By Kaleb Roedel
DAYTON — After opening the season on the wrong foot, stumbling to a 48-13 loss to Spring Creek, Sparks football coach Robb Kittrell said the coaching staff would “make sure everyone got pointed in the right direction.”
Consider the Railroaders on the right track.
Fueled by an offense that erupted for 400 yards and a defense that allowed a mere 51, Sparks rolled to a 48-0 shutout of Dayton in DI-A North action Friday.
“The kids stepped up and played well; stepped up to the challenge,” Kittrell said. “They came to play, and we need to make that a consistent thing now.”
One area the Railroaders seemingly found consistency is their ground game.The Railroaders gashed the Dust Devils for 355 rushing yards, anchored by the running back committee of Hunter O’Meara, Rod Po’oi and Nick Van Patten, who combined for 268 yards.
“Offensively, our line did a real good job of blocking, getting to the point of attack,” Kittrell said. “Our backs were hitting the holes and running hard — not going down on first contact.”
No one more than O’Meara, who racked up a team-high 97 rushing yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Po’oi added 88 yards with a team-leading three touchdowns — on runs of 5, 7 and 9 yards — and Van Patten charted 83 yards with a 5-yard touchdown trot. The trio accounted for all of Sparks’ first-half scoring, marching the Railroaders out to a 35-0 command at halftime.
“We rushed for that many yards (355) and didn’t have one guy over 100,” Kittrell said. “That just shows, especially Nick [Van Patten], Hunter [O’Meara] and Rob [Po’oi], what they’re capable of doing. We feel comfortable with any of them back there [in the backfield].”
And then there was the defense.
Not giving the Dust Devils’ a sniff on the run, dominating every snap, the Railroaders bottled up any and every ball-carrier sent into the trenches. At game’s end, Dayton had negative-13 rushing yards.
“Defensively, everybody played assignment football,” Kittrell said. “After scouting them (Dayton), they had not shown any sort of outside run. We really loaded up on the middle and tried to force them to see if they could get it outside. Our defense just played fundamentally sound.”
Kittrell noted that sophomore Lolo Nau, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound defensive tackle, was the catalyst.
“He did a good job of causing problems,” Kittrell said. “He was forcing double-teams, which let the inside [line]backers flow freely.”
While Nau and the Railroaders kept the Dust Devils handcuffed, Sparks broke free for two more scores in the third quarter to round out its tally. Tevita Po’oi found paydirt on a 6-yard run and Sylis Sanchez hit John Anguiano for a 32-yard TD strike.
Anguiano nailed 6 of 7 extra points, to boot.
Sparks (1-1, 1-1) will play its first game at home at 7 p.m. Friday when it hosts Elko (1-0, 1-0).
“Year in, year out, they’re going to be one of the top teams,” Kittrell said of the Indians, who are coming off a 42-0 win over Wooster on Friday. “They’re going to play fundamental defense and they’re going to be able to run the ball — we’re going to have to take away the running game and be sound.”