It’s a word rarely affiliated with high school athletics.
But after Reed’s 56-28 beat down of Carson in the DI North title game on Friday night at Damonte Ranch, there are few other ways to describe the Raiders’ football program.
It was Reed’s fifth-straight regional title and sixth in seven years. Four of the last five title-game victories have come against Carson.
“You know what? It’s as good as the first one,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “There is something unique about every single one of them … There were so many great things that happened throughout the course of the season to bring us to this point. What a great group of kids.”
His group found itself in a 14-14 tie with 9:24 left in the first half before rattling off 42 unanswered points and cruising to the victory with backups in for the majority of the fourth quarter.
While Reed’s offense racked up 631 yards on 70 plays from scrimmage, it was the defense that sprung the scoring barrage. The Raiders forced four Carson turnovers (three interceptions and one turnover on downs) that led to 28 points. Reed did not turn the ball over once.
“Our offense kind of rolled all night,” Reed senior quarterback Matt Denn said. “Everyone on offense did a phenomenal job … and our defense fed off that and came up with some huge stops and turnovers.”
Denn completed all but one of his 18 pass attempts for 218 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 47 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
After Carson’s stud sophomore running back, Abel Carter, busted a 59-yard touchdown around the left side to knot the title game at 14 early in the second, Reed scored a pair of unanswered touchdowns in a span of less than four minutes to take a 28-14 lead.
The Senators took over possession with 2:30 remaining in the first half with the chance to creep within a possession but facing a fourth and 4 from the Reed 24 with 50 seconds left, Carson coach Blair Roman elected to attempt a 41-yard field goal.
A bad snap never allowed the kick to get off, leaving the score 28-14 at the break.
“Get points. Get points, a little momentum going into half to be honest with you,” Roman said of the decision to attempt the field goal. “It’s fourth and 4, that’s a really tough situation.”
Five plays into the second half, Carter broke a 61-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 35-14 and started a stretch of four-straight touchdown drives in the third quarter.
Carter was a problem for Carson all night, finishing with 222 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
“They turned it on in the third quarter and we just had no answer,” Roman said. “That’s it.”
Reed chewed up 243 yards on its four third-quarter touchdown drives that extended the lead to 56-14. While the offense moved the ball at will in the third, the defense held Carson to 43 yards in the period before the Senators put together two late touchdown drives.
The strong defensive showing came one week after the Raiders pitched a shutout and forced five turnovers in a 35-0 semifinal win over Galena.
“We’ve been saying it all season long. We really felt like our defense was going to be able to do those types of things,” Howren said. “The two biggest games the last two weeks, they’ve come through for us.”
Carson finished with 407 yards of offense—124 of which came in the fourth quarter.
The Senators briefly led Friday night after marching 72 yards in 16 plays on their first possession, chewing up more than half the quarter. Asa Carter ended the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to the left pylon.
Reed responded with an eight-play touchdown drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass from Denn to Robert Ferrel, who caught 10 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Kyrin Lennon gave the ball right back to the offense on Carson’s ensuing possession with the Raiders’ first pick of the night. Denn followed five plays later with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Abel Carter tied the game three minutes later with his long touchdown run. It was all Raiders from there.
“We told them, ‘hey, that’s a good football program over there. Carson is going to bring it every single play and you better expect a close game.’ And we got that early on,” Howren said.
The Senators finished the season 10-2 with both losses coming to the Raiders. Reed improved to a perfect 13-0 and advanced to the DI state semifinals where it will host Bishop Gorman, the No. 1 team in the nation, on Saturday at 12:15 p.m.
The Gaels have ended the Raiders’ season at state each of the last five seasons and have won six-straight state titles.
“We’re going to go out there and give them everything we have,” Howren said. “Why not us? We’re going to find a way to get out there and battle.”