It’s been since 2010 that a team other than the Reed Raiders has won a 4A North regional title.
Defending regional crowns has become a fabric of the program. So much so that it’s rarely discussed. It’s understood.
“We don’t really talk about it,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said, gearing up for his 16th year at the helm. “What we do, do is the first week, we just say to them, ‘what is your goal at the end of the season? It’s to win league, region and state. It just happens to be you have an opportunity to win six in a row. The ultimate goal was to win a region, so it shouldn’t be that it’s win region six times. It’s just you want to win region.’”
Reed enters 2016 as the consensus favorite to represent Northern Nevada at the state tournament once again, but will have to replace a number of integral parts. No longer in a Reed uniform is quarterback Matt Denn (last year’s regional player of the year), defensive/offensive lineman Nick Gregg (last year’s defensive player of the year now playing at Nevada), tight end Parker Houston (last year’s lineman of the year, now playing at San Diego State) and running back Jorden Carter (last year’s league player of the year), among others.
Maybe the most noticeable on the list, is the departure of Denn. Junior Cameron Emerson is slotted to take over.
As a sophomore, Emerson served as Denn’s backup. He completed 13-of-19 passing attempts for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also ran the ball 28 times for 230 yards and four touchdowns. Howren has given Emerson an endorsement since spring ball, and didn’t change his tune in fall camp.
“He’s done a phenomenal job in camp,” Howren said. “His progression has been awesome. I think being up on varsity last year as a sophomore was a huge thing for him. The cool thing about that guy is that he doesn’t settle. He just tries to get better.”
To help break Emerson in will be a trio of returning senior skill players: running back Tre Bussey as well as wide receivers Robert Ferrel and Michael Spivack.
“When you have Robert and Mike coming back, two of the best receivers in the league, then you have Tre Bussey…,” Howren said. “You could make an early argument for him (Bussey) being player of the year right now. He’s got to come out and prove himself.”
In the trenches, Reed lost center Ian Neeley, Cesar Moreno as well as Houston. With Reed being the big boy factory it is, Howren said he feels good about the o-line situation. Senior Stein Otuafi will anchor the unit at left tackle.
Defensively, senior Caleb Ariz will direct the secondary from the safety position. Matt Garcia and Bussey will guide the linebacking corp. Senior Leo Valdivia and company will be asked to help fill the void left by Gregg’s departure.
Reed season was scheduled to open Saturday against Saguaro (Ariz.) at Mackay Stadium. ESPN offered to pay Saguaro to play in a separate game, leaving the Raiders without a week one opponent. Howren and the staff immediately started searching and got a game at Clayton Valley Charter (Calif.) on Friday night.
The Ugly Eagles have competed for state titles in California the last two years.
“I think getting on the road and playing a top program like Clayton Valley, wow, we lucked out there,” Howren said.
The game in Concord, Calif. is the first of three-straight road contests (at Douglas next Friday, at Carson Sept. 9) – a set up Howren loves.
“It’s my favorite thing. I absolutely love it,” he said. “I tell you what. Our guys come out here and they work hard. They don’t ever act like they have this inherit right to win region and state … With that said, just in case we’re anything like that, three road games are going to make sure, ‘hey, you better have your stuff in line.’
“I think getting knocked in the teeth on the road and getting a feel for who we are, that kind of adversity will be great for us.”
Outlook: Every team loses pieces to graduation year in and year out. That is high school sports. Few lose as much as Reed did from last year’s team that went 13-0 before running into Bishop Gorman in the state semifinals. The offense won’t be as potent as the 2015 group, one of the best in Nevada large-school history. However, Bussey enters the season as one of the best weapons in Northern Nevada to go along with stud wideouts Ferrel and Spivack. Emerson takes over already with game experience. There is no reason to believe Reed can’t win a sixth straight regional title.
Record: 8-2, 5-0
Fri., Aug. 26 AWAY at Clayton Valley Charter (Concord, Calif.) 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 2 AWAY at Douglas 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 9 AWAY at Carson 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 16 HOME vs Oak Ridge 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 23 HOME vs Bishop Manogue 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 30 AWAY at North Valleys* 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 7 HOME vs Reno* 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 14 HOME vs McQueen* 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 21 AWAY at Hug* 7 p.m.
Thur., Oct. 27 HOME vs Spanish Springs* 7 p.m.
*High Desert League game