Vaqueros face Spartans tonight in first-place showdown

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Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

The Fernley High School football team takes a five-game winning streak into tonight’s showdown for first place at Spring Creek.

The Vaqueros and Spartans are both 5-0 in the Northern 3A, and the winner will take sole possession of first place in the race for a league title and the No. 1 seed for the 3A playoffs.

“It’s kind of exciting to be in this spot, but we’ve got a lot of season after this season,” coach Chris ward said. “I think our kids are excited about going up there and giving this a try.

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The teams have had similar seasons so far.

Like Fernley, Spring Creek went out of state for its opener, losing 55-42 to Star Valley (Afton, Wyo.), then winning five straight to open league play.

The Spartans, under new head coach Michael Tournahu, average 149.2 yards passing and 243.3 yards rushing per game.

Quarterback Thomas Ledford has completed 59 of 93 passes for 809 yards and 10 touchdowns, with only 1 Interception. Dakota Larson is Ledford’s top target, with 36 receptions for 585 yards and 8 scores.

Leading rusher Jason Painter has already run for 1,134 yards, on 147 carries, a 7.7 per carry average, with 14 touchdowns.

Ward said Spring Creek has started to get the ball to Larson in more ways, making them even more difficult to defend. Former head coach Joel Jund has stayed with the program as offensive coordinator, and Ward said their offense hasn’t changed much, other than some added shotgun sets.

“That Larson kid I think is their marquee kid, and they’re starting to run some jet sweep type stuff, and they’re actually using him on toss,” Ward said.

Defensively, Ward said the Spartans have shown a four-man defensive front most of the season, but he expects to see some different types of fronts to match up with the Vaqueros flexbone option game.

The teams have similar statistical profiles and multiple weapons, and Ward said he believes the teams match up well.

“We’re pretty close, I think,” he said. “It should be a good game.”

Both teams will have three games left after tonight and still face some tough opponents. But, Ward said, winning tonight could go a long way toward the Vaqueros’ goal of hanging a new banner on the gym wall.

“We’ve brought our kids in there a few times and shown them the banners up there, and we want to try and add some things on football on those banners that are hanging up in our gym,” Ward said. “Winning this game would be a huge step toward that.”

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