By Kaleb Roedel
SPRING CREEK — Going for it on fourth-and-six on its opening drive, the Sparks football team, planted inside Spring Creek’s 10-yard line, was seeking a tone-setting first down or, even better, touchdown.
One snap later, the tone was set — just not in the Railroaders’ favor.
Spring Creek stuffed Sparks at the 2-yard line — half a yard shy of the first-down marker — and turned around and orchestrated a touchdown drive. The sequence proved to be a microcosm of the Railroaders’ 47-13 season-opening loss to the Spartans in a DI-A North contest Friday.
“It was tough, but we got to overcome that and not let that affect us on the other side of the ball,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said of his team’s opening drive coming up empty. “Defensively, we had no answer for them; their speed was too much for us; their quarterback [Jon] Jund was right on target.
“It was one of the most disappointing defensive performances I’ve seen since I’ve been head coach, and that falls on me, right on down the line.”
The Spartans swelled their lead to 34-0 before the Railroaders finally found paydirt, coming on Nick Van Patten’s 73-yard scamper to the end zone with two minutes left in the first half. Van Patten finished with a team-high 95 yards on five rushes.
But Sparks’ half-ending score did little to shift the momentum. In fact, Spring Creek nearly shut out the Railroaders in the second half. Sparks senior quarterback Sylis Sanchez trotted in a 7-yard touchdown on the game’s final play to round out the 47-13 tally.
Sanchez finished 6-of-11 for 57 yards to go with 23 rushing yards. Agustin Juarez had a team-best three catches for 29 yards.
Rod Po’oi and Hunter O’Meara added 63 and 47 rushing yards, respectively.
In all, Sparks charted 309 yards, including 252 on the ground.
“Offensively, I felt we were fairly efficient, we just needed to go finish these drives and score,” Kittrell said. “Our offensive line, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but we did a real nice job of opening the holes. The backs were hitting the holes, and Sylis did a good job of running the offense. There are great positives we can bring into this week and build on.”
Sparks (0-1) will look to bounce back at 7 p.m. Friday when it travels to Dayton (0-1) for a conference showdown. Dayton is on the heels of a 38-0 non-league loss to Pershing County.
“We’ll make sure everyone gets pointed in the right direction,” Kittrell said of practice this week. “I expect a much better effort Friday night.”