Sparks Railroaders Season Preview
The high school football season begins on Friday, with that being said we are continuing our previews within our local area. Today's team: Sparks.
2022 record: 3-7 overall, 1-4 league
Head coach: Kurt Kaufman, second season (3-7 overall, 1-4 league in one season at Sparks)
Sparks will continue their run in the 3A for the next two seasons after a handful of their former 3A West opponents chose to move up in division after the latest round of realignment in the NIAA this past spring. The Railroaders will be in year two under Coach Kurt Kaufman, as they continue to get the train going in the right direction. The Railroaders have made the playoffs twice in the last six seasons. I have often referred to this job as a "labor of love" because of the amount of effort that goes into caring for this program. It'll pay you back if you commit.
Last year was a step in the right direction after former coach Brad Rose left for North Valleys. Kaufman and his staff were hired on June 28, 2022, and played their first game only 52 days later. The Railroaders would go on to win that game, and the next as well. What followed could not have gone much worse as they endured a seven-game losing streak before ultimately breaking through and defeating North Valleys, 25-0, in their final game of the season.
Coach Kaufman was quick to point out that his squad was "young last year so we focused on development." Our team has learned to "stay relaxed, play loose with our game, and we had a full offseason this year. So, our team has [developed] more maturity." Kaufman continued on to say that he believes that his team is ready to compete this season and that "the lights aren't too bright for our team this season."
Offensively the Railroaders will continue to run their "Zone scheme, gap scheme" in the running game and "Air Raid" in the passing game. Coach Kaufman said that his offense will try to take the top off opposing defenses, looking for the deep ball, intermediate and short game in descending progression. We want to "push it vertically and utilize our cutback lanes."
Defensively Sparks will be in a "True 5-2 Base Defense" where they will allow their athletes to make plays. Having five down lineman allows them to shut down the run and force teams into becoming one-dimensional, ultimately forcing them to pass more often than they'd like. A full offseason in this defense is key for Coach Kaufman and his staff.
Three key returners:
WR/DB Mekhi Brown, Senior: Brown is a burner. A member of Sparks' 4x400 meter state championship winning relay team he is very fast. Coach Kaufman was quick to point out that he "[is] a ballhawk, has good hands, [is] a crisp route runner, he'll high point the ball and take it away from you." He has good academics and recently Nevada and Fresno State visited. He has accounted for 660 yards of total offense and five touchdowns on only 35 touches to go along with 71 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a 94-yard Interception return for a TD. He played Varsity as a Freshman, [he] has great potential and should be in line for a huge senior season if he can stay healthy.
QB Max Hendrix, Junior: Hendrix is someone who Kaufman raved about almost our entire conversation. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at around 210 pounds Kaufman said "[He] has prototypical size, and a good arm." As a sophomore last season, he completed 73 passes for 1,022 yards and 9 TDs while learning a new offense in under sixty days. He should be in command of the offense from day one this season and the Railroaders could make some noise and surprise some people this year in the 3A.
RB/SS Danny Taylor, Sophomore: As a freshman on Varsity last season, he racked up 40 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards in only four games while dealing with injuries. Coach Kaufman said "He would have started at RB for us as a freshman had we not had an All-League Senior (James McKenzie) on the team. He is downhill, shifty, and can make you miss." Defensively Coach Kaufman compared him to San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Safety Talanoa Hufanga, saying that he "brings the noise, hits hard, and loves the game." We'll be watching...
Aug. 18 at North Valleys
Aug. 25 vs. Wooster
Sep. 1 vs. Hug
Sep. 8 at Lowry (Winnemucca, Nev.)
Sep. 15 vs. Churchill County (Fallon, Nev.)
Sep. 22 at Spring Creek
Sep. 29 vs. Elko
Oct. 6 at South Tahoe (Lake Tahoe, Calif.)
Oct. 12 at Truckee (Calif.)
Oct. 20 vs. Fernley
J. Ray Dockter has been covering high school sports since 2022. If you have a story worth telling let him know via Twitter @J_RayDoc.