edwards has averaged 30 carries and 236 yards per game in a 45-19 loss to 4A Elko, a 30-22 win over Southern 3A’s Pahrump Valley and a 46-18 road win over a 3A Oregon school (Ontario).
Returning junior running back Bryce Saddoris scored seven touchdowns as a sophomore last season and will help to take the offensive load off Edwards.
Quarterback Daniel Stenovich has hooked up with receiver David Neumann 10 times, but Stenovich will spend a majority of his time handing the ball off to Edwards ” until defenses can stop him.
Spring Creek hosts Fernley Sept. 17 in the Northern 3A opener for both schools.