It was widely believed the Railroaders were going to cause problems in the 3A North once again this fall. They proved the hype legitimate the first weekend of the season.
Sparks played in the Howell Memorial Tournament at the South Valleys Sports Complex in south Reno and left with a title on Saturday. The two-time defending 3A North champions won all five matches they played in.
“The boys played well, I’m extremely proud of them,” first-year coach Jose Espana said. “Collectively, this team is extremely disciplined. That’s all I can say. We got a lot of studs.”
Espana was an assistant at Sparks for a number of years. He took over in the offseason for longtime coach Frank Avilla, who retired.
The Railroaders (5-0, 0-0) will take a week and half off before opening 3A North play Wednesday, Sept. 7 at Truckee. The Wolverines are one of the biggest threats to Sparks’ third straight regional title.
“It’s a good way to start the (league) season,” Espana said.
Sparks 2, Incline 1
Genaro Vazquez scored the game and title winner with 14 minutes left in regulation.
Jesus Partida put Sparks in front 1-0 11 minutes in but Incline drew even five minutes before the half. The score remained deadlocked until Vazquez came through.
Sparks outshot Incline, 6-4, and won the corner kick battle, 3-0.
Sparks 4, Damonte Ranch 2
The final game of pool play, Sparks’ third of the tournament against a 4A North team, required some late heroics.
The Railroaders found themselves in a 2-1 hole at the half, only to score three unanswered goals in the final 25 minutes (matches consisted of two 25-minute halves in the tournament) to win 4-2.
Sparks 0, Elko 0 (4-2 PKs)
The Railroaders fought off what would have been their first loss of the season on Saturday morning against 3A North foe, Elko.
The two squads finished the 50 minutes of regulation scoreless before the Railroaders prevailed in penalty kicks, 4-2.
Keeper Jose Cerritos made a couple saves in penalty saves to put the contest away.