The end result was a 53-44 home victory for Reed over Galena in a DI North Region semifinal. Reed advances to a Nov. 22 regional final clash against Carson at Damonte Ranch High School.
"I've never been involved in a game where the lead changed like that so many times. It was exciting and crazy," Reed coach Ernie Howren said. "Just the momentum shifts alone were unbelievable. Both sides kept coming back. You couldn't ask for a better high school football game."
Reed took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 38-33, Reed faced a fourth-and-4 play from the Galena 8-yard line. There were no thoughts of a Raiders field goal try. The RHS crew went for it on fourth down and the gamble paid off. RHS quarterback Chris Denn hit a wide-open Wade Eiler in the end zone on an underneath drag route for a touchdown that forged Reed on top 40-38 at the 10:27 mark of the fourth.
The Raiders never trailed again as Denn wound up finishing 10-of-17 passing for 135 yards and two TDs.
Next, Reed got a defensive stop and its offense went right back to work. Raiders senior tailback Jordan de Leon found some open field and outraced the Galena defense 52 yards to the end zone. Reed's extra-point kick failed, but the east Sparks school had extended its edge to 46-38 at the 7:32 mark of the final quarter.
However, there was plenty of drama to come. Still within one possession of getting into at least a tie, Galena showed more fight. After a long kickoff return that set the Grizzlies up with good field position, they proceeded to march right down the field for another score. Galena's Blake Whitlock recorded his fifth touchdown of the night when he hauled in an 18-yard TD pass from Grizz QB Brock Raggio with 4:46 showing on the game lock.
The touchdown got Galena within two, 46-44. The south Reno school went for a two-point conversion, but the try was nixed as Reed safety Austin Warner batted away a Raggio pass at the last second on a full-extension dive.
Galena's on-side kick attempt did not go 10 yards so Reed got the ball back in Galena territory. The Raiders put the game on ice when de Leon found the end zone again, for the fifth time. His final touchdown came on a 6-yard scoring scamper with 3:50 left in the postseason affair. The touchdown accounted for the final 53-44 margin.
Reed dominated the Galena defense with its ground game, largely the dump truck-like efforts of de Leon. The Raiders tailback was a workhorse, carrying the ball 40 times for 286 yards and the five scores. Denn chipped in 12 carries that resulted in 124 more Reed yards on the ground; 60 of those came on one carry.
"Reed is physical," Galena coach Steve Struzyk said. "We met in one of those grinder-type games and they just wore us down. That No. 21, de Leon, is a truck. I wouldn't want to tackle him and I'm pretty sure some of our kids didn't want to at the end either. He wore us out."
Despite his physical running style, de Leon said he was not trying to deliver blows on Galena tacklers.
"I only do that if that's the last option," de Leon said. "I just never stopped moving my feet and it paid off immensely. I kept my feet moving and was able to get the extra yards."
Galena got a 4-yard touchdown run from Whitlock in the waning seconds of the first half and grabbed a 26-14 halftime lead. The Grizz would be unable to hold on to the two-score advantage.
Reed defensive back Sean Lancaster picked off a Raggio pass on the Grizzlies' first offensive play after halftime, giving his RHS offense the ball on the Galena 33. Four plays later, de Leon plowed over the goal line from a yard out and Reed trimmed the lead to 26-21 less than two minutes into the second half.
On Galena's next possession, Raggio coughed up a fumble and Reed recovered, taking over at its own 45. On the Raiders' second play after the turnover, Denn connected with Trae Wells on a go route for a 53-yard touchdown at the 7:43 mark of the third. The Raiders' run failed on a two-point try but they had a 27-26 lead, their first edge of the game.
Struzyk admitted the two turnovers were costly.
"We knew we couldn't let off the gas (coming out of halftime)," the veteran Galena coach said. "That's the risk you take when you take your shots against a good team. My hat's off to Ernie and Reed. Their kids were ready to play."
Given his halftime chat and how the initial minutes of the second half shaped up, Howren came out looking like a prophet.
"Absolutely, that sequence was huge," Howren said of his team capitalizing on the Galena giveaways. "We told the kids at halftime, we were going to go back out and get a defensive stop and then drive down the field and score. That's all we asked of them and then that's exactly what we got from the kids."
The two teams went on to trade three more touchdowns before Eiler's key score on the fourth-down play set the stage for the Raiders' final-quarter heroics.
Wells finished with three receptions for 65 yards and Eiler had six catches for 66 yards.
The northern Nevada foes were locked up at 7-7 just over eight minutes into the first quarter. From there, Galena took a 20-7 lead after posting a 75-yard touchdown bomb from Raggio to Chaz Clark and a 31-yard TD reception from Raggio to Whitlock.
"Our slow start was just a credit to Galena," Howren said. "They've got great players and coaches on that defense. They made plays and did a lot of great scheming. It took us out of our stuff and we didn't make adjustments early."
Reed did get to within 20-14, on a de Leon 1-yard scoring run that capped an 80-yard Reed drive with 4:26 remaining before halftime.