The Railroaders haven't made the playoffs in four years. For Rob Kittrell, this is the longest drought in his 15 years as Sparks' coach.
Coaches and players said that talent isn't the problem.
"Just belief in themselves," Kittrell said. "That's the thing we've fought here the last couple years, that things started going wrong out there and we hang our heads as opposed to fighting through and overcoming the negative things that happen."
Last season, the team finished 1-9, their one victory against South Tahoe. This year's eight seniors have experienced just three wins since they were freshmen.
"I think we got the talent to do it but just desire," senior running back and outside linebacker Mario Quadron said.
Some of that talent lies with quarterback and three-year starter Geo Vasquez.
"He has a chance to break the passing records for Sparks," Kittrell said. "He's been a solid kid for us. We expect big things out of him, and he's developed some great leadership skills."
Senior Tanner Webb, right guard and middle linebacker, recognizes his responsibility as a team leader on a young team.
"Showing them that it's not acceptable to be 1-9; show them that we can beat Truckee, we can beat Lowry, we can beat Elko," Webb said. "We can beat anyone we want to as long as we put our mind to it."
Kittrell said the offense put up more yards last season than at any other time in his Sparks tenure. The defense will need more focus this season, he said.
"I didn't feel we were a very physical team last year," Kittrell said. "We almost became a finesse team and so we're focusing on getting back to becoming a physical team again, just being physical and getting after people."
Running an odd front defense last season, Sparks will return to even front.
"Just makes us a little more solid upfront so we're not getting ran through," Kittrell said.
Sparks opens its season against Yerington for the third year in a row.
"They've been good games. They're a good Division (III) team; they're always in the running for their league championship and then everybody in our league is tough," Kittrell said. "We go right into league play so every game's a rival game."
Ultimately, if Sparks can be resilient, their record will reflect as much.
"It's just keeping momentum," Webb said. "Just being down one touchdown doesn't mean it's the end of the world."