The last thing Sparks coach Rob Kittrell wanted to do in Friday night’s opener at home against South Tahoe was get into a track meet.
Led by quarterback Tommy Cefalu, the Vikings boast one of the 3A North’s most explosive offenses.
And well, it turned into a track meet. A meet dominated in the second quarter by the guests.
After forcing a fumble on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage then going 81 yards to take a quick 6-0 lead, the Railroaders allowed Cefalu to engineer six straight scoring drives. South Tahoe went on to hand Sparks a 49-19 loss.
“It was the studs,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said of Cefalu and wide out McCallan Castles. “We knew (Cefalu) was a stud. Watching the scrimmage (last week), I knew (Castles) was good. I was impressed with him tonight. He was awesome.”
With his arm, and a couple healthy runs, Cefalu accounted for the vast majority of the Vikings’ 468 yards of offense. He was responsible for six touchdowns, five passing. Three went to Castles and two went to Noah Jackson.
Sparks finished with 331 total yards of offense.
Nick Van Patten was part of a three-way battle for the quarterback job in fall camp and got the start on Friday night. He was 2-of-5 passing for 36 yards and a touchdown, but did his damage on the ground. He kept the ball 14 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“Last week in our scrimmage, our offense looked so discombobulated and I thought our offensive line played great (tonight),” Kittrell said. “I thought Nick did a great job running the offense.”
Junior Jorge Dominguez compiled 124 of Sparks’ 264 rushing yards on 14 carries and found the end zone, a 58-yarder on fourth and one late in the first quarter that snuck the Railroaders within 15-13.
Each team scored on its ensuing drive and South Tahoe took a 28-19 lead with 2:56 left in the half when Cefalu threw a screen to McCallan, who took it 29 yards to the house.
Trying to get back within one score before the half, Sparks fumbled and Cefalu marched the Vikings 45 yards in 41 seconds, capped with a 10-yard back shoulder fade to McCallan with 28 seconds left. South Tahoe took the 35-19 advantage to the locker room.
Cefalu wasn’t done.
On the second play of the second half, he hit a wide open Jackson in stride for a 69-yard touchdown.
“We had some bad angles, didn’t finish the play,” Kittrell said. “A lot of our mistakes were made by the junior kids we had out there, so hopefully we learn from it, get better.”
Both coaches slowed the game down at that point and the score remained 42-19 until Jacob Bernal scored on a 15-yard run in the final minutes.
Sparks took the 6-0 lead early in the first when Van Patten threw up a 33-yard heave to the end zone on fourth and nine and Michael Anduja won the jump ball over two defenders.
Quarterbacks Kaige Lewis and Cody McAbee both saw substantial time in the second half. Lewis completed 6-of-11 passes for 31 yards. McAbee connected on both is attempts for 14 yards.
Sparks (0-1, 0-1) will attempt to even its record Friday at home against Dayton. The Dust Devils are fresh off a winless season, scoring one touchdown all year.
It will just be the second game of the season, but for a Sparks team that has ideas to potentially grab one of the 3A North’s six playoff spots, it’s significant.
“It is,” Kittrell said. “We have to come out and win that one.”