Reed doesn’t get to hang the 2015 High Desert League title banner yet. But it can start thinking about placing the order.
The Raiders out-gritted Reno 27-11 at home Friday night in the mud in what many considered the unofficial league title game.
“It’s the biggest win of the season for us,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “That’s really what it comes down to. We’re going to have other big ones as the season goes along but the reality is, that’s one of the best teams in this area.”
Reed improved to a perfect 6-0, 1-0 in Friday’s league-opening victory while Reno (4-2, 0-1) saw its four-game winning streak came to a close. The Raiders and Huskies have finished 1-2 in the HDL the last two years and this year could be a third. McQueen (3-2, 1-0) is the only other HDL team that doesn’t have a losing record.
With miserable field conditions after Thursday night’s downpour, Reno’s game plan wasn’t sexy. The Huskies pounded the ball between the tackles all night and attempted to keep the Raiders’ powerful offense off the field.
In stretches, the plan worked.
“They’re obviously very explosive and we tried our best keep them off, slow it down, grind them out a little bit,” Reno coach Dan Avansino said. “There were parts of that plan that worked really well.”
The problem for Reno? Reed worked the same plan better.
Both teams had just seven offensive drives. The Raiders covered 330 yards in 57 plays (5.8 yards per play). The Huskies finished with 187 yards on 49 plays (3.8 yards per play).
Clinging to a 7-3 advantage with 1:09 left in the first half, Reed took over at its own 49. With the help of a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, and a third-and-long conversion thanks to the legs of senior quarterback Matt Denn, the Raiders grabbed a 14-3 lead with just 12 seconds left in the second quarter.
Denn rolled to his right and hit a wide open Michael Spivack for the 9-yard touchdown. The game was separated by two possessions the rest of the way.
Howren didn’t see the late score as a shifting point in the contest. Avansino wasn’t so conservative with his analysis.
“That’s huge, absolutely huge,” Reno’s coach said. “We have a third-down scramble by their awesome quarterback and then we have a roughing the passer penalty … The good teams, like Reed, find a way to make those plays in their advantage.”
The Raiders stretched the gap to 21-3, their largest lead of the night, on their first drive of the second half, when Robert Ferrel took a Denn screen pass 15 yards to pay dirt.
Reno running back Ian Cartlidge fell into the end zone from a yard out with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter to sneak the visitors within 21-11 (Cartlidge converted the two-point try) but Reno’s ground-and-pound offense isn’t built to come from behind. The 12-play drive took a costly six minutes off the clock.
Reed put the game out of reach with a 12-play touchdown drive of its own the ensuing possession. Jorden Carter busted a 15-yard touchdown run (PAT hit the upright) to account for the final points of the night with 2:57 left.
“We know this is the best is the best team we were going to face in the regular season, no disrespect to the other teams,” Reed senior offensive/defensive lineman Nick Gregg said.
Both teams are known for strong line play and with the conditions as bad as they were, the pivotal contest was decided by the big boys. Howren thought the battle up front went both ways at times but obviously noted his squad “got the better end.”
He made particular mention of senior center Ian Neeley’s performance.
“His effort tonight, if anybody knew what he was going through with a leg injury and for him to come out and just be the gladiator he is, I’m so proud of that kid right now,” Howren said. “A special effort by Ian tonight.”
Reed will look to remain perfect on the season next Friday at North Valleys (1-4, 0-1). Reno goes to Hug.
Reed senior tight end Parker Houston put the Raiders up 7-0 with 44 seconds left in the first half with a 13-yard touchdown run. It was just the second rush of his career. He also had a 14-yard run last season against North Valleys … Both head coaches denied that the poor field conditions had a drastic impact on the game