SPRING CREEK – After a week layoff, the time has come for the Spring Creek football team to make the shoulder pads pop.
The Spartans earned a first-round bye in the 3A North playoffs with a No. 2 seed, ending the regular season with a 48-13 victory over Elko on Sept. 26 for senior night in Spring Creek.
Officially into the second week of the postseason, Spring Creek will play its first game of the playoffs against North No. 3 Fallon, which blasted North No. 6 Sparks 49-14 last week at home.
Spring Creek won the regular season matchup against the Greenwave by a final score of 42-25, mounting a 35-7 lead by halftime.
The win was monumental in giving the Spartans a first-round bye in the playoffs, creating a three-way tie in the league standings with Truckee and Fallon.
Spring Creek gained the upper hand by head-to-head point differential, giving the Greenwave a No. 3 seed and dropping Truckee to fourth.
The Wolverines bounced South Tahoe from the postseason in a barnburner, edging out a home victory of 35-28 over the Vikings after being knotted 28-all at halftime.
Only four remain in the North, Truckee playing at 7 p.m. Thursday on the road against the No. 1 Vaqueros in Fernley, Fallon playing at 7 p.m. Thursday in Spring Creek.
Spring Creek head coach Mike Tournahu said the week of rest allowed his team to “be as healthy as we have been all year.”
Tournahu said the Spartans will regain the services of senior linebacker Tre Edson, who was the team’s leading tackler before suffering a high ankle sprain on Oct. 6 against Fernley.
One player who did not come away unscathed from the Elko game was senior Michael Armstrong, who suffered a hard shot to a touchy area and has missed the last two weeks.
Tournahu knows Fallon is a solid football team and duplicating the type of beat-down the Spartans put on the Greenwave the first time will be difficult.
In the Spartans’ 42-25 victory on Oct. 20 in Spring Creek, Fallon committed numerous turnovers and had a punt blocked in the first half – leading to an offensive opening of the flood gates for Spring Creek.
Getting off to a good start is always key, especially when playing good teams.
Spring Creek scored quickly against Fallon in game one, senior running back Jason Painter dashing up the gut on the first play from scrimmage for a touchdown.
“Offensively, we haven’t changed much. We’re going to run our stuff,” Tournahu said. “We want to make sure we get the ball in Painter’s and (Dakota) Larson’s hands.”
Defensively, the Spartans must be prepared to stop junior quarterback Sean McCormick and sophomore running back Brock Richardson.
McCormick was forced to move from receiver to quarterback due to a season-ending injury to starter Elijah Jackson on Sept. 22 against South Tahoe.
In six-full games behind center, he has thrown 12 touchdowns against two interceptions, tossing three touchdowns and one pick in Spring Creek in a 319-yard air effort.
He has thrown for 973 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes, but McCormick’s legs are what make him dangerous.
“On defense, we have to be disciplined. We have to line up right but we can’t try to do too much,” Tournahu said. “McCormick is one of those kids who has big-play ability. He hurt us a few times in the first game because we took bad angles at him. We have been working on taking proper angles and staying home.”
In the last six games at QB, McCormick has racked up 981 of his 1,113 rushing yards for the season, eclipsing the century mark in every game but one during the stretch.
He has found the end zone on the ground 15 times in the span, including two four-rushing TD ballgames – the most recent occurrence last week in the first round of the playoffs against Sparks (18 carries, 272 yards).
Fallon has plenty to be worried about defensively as well, namely trying to find a way to slow down Painter and Larson.
Painter leads the league with 1,687 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns, one spot ahead of McCormick (22 TDs) in each category.
Larson is second in the league with 897 receiving yards and fifth in total touchdowns with 14.
The Painter-Larson duo has combined for 39 touchdowns, but McCormick and Richardson (18 TDs) have notched a smooth-40.
McCormick is not just an offensive weapon; he’s also a defensive beast – the two-time state champion wrestler leading the 3A North with 130 tackles and eight interceptions.
“I’m excited, it should be fun. The weather is supposed to be in the high 50s for the day,” Tournahu said. “I hope we play a good football game.”
Kickoff for the game against the Greenwave and Spartans is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in Spring Creek, the winner advancing to the 3A state semifinal round.