Sparks junior running back Nick Van Patten took Sparks’ first play of the second quarter 49 yards to the house, briefly tying the Railroaders with Fernley at 14 Friday night.
A holding call took the touchdown off the board. Sparks punted three plays later. It was all Fernley from that point on as the Railroaders were outscored 26-0 over the final 35 minutes in a 40-7 home loss to the Vaqueros, who appear to be the class of the DI-A North.
Fernley remained perfect at 5-0, 4-0 in league contests while Sparks dropped to 2-3, 1-3.
“For us, we have to learn how to start fighting through that stuff,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said of the touchdown that was called back. “And not let it affect us. It’s been too much of a problem around here.”
Sparks’ defense forced a third and 12 at the Vaqueros’ 23 on the Fernley’s following drive. With the entire Sparks coaching staff yelling “screen!” Fernley quarterback Kyle Throckmorton still dumped a screen pass to running back Matt Taylor who went 61 yards to the Sparks 16.
Sam Ramirez took an end around 16 yards untouched on the next play. Momentum gone.
“It’s frustrating,” Kittrell said. “It’s frustrating.”
Offensively, Fernley racked up 403 yards on 47 plays from scrimmage with nearly all of its production coming on explosive plays from Eddie Sloan.
The senior entered the game with just 39 rushing yards on the season but broke out for 158 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries, all of which were designed for him to get to the corner.
“Whew, he (Sloan) is quick,” Fernley coach Chris Ward said. “We knew Rob (Kittrell) was going to take away our option game so he was packing everybody in and if everybody is packed in, we go outside.”
Sloan had touchdown runs of 59, 50 and 32 yards. His final touchdown, the 32-yarder, extended Fernley’s 28-7 halftime lead to 34-7 (missed PAT) with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
“He (Sloan) killed us,” Kittrell said. “We made a couple adjustments (at the half) but his last touchdown, I thought we had him corralled pretty good but he put his foot in the dirt and he was gone. He’s impressive.”
Fernley backup quarterback Ren Arroyo accounted for the final points of the night with 8:42 left when he took his first snap of the night 25 yards on a designed keeper.
Sparks’ only touchdown of the contest came with just 16 ticks left in the first quarter, trimming an early hole to 14-7.
Rod Po’oi bounced outside on a fourth and two for an 18-yard score.
Sparks then quickly forced a Fernley three-and-out, setting up the Van Patten touchdown that wasn’t.
Despite the lopsided final score, Ward said this year’s Sparks team is vastly improved from those he’s seen in recent years.
“We could see it on film,” Ward said. “They duked it out with Elko … We told them (players), ‘don’t expect the Sparks we’ve had the last couple years. Be ready. These kids are going to play.’ And they did. They got some good things.”
Sparks’ offense was held to 180 yards on 63 snaps (2.9 yards per play) in the loss and was marred by seven turnovers.
Fernley has now bested Sparks five-straight years with its last loss to the Railroaders coming in 2010, 31-13.
The Railroaders will try to get back in the win column next Friday against Truckee in the final game of a four-game home stand. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.