Last week, Sparks took a 27-7 lead over Truckee early in third quarter. Truckee scored the final 21 points and stole a 28-27 win.
On Friday night, Sparks took another comfortable lead, 31-0, early in the third quarter at home against Lowry. A second-straight let down wasn’t in the works.
Sparks kept its foot on the gas and improved to 3-5, 2-5 in the DI-A North with a commanding 44-14 win. Lowry fell to 1-6, 1-6.
“We talked about that (blown lead last week) at the half. We can’t let off the throttle,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “We addressed that. It was the No. 1 thing we addressed.”
The Railroaders’ defense was unable to get off the field in the second half of the loss to Truckee but that was hardly the case on Friday night. Sparks’ defense was relentless, holding the Buckaroos to 181 yards of offense on 46 plays. Remove Lowry’s final two drives with backups in, and Sparks held its foe to just 26 yards of offense.
Seven of Lowry’s 11 possessions went backwards.
“I thought they played great,” Kittrell said of his defense. “Last week was so bad (and) we talked about a shutout this week and stepping up and getting it done … I’m very proud of them.
“As Joe Paterno said, we got them to play left-handed and they weren’t comfortable.”
Sparks’ offense didn’t have any trouble either, racking up a healthy 438 yards—almost all of which came on the ground—on 46 plays.
The Railroaders scored touchdowns on six of their first eight drives—three of which lasted just one play.
Hunter O’Meara broke a 65-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, one play after the Buckaroos turned the ball over on downs, to push Sparks’ lead to 14-0. Quarterback Sylis Sanchez (two rushing touchdowns) rumbled for a 36-yard touchdown, extending the hosts lead to 28-0 midway through the second. And Nick Van Patten went around the corner 34 yards, ballooning the difference to 37-0 (missed PAT) midway through the third immediately after a Lowry fumble.
“We’re almost back to healthy back on the line and that helps,” Kittrell said. “Then of course, when you have Van Patten, O’Meara and (Rob) Po’oi back there carrying the ball, that’s tough to stop.”
The Railroaders were five yards from enacting the running-clock mercy rule (45-point difference or greater) early in the fourth quarter, leading 44-0, but fumbled and Lowry recovered.
Buckaroo quarterback Nathan Nelson went 95 yards down the sideline on the next play to get the guests on the board. Defensive lineman Christopher Karchella stripped the ball loose on the first play of Sparks’ ensuing drive and went 40 yards to account for the final points of the night.
Sparks snapped a three-game losing streak with the win and will look to start a win streak next Friday at South Tahoe (3-5, 3-4) before hosting Wooster in the regular-season finale.
“We want to finish .500, that’s a great accomplishment,” Kittrell said. “That’s what we’re looking for. Especially after the last three years.”