SPARKS — Poor tackling on defense and an early special teams turnover had Sparks believing it could hang with the best football team in the Northern Division I-A.
But the Greenwave woke up toward the end of the first quarter and scored three touchdowns in each of the second and third periods to cruise to a 48-0 road win in the Rail City on Friday.
“For a little bit, a lack of focus and costly turnovers on punt returns put them in good field position,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “We got stops but we were a little lethargic. We got two big games the last two weeks against two undefeated teams that we came out flat. We talked about not doing that all week long and hopefully we learned a lesson that you can’t do that with anybody.”
Fallon (6-0) has three league games remaining with Spring Creek (3-3) coming to the Lahontan Valley this week and then its final road game next week in Fernley (5-1). Fallon ends the season at home with Lowry (4-2) on Oct. 30. Sparks (0-6) visits Lowry this week, comes home for South Tahoe and then travels to Wooster to end the season.
If Fallon is to finish the season undefeated in league before the playoffs next month, Hill said his club must get into a better routine of coming out sharp in the first quarter. Starting off cold against a prepared opponent could end Fallon’s road to league perfection.
“Championship teams get up and ready to play,” Hill said. “Not that we can’t be that, we came out flat and then we turned it on because we could against a team that’s struggling like Sparks. There’s no reason to start off that way. Everything’s routine for us. I don’t care who we’re playing. We can’t play flat.”
The opening kickoff indicated that Fallon was in prime position to begin its route of Sparks when the Railroaders fumbled the kickoff and recovered on the 2-yard line. But on a second and long, Hunter O’Meara scampered down the right sideline, breaking several tackles, for a 43-yard gain. O’Meara led the Sparks offense with 73 yards on 11 carries.
Sparks, though, punted four plays later but the return was muffed by Trae Workman, giving Sparks the ball at the 10-yard line.
“They did what they should do. We had some lapses there still that I wasn’t pleased with,” Hill said about the defense. “We played fairly well but not as good as we did last week or the week before. But we played OK.”
The defense, though, stepped up and stayed strong throughout the game, recording the team’s first shutout of the season. Sylis Sanchez was sacked on the first and third plays of the series before Sparks turned the ball over on downs.
“We just have to find a way to get more physical up front, to create those scoring opportunities” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell told the Daily Sparks Tribune.
The Greenwave responded with a nine-play drive that saw two big plays on third and fourth down. On a third and seven, quarterback Joe Pyle found Connor Richardson for a 20-yard gain and then located Dylan Jabines for a 20-yard completion on fourth and 5 at midfield. Two plays later, Pyle executed the read-option to perfection and ran in for a 10-yard score with 3:37 left in the first quarter.
Hill said he was pleased with the offense, from Pyle and his receivers connecting to the running game with Nathan Heck and Charles Fulks powering through. Pyle executed several read-options to use his legs to move the ball.
“Joe did a good job in the passing game and our receivers did well,” Hill said. “Dylan had another good game and Connor had a good game. We ran the ball effectively. We didn’t punt all night.”
Sparks stalled on its next drive but not before Fallon jumped offside on an early fourth down and then committed a personal foul on a punt five plays later. The Railroaders came within two yards of tying the game early in the second quarter but the Greenwave defense benefited from Hunter Holcomb and Justin Hatfield on the final three plays of the drive.
“Our front’s good. We expected that to happen,” Hill said of the pressure from the defensive line.
Hatfield stuffed the Sanchez for a 3-yard loss on second and goal from the 2 and then both Hatfield and Holcomb teamed up for another sack, pushing Sparks back to the 10. Holcomb’s sack on fourth down kept Sparks out of the end zone and gave Fallon the ball on the 20.
After four of the next seven plays resulted in first downs, Heck capped off Fallon’s ensuing drive with a 10-yard touchdown run with 5:27 left in the first half. Heck gained 38 yards on five carries during the scoring drive, which also included a 29-yard play-action pass from Pyle to Jabines.
“During the week, we were just not focused,” Heck admitted, attributed the lack of focus to Fallon’s slow start on Friday. “We have to treat every week like it’s Elko.”
The game’s first three-and-out spelled doom for Sparks as Fallon capitalized to score its third touchdown of the game, this time taking only three plays and one minute as Pyle found Jabines on a screen for a 4-yard touchdown completion. Pyle also had completes to Cameron Byer for 22 yards and Richardson, which came on a screen, for 25.
Fallon forced another quick series from Sparks after Heck returned the punt to the Sparks’ 23-yardline with 1:05 remaining. Pyle and Richardson hooked up again on the first and only play of the series, a 23-yard touchdown that saw Richardson create separation with a cross route across the middle of the field. Fallon led 28-0 at halftime.
The Greenwave added three more scores in the second half, including one on special teams.
Fallon opened the half with a six-play drive that included a crucial third-and-long conversion when Pyle connected with Jabines for a 21-yard gain. Three plays later, Heck scored his second touchdown of the game, a 38-yard blast with 9:54 remaining in the third quarter.
“I feel like I played a pretty good game,” Heck said. “The offensive line did a good job creating the big runs. We’ve been playing pretty well.”
After Holcomb’s sack set up a long fourth down for Sparks and another punt, Heck found an opening in the middle before racing down the sideline and breaking a shoe-string tackle attempt for a 68-yard punt return for a TD and a 42-0 lead with 7:36 left in the third quarter.
Pyle’s second TD run of the evening capped off the scoring when he ran in for a 2-yard score with 2:22 left in the third. Pyle had a productive evening with two touchdown passes and two runs. Heck ran for two scores in addition to the punt return.
“That’s the best team in the league and they’re running their offense so efficiently,” Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. “They’re going to be tough for a lot of teams to stop.”
Freshmen derailed at Sparks
The Fallon freshmen football team suffered a 46-6 loss at Sparks last week.
Fallon’s lone score came in the second quarter when Austin Lunderstadt recovered a fumble on a punt attempt in the end zone. He also blocked an extra point attempt in the third quarter.
The Wave hosts Spring Creek this week and is the second time the teams will meet this season.