ELKO – No diggity, no doubt.
After losing to Sparks in 2017 for the first time since 1990, the Elko football team left no doubt Friday night, at Warrior Field.
The Indians forced a punt on the Railroaders’ opening drive, Elko senior Cooper Jones making a big return to the Sparks 43 – coming back for a penalty.
The Indians began their drive at the 16, senior quarterback Carter Alvarado carrying the ball to the 38.
Junior running back Colby Tiner ripped off a huge run around the right edge, receiving a big block by Jones.
The play went for 52 yards to the Sparks 10, Tiner bulling over a defender for the final 10 yards.
Jones packed the rock to the 6, the drive capped by a pass to the left flat by Alvarado to senior Christian Quintana.
Tiner added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 10:07 on the clock.
Sparks picked up a big-gainer from its own 44 to the Elko 11 on a 45-yard tote down the right sideline by senior Aleki Po’oi.
The Indians stiffened and forced a turnover on downs, Quintana dropping a swing pass for a loss and senior cornerback Casey Bruns making a big stop in the middle.
Taking over on the 15, the Indians went backward with a false start and a seven-yard loss to their own 3.
Cue Quintana, who made a nasty run through the traffic, making people miss off-tackle left and reversing field to the Sparks 38 with a 59-yard gain.
Tiner put a couple defenders through the spin cycle for 16 yards to the 22.
The drive was finished with a misdirection toss to Jones for a 12-yard touchdown.
Tiner’s PAT extended the lead to 14-0 with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter.
Elko forced the Railroaders to punt after picking up first downs with the legs of junior quarterback Tyler Green.
A first down was called back, and Sparks punted the football.
Tiner took a carry 24 yards to the Railroaders’ 28.
Alvarado cut loose a dime on a corner route to the left side, but the ball was dropped in the end zone.
Jones rushed for a first down to the Sparks 7, senior Ronin Rowley punched up the middle to the 3 and teams swapped sides of the field at the end of the first.
On the first play of the second quarter, Quintana took a toss in-motion left and crossed the goal line.
The extra point gave the Indians a 21-0 lead, and Elko went with some trickery – onside.
Tiner dribbled the kickoff on the ground, the ball collected by sophomore Calvin Burden.
From the Sparks 40, Alvarado launched down the middle of the field to a wide-open Jones on a post route – touchdown.
The PAT made the score 28-0 with 11:36 remaining in the second quarter.
Sparks moved the ball downfield on its next drive, going exclusively with wildcat and rugby looks.
Green never took a snap on the drive, splitting out wide-left.
Po’oi and senior Naythen Diaz toted the rock for numerous first downs – taking direct snaps and using hard running up the gut.
Elko finally stiffened and forced a turnover on downs at their own 31, and Tiner made a sweet run with a spin move on a sweep to the 48.
However, the drive stalled and ended with a sack by Po’oi.
Tiner is a weapon – offense, defense, special teams – punting and pinning Sparks at its own 7.
The Railroaders marched down the field with multiple first downs on the ground by Green and Po’oi to the Elko 13.
A big play sealed the deal.
A rush up the middle ended up with a fumble, Elko senior Landon Dente ripping the ball away and racing 87 yards to the house with 20 seconds on the clock.
Rather than kicking the extra point and turning the game into a running clock, Elko elected to go for an unsuccessful two-point conversion.
The game went to halftime with the Indians up large, 34-0.
On Elko’s first drive of the second half, Sparks senior cornerback Zachary Mahoney intercepted a 2nd-and-22 pass following a sack by Po’oi on first down.
Mahoney raced from the Elko 45 to pay dirt for the Railroaders’ only points of the game.
The two-point conversion was doomed by a hold, and Sparks tried a direct-snap run up the middle from the 13-yard line – null.
Elko led 34-6 with 10:47 on the clock.
The Indians finally did turn the game into a running-clock affair.
Jones returned the kick across midfield, and Quintana carried the rock to the Sparks 24 with some nifty footwork on the left edge.
With 7:42 remaining in the third, Alvarado threw a fade down the left side – Dente completing a great game.
He climbed the ladder and snagged the ball off the helmet of a Sparks defender and danced backward to the end zone.
Tiner’s PAT rolled the clock.
Quintana made a pick on Sparks’ ensuing drive, the Indians taking a 44-6 lead on a 41-yard field goal by Tiner with 11:39 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Sparks moved the football down the field in the final frame on the ground, but the passing game bit the Railroaders once again late.
From the Elko 21, Quintana ensured Sparks would not score twice.
He intercepted his second pass, the latter coming in the end zone – returning the ball to the 35.
Elko avenged its first loss to Sparks in 27 years with a resounding 44-6 victory, remaining unbeaten at 4-0 and sending Sparks to an even 2-2.
The Indians will play another home game in their next contest, looking to avenge another 2017 loss versus Fernley at 7 p.m. Friday, at Warrior Field.