Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
For a quarter in Friday night’s Northern 3A game at Sparks, the Fernley offense was like an engine that wouldn’t quite turn over.
When they finally got it started, the Vaqueros looked like a Corvette Z06, going from 0 to 60 in three seconds.
A.J. Kuha scored on a 39-yard run on the first play of the second quarter, sparking the Vaqueros big-play offense as they rolled to a 33-7 win over the Railroaders.
With the win, the Vaqueros kept pace with Spring Creek atop the Northern 3A standings at 5-0, setting up a showdown next Friday at Spring Creek for first place.
Fernley scored on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter, and put the game away with two scores in the third quarter.
Fernley’s defense, which has keyed its five-game winning streak, kept Sparks’ spread offense mostly in check. Sparks did rack up 262 yards rushing, but 73 of them came on one play, a touchdown run by Carlos Rodriguez that briefly gave the Railroaders a 7-6 lead.
But that didn’t last long. Facing third down and 20 at midfield after a holding penalty, Aaron Proctor took a pass from Zach Burns 50 yards for Fernley’s second score and a 13-7 lead with 7:16 left in the second quarter.
Next time they got the ball, the Vaqueros needed just three plays, with a facemask penalty thrown in, to go 63 yards to take a 20-6 lead on a 15-yard run by Burns.
Just like that, what had been a slow start for the Vaqueros, going three-and-out on their first three possessions, was a commanding lead.
“I don’t know if our linemen got off the bus at the beginning of the game, then they kind of woke up, and we started dropping the ball on some passes,” coach Chris Ward said. “It seemed like we get one area fixed, then another area starts to go down.”
While their own offense was having trouble getting started, the Vaqueros’ defense was as feisty as it’s been throughout league play. Gabe Richards intercepted Vashisth Patel at the Fernley 29-yard line on Sparks first possession. The Railroaders netted just two yards on their second drive, 10 on their second, and after the touchdown by Rodriguez, 10 more on their next drive.
Then, with the Railroaders trying to stay within striking distance, Tyler Dennis intercepted Patel in the end zone with 5 seconds left in the half to preserve the lead.
“Defense played solid again,” Ward said. “They’re salty up front. We’ve got some guys we can play at defensive line, and it keeps us fresher in the second half.”
Defensive tackle Harry McDonald and defensive ends Pritchard and Russ Ortiz each made big stops for the Vaqueros, and after getting to the Fernley 38 on its first drive of the second half, the Vaqueros stiffened and forced a punt.
On Fernley’s first offensive play of the second half, Pritchard found a hole on a dive play, shed a couple of tacklers and went 72 yards for a touchdown and a 27-6 lead.
Burns capped the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
Despite the big plays, Ward said the Vaqueros again were inconsistent offensively. He again lamented that the Vaqueros had missed assignments and still aren’t playing as well as he thinks they can.
“I just look at the potential when we do finally click, and how good we’re going to be,” he said. “And we’re not there yet, and when we do click, and when we do play well, I hope we peak right at that right time, because I really do think we can make a run at things.”
With five wins to open league play, the Vaqueros have put themselves in position to play for some of the top things on their list of preseason goals, including a home playoff game and a league championship.
“Opportunities don’t come around too often, and right now our guys have an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done around here for a while, and we’ve got four games left to take advantage of that opportunity and we’re going to try,” Ward said.
FERNLEY 0 20 13 0 -- 33 SPARKS 0 7 0 0 -- 7 Passing Fernley: Burns 8-19-1-1, 70 yards Sparks: Patel 4-15-0-2, 22 yards Rushing Fernley: Pritchard 7-97, Burns 7-45, Henderson 4-25, Proctor 4-11, Felix 2-7, Gleason 8-55, Terra 1-1, Kuha 5-54, Lemon 2-14 Sparks: Rodriguez 6-92, Patel 6-17, Po’oi 5-29, Dominguez 20-129, Johnson 1-(minus 5) Receiving Fernley: Proctor 4-55, Bertok 2-8, Ortiz 1-2, Kuha 1-5 Sparks: Rodriguez 1-1, Rise-Misa 1-6, Anduja 2-7, Thompson 1-9, Po’oi 1-5, Dominguez 1-(minus 5)