By Steve Ranson
Special to the Sparks Tribune
Friday the 13th eerily produced a hard-hitting football game at Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex between Sparks and the Greenwave.
Helped by four big plays in the first two quarters and solid defense in the second half, Fallon pulled away to pick up its sixth straight win with a 48-23 victory over the Railroaders in a Northern 3A game. Fallon improves to 7-1 overall, 6-1 in league, while Sparks falls to 2-6 overall, 2-4 in conference play.
Upset-minded Sparks, which has wins over Elko and Dayton, never led against Fallon. The Greenwave shocked Sparks with a touchdown on the second play of the game when junior quarterback Sean McCormick threw a swing pass to his favorite target Brock Richardson for a 73-yard touchdown strike. Tallon Amezquita, one of 10 seniors on the Wave, booted the extra point.
Fallon would rely on two more big plays to take a 21-3 lead going into the second quarter. After the Railroaders’ intercepted McCormick’s pass and eventually advanced to the Sparks’ 10, Carlos Rodriguez nailed a 27-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. On the ensuing series, Fallon then rolled on a 38-yard pass tipped to both Christian Nemeth and Tommy McCormick, and Richardson’s second touchdown came on a 40-yard run down the left side.
On the tipped pass, the referee signaled touchdown when Nemeth stretched across the goal line but lost the ball that was recovered by McCormick; however, Fallon coach Brooke Hill confirmed Nemeth scored the touchdown.
“I ran the play and my quarterback rolled out, and the defensive back is behind me,” Nemeth explained. “The ball gets tipped in the air, and Tommy and I go for the ball. I stretched the ball over the goal line and the ref signals touchdown. The Sparks’ defender hits the ball, and it goes rolling, but the touchdown had already been called.”
On a third and 14 from the Fallon 38, Sean McCormick lofted a deep pass on the fourth play of the series, which was tipped by Sparks but grabbed by Nemeth as he reached into the end zone. Richardson’s kickoff return after Sparks scored its field goal had put the ball on the Fallon 49.
Good field positon aided Fallon with its third touchdown. The Wave called for a fair catch on its 44-yard line, and two plays later with less than 3 minutes left in the quarter, Richardson outraced the Sparks secondary for the score. McCormick’s quarterback keeper resulted in 2 more points.
McCormick finished the game, completing 10 of 18 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. He had one interception. He also rushed for 88 yards.
Sparks scored twice in the second quarter on Dominguez’s 32-yard run and quarterback Kaige Lewis’ keeper. Lewis entered the game replacing starting quarterback Vashisth Patel, who injured his shoulder.
A Fallon penalty and a shanked punt gave Sparks the ball on the Greenwave 28. After Patel lost 3 yards, Dominguez gabbed the handoff on the second play and snaked his way around the Fallon defense for Sparks’ first touchdown. Rodriguez, who handles the kicking chores for the Railroaders, drilled the extra point. Dominguez led Sparks with 47 yards on 15 carries, while Lewis rushed for 39 yards.
Fallon responded, though, on its next series. On a third and 2 from the 28, Richardson found daylight up the middle and raced 72 yards for a touchdown. Sparks, though, blocked the extra point attempt to leave Fallon with a 27-10 lead with 5:35 on the clock before halftime.
Richardson had a banner night, rushing 11 times for 22 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
The Railroaders put together a 13-play drive that ate 5 minutes off the clock. On the drive’s final four plays, Lewis faked the handoff three times and gave the ball to Dominguez for a 4-yard gain. Lewis faked the ball to the backfield on the final play but instead ran 13-yard up the middle to cut Fallon’s lead to 21-16. Fallon took a 27-17 lead into halftime after Rodriguez’s kicked the extra point.
Sean McCormick said Sparks was a formidable opponent.
“They weren’t going to lay down for us,” he said. “We had some good plays but they also had some good plays.”
Fallon opened the flood gates with three touchdowns in the third quarter.
Fallon coach Brooke Hill said Fallon made adjustments at halftime.
“We talked about things, and the kids took the adjustments well,” Hill said. “We played some pretty good football in the second half.”
Hill said also the defense did a better job of containing Dominguez.
Sparks coach Brad Rose said the Railroaders executed better in the first half but injuries affected the team’s play for the final two quarters. He said Patel‘s shoulder injury dealt a blow to Sparks’ offense. Patel rushed for 34 yards and threw for 33 yards in the first half.
Turnovers also affected Sparks.
“We had the ball and a good driving going in the third quarter, but we turned over the ball and that was a huge momentum swing,” Rose said. “We never recovered from it.”
Sparks’ defense put the pressure on McCormick to open the second half, but a roughing the passer penalty kept the series going. Fallon almost scored on a 36-yard pass to Nemeth, but the Railroaders’ Colby Bowman put pressure on Nemeth. On the following play, McCormick connected with Clayton Steelmon on a 36-yard pass play. Steelmon had seven receptions for a game-high 81 yards.
McCormick accounted for the final two touchdowns. The Fallon quarterback broke loose for a 72-yard before he was knocked out of bounds at the 5. Two players later he scored on a 6-yard run to the left side, and Amezquita’s kick gave Fallon a 41-17 lead.
Tristan Rodarte and Jacob Weber rose to the defensive challenge in the second half.
“We executed on the field and di everything right,” Rodarte said. “Weber, he works on the strong side, and I work on the weak side. It just worked out.”
McCormick also completed a 9-yard pass to his brother, Tommy, for Fallon’s final touchdown. With time ticking off the clock in the final quarter. Sparks’ Leonardo Perez took the ball across the goal line on a 1-yard plunge against Fallon’s goal-line defense. The final touchdown was set up when Sparks blocked Rodarte’s punt.
“That last punt surprised me,” he said. “Sparks came through untouched.”