Reed’s offense has made headlines all year. But in Friday’s DI North semifinal, it was the defense’s turn.
Leading 28-0 over Galena in the final minute, the Raiders forced one of their five turnovers, a fumble, and senior defensive back Bryce Bryant returned it 85 yards to put the finishing touches on a 35-0 home beat down of the Grizzlies—punching a ticket to their fifth-straight regional title game.
Bryant also had an interception as the Raiders held Galena to 207 yards of offense on 58 plays on a frigid night played on a sloppy field at Reed.
“I think it’s pretty fitting we end the game with a defensive touchdown with the effort they gave,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “It was just that perfect end to the game to say, hey, ‘defense dominated tonight.’ To pitch a shutout against a quality opponent like that in Galena, that’s pretty awesome.”
Galena marched across the Reed 40 five different times in the loss and came away with nothing each time. Two drives ended on a turnover on downs, one ended on a Logan Marcantonio interception, another ended on the Bryant scoop-and-score and a fifth concluded with a missed 22-yard field goal at the end of the first half that would have cut Reed’s early lead to 14-3.
“I just wanted points on the board,” Galena coach Steve Struzyk said of his decision to send the field goal unit on the field on fourth-and-goal from the 5. “We had a goose egg at that time, so give us something. That was kind of our scenario tonight, missed chances in the red zone.”
While Galena struggled on fourth down, Reed thrived. The Raiders finished 5-of-6 on the down, including a perfect 3-for-3 in the second half that led to consecutive touchdown drives to ice the game away.
After the Grizzlies turned the ball over on downs at the Reed 19 to end the first drive of the second half, the Raiders marched 81 yards on 17 plays, capped with a 1-yard Jorden Carter touchdown run that extended the lead to 21-0 with 3:03 left in the third. Reed converted a pair of forth downs on the drive.
“It’s tough. It’s all momentum,” Struzyk said of the fourth-down conversions. “This game is momentum and we were looking at something to get the momentum changed and nothing really happened for us tonight.”
After Galena again turned the ball over on downs, at the Reed 34, on its next drive, the Raiders marched 66 yards, all on the ground, to take a 28-0 lead on a 3-yard Carter touchdown—on fourth down.
As a team, Reed finished with 343 yards of offense, 321 of which came on the ground.
“I told the kids, ‘that was a team effort,’” Howren said. “Yeah the defense definitely shined tonight but to be able to rack up over 300 yards rushing like we did, on a field like that, that’s pretty awesome.”
The overwhelming majority of the damage came from Carter who amassed 218 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
“He (Carter) is the reason our offense is what it is,” Howren said. “Because we are able to run when we need to run and people have to respect that.”
Carter went 55 yards for a touchdown on the third snap of the night but the next seven drives by both teams stalled before senior quarterback Matt Denn scored from 6 yards out to push the lead to 14-0 with 6:05 left in the half.
Denn finished with 99 yards rushing and the touchdown on 13 carries.
Galena, which finished second in the Sierra League, ended the season with a 7-4 record.
Reed, the High Desert League champion, improved to a perfect 12-0 and will play Carson (10-1) for the DI North title on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Damonte Ranch.
It will be the third-straight year, and fourth out of the last five, that the Raiders and Senators will play for the right to advance to state. Reed handed Carson its only loss of the season, 44-27, in the season opener at Mackay Stadium in August.
The Raiders have won the last four regional titles, and five of the last six.