By Kaleb Roedel
Blink, and you might have missed a Reed touchdown.
Racking up a season-high nine touchdowns, the unbeaten Raiders scored in just about every way imaginable — on offense, defense and special teams — on their way to toppling Douglas, 69-14, in a home DI North quarterfinal on Friday night.
“It sure helps that you’re able to throw, run or score on special teams and defensively,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “If you can score in all three phases of the game, you’re going to be tough to defend at that point.”
And Reed wasted no time getting the scoring spree started.
In fact, two plays were all the Raiders (11-0) needed to find pay dirt on their opening drive, which started on Douglas’ 34-yard line due to a shanked Tigers punt. Quarterback Matt Denn tucked and ran up the gut twice — on runs of 22 and 12 yards — to give Reed an early 7-0 lead at 9:42 mark in the first.
“It’s the playoffs now so we got to come out and we got to go full speed from play No. 1,” Denn said. “We can’t come out slow, we have to come out hot.”
The Raiders were just getting warmed up.
Less than a minute later, Reed’s defense got in on the action when lineman Nick Gregg snared an interception and rumbled across the goal line from 15 yards out.
“I think anytime you can come out and establish yourself early and quick like that, I think it’s important,” said Howren, whose team held a 35-0 command on the Tigers after the first quarter. “Establish how hard and how fast you want to get after a team. And I think that’s what the kids did early.”
No one more than Denn, who was absolutely lights out. Carving up the Tigers’ secondary early and often, the senior completed his first nine passes en route to a 9-for-10 outing for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Denn hit tight end Parker Houston and wide out Jake Vantress on touchdown tosses of 7 and 5 yards, respectively, in the first.
“The receivers were running great routes and the line was giving me plenty of time, so they made my life easy,” said Denn, who added 52 rushing yards on five carries.
Defensively, things looked just as easy for the Raiders. Midway through the second quarter, Reed forced a Douglas fumble and Tre Bussey scooped up the loose ball and sped 31 yards for a touchdown. Bussey’s scoop-and-score punctuated the Raiders’ 21-point frame as their lead swelled to 56-0 at halftime.
“Swarming defense,” Howren said of his Raiders, who allowed just 11 first-half yards on 19 plays. “Great attitude. Great intensity. They got after them.”
So did the special teams.
To open up — and highlight — the second half, Reed’s Grant Cotter took a kickoff return 75 yards to the house, pushing the lead to 62-0.
Facing the Raiders’ second string, Douglas scored a touchdown apiece in the third and fourth. Reed tacked on another score to round out the 69-14 tally.
Reed finished with 364 yards of offense, 326 of those coming in the first half. Bussey led all rushers with 64 yards on four carries. Ferrel led the receiving corps with 84 yards on four grabs.
“They came out and executed the game plan at a very high level,” Howren said. “I’m really proud of the kids. They were doing that all week in practice. It was a great week of practice — very focused, very intense — and it showed in the game.”
The Raiders will host Galena, a 39-29 winner over McQueen, in the semifinals next Friday.