Reed’s offense grabs most of the headlines. And it’s warranted.
The Raiders entered Friday night’s heavily anticipated home game against undefeated Reno averaging 55 points a night in their last five.
In the biggest game of the year to date, what many were calling the High Desert League title game, it was not Reed’s offense that dazzled, but the defense.
The Raiders held the Huskies to 73 yards of offense in the first half, forced four turnovers and led the five-time defending 4A North champs to their biggest win of the season, 28-14.
“I tell you what, I feel like they (defense) have just been one click away from really shining. And I think it shined tonight,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “We had to lean on the defense, offensively.”
The Raiders turned the four Reno turnovers into 14 points in the 14-point win.
The sixth straight victory, and 22nd straight against 4A North competition, vaulted the Raiders to 6-1, 2-0 atop the High Desert League. Reno (6-1, 1-1) suffered its first loss of the season.
The pseudo HDL title game hinged on the fourth and final turnover forced by the Raiders.
Trailing 21-7 inside of 10 minutes to play, the Huskies marched to the Reed 6.
Reese Taylor, already with one rushing touchdown, went around the left edge and reached for the goal line. The ball came loose, seemingly simultaneously as his knee hit the ground, as he extended for the plane. Reed senior Leo Valdivia landed on it.
After a lengthy conversation, officials ruled a touchback. Reed ball at the 20.
Junior quarterback Camerson Emerson busted a 50-yard touchdown run five plays later to put Reed up 28-7 and effectively end the game. Emerson finished with 102 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
“Somebody said the bounces went our way. No, those guys made those opportunities happen,” Howren said. “We weren’t hard on our offense (after the fumble recovery), but we said at some point we have to back up our defense. I really felt like that drive, they came out motivated.”
Reno managed to get on the board one last time, with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Drake Vestbie to Matthew Desiderio.
The ensuing onside kick went out of bounds and Reed picked up two first downs to melt the clock all the way to triple zeros.
Reed finished with 404 yards of offense on 53 plays (7.6 yards per play).
Senior running back Tre Bussey ran for 170 of those yards, and one touchdown on 20 carries. He fumbled at the goal line early in the fourth quarter, but senior receiver Robert Ferrel landed on it to extend Reed’s lead to 21-7.
Bussey was down on the play and had to be helped off the field. He did not return. Howren said the ankle was stepped on and hopes it’s just a bruise.
Reno’s ground-and-pound attack, led by BYU commit Brandon Kaho, gained some traction out of the locker room to finish with 327 yards on 59 plays (5.5 yards per play) following the slow first half.
All night, Reno spread the field offensively and put Kaho (listed at 6-3, 220 pounds) behind center in shotgun. Kaho took the snap, then repeatedly bulldozed straight ahead.
“There is definitely an element to that (offensive scheme) that’s hard to defend,” Howren said. “But the reality of it is, trying to defend Kaho is the real story. That guy is an absolute stud. Man, he got his touches and made the most of them.”
The Raiders took a 7-0 lead with 4:25 left in the first half on a two-yard Bussey touchdown run.
Caleb Ariaz snared the first of his two interceptions on Reno’s next drive to set the Raiders up at midfield with 1:27 remaining before break.
Five plays later, Emerson scampered home from 19 yards out to extend the lead to 14-0.
The Huskies took the first drive of the second half 64 yards, capped with a six-yard Taylor run around the left side. Neither team got on the board again until Ferrel hopped on the Bussey fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Howren doesn’t plan to bask on the big win over Reno long. His Raiders remain at home next Friday, when they will play host to McQueen (2-4, 1-1).
“Our next biggest game is against McQueen next week,” he said. “Huge. Absolutely huge.”