Sparks drudged 83 yards on 16 plays, eating up the first 10 minutes of the second half, to take a 14-2 lead over Dayton at home on Friday night.
Less-than-suddenly, the team that scored just one touchdown all of last season, needed to put together multiple scoring drives to snap a 13-game skid. It didn’t happen.
The Railroaders (1-1, 1-1) went on to win their first game of the season, 20-10, over the Dust Devils (0-2, 0-2).
Sparks held Dayton to 105 yards of offense on 44 plays.
“I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage well,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “I thought our defense played a great game. They stepped up to the challenge.”
Week one starting quarterback Nick Van Patten missed the game with a concussion suffered in last week’s loss to South Tahoe, leaving running back Hunter O’Meara to virtually carry the entire offense.
Sparks had 358 total yards of offense. O’Meara was responsible for 257 of them on 33 carries. He scored twice.
“He was huge,” Kittrell said. “Hunter is a great, great football player.”
A sloppy first half that featured nine penalties for 75 yards, two turnover on downs in Dayton territory and a safety allowed, Sparks led just 7-2.
O’Meara busted an 82-yard touchdown run with 7:44 left in the second quarter to break the scoreless tie.
Thanks to a pair of personal fouls, Dayton marched to Sparks 23 on the ensuing possession only for Michael Anduja to thwart the drive with a leaping interception in the end zone. He returned his first pick of the season to the 5.
The Railroaders false started on the first play then quarterback Kaige Lewis was dropped in the end zone for the Dust Devils first points of the year.
Penalties were a problem all night for Sparks, which finished with 15 penalties for 131 yards. The yellow flags were the first thing Kittrell mentioned postgame.
“Way too many penalties,” he said. “Minus the penalties I thought it was a great game, but that really hurt us.”
O’Meara added a 1-yard plunge with 3:56 left in the contest to stretch the lead to 20-2. Dayton scored its second offensive touchdown going back to the start of the 2015 season on the following possession, capped by a 33-yard Dylan Torgerson scramble.
“Watching them (Dayton) on film, they were much improved (from last season),” Kittrell said. “So we were in a battle.”
The Railroaders will attempt to win a second straight next Friday at Elko (2-0, 2-0), which bested Dayton 37-0 in week one.
It is unknown if Van Patten will suit up.
“Elko’s good, (they have) a good line,” Kittrell said. “It’s a good matchup. Both teams are going to run it, run their quarterbacks. There won’t be a lot of running. It’ll probably be an hour and a half game.”