Reed captured the victory, 47-39 over Carson, in the regional championship tilt, but the massacre never came. Critics will say the Raiders didn't handle their business. I admit, I guessed the RHS gridders would win by three touchdowns or more, but it's hard to be too critical of a favorite that wins a regional championship. You have to remember, the other team is pretty motivated to compete, play well and pull off an upset.
So did Reed choke by letting Carson stay in the game or did Carson play well, meaning the Raiders played pretty well too, and made enough plays to pull out the win?
"We definitely had our ups and downs," Reed's senior safety Austin Warner said. "We made some simple mistakes and we have to minimize those. We have to play better."
Reed could've played better. Two first-half turnovers led to a pair of Carson scores. A myriad of Raiders penalties did plenty to keep Carson drives moving along. RHS special teams, specifically kickoff coverage, showed their woes, giving Carson stellar field position throughout the night.
Again, some would say those mistakes will be Reed's undoing.
"Obviously, when you give up 39 points, you did not play great defense," Reed coach Ernie Howren said. "But you have to look at some of the other things that went on, like the early turnovers and the special teams that gave Carson great field position. Those all hurt us. Those all add up and made it tough on our defense."
You know what else was tough on the Reed defense ... the Carson running game. The Senators ran off left tackle and ran around the left end time and again for big yardage. Reed got just one defensive stop in the second half and a big reason for that was the Senators were running it right down the throat of the RHS defense, mostly on the left side.
"We had to make a couple adjustments to deal with some things they were doing up front, but by and large, we were able to execute our gameplan," Carson coach Blair Roman said.
Few would argue that. Carson executed its gameplan to the tune of nearly 300 rushing yards, a bulk of them from bruising running back Nevin Elliott.
"We knew what they were running and we just could not get out there," Reed defensive lineman Cody Carr said. "We knew they were going left. They just had so many bodies out there. We knew we could use the sideline to help us too and we couldn't stop it. They ran that stuff well.
"All it comes down to is we're still playing. We'll go to film tomorrow and we'll have stuff to improve on. We'll always find a way to get better."
But while it might be easy to knock the Raiders down a bit, specifically their defense and special teams, it's hard not to praise them too. Certainly they made some mistakes, but they made some solid plays as well.
None of those plays was bigger than the one that came with just over two minutes remaining in the postseason affair. Trailing by the final eight-point margin, Carson found itself driving, facing a third-and-12 at the Reed 27. The Senators called timeout to talk about their play selection on possibly the biggest play of the night.
It turned out that way, but not for the Carson offense. Reed defensive back Sean Lancaster stepped in front of a pass from CHS QB Garrett Schafer in the end zone. Lancaster snagged the pigskin out of the air and bolted 44 yards up the sideline. Lancaster's pick nixed any Carson comeback hopes and gave the Reed defense the big play it needed to salvage a Raiders triumph.
"Our defense just wanted to make a play and end their drive," Lancaster said. "I was just trying to read what my receiver did. Once I got the interception, my adrenaline was running high, I tried to run it as far as I could."
As I got set to interview players during the postgame celebration, a Carson guy told me Reed was in trouble next week if it couldn't play defense any better than that. Maybe. Maybe not. At that point in time, it didn't matter. It's largely a waste of time to debate hypotheticals.
Here are a few facts, not hypotheticals. Reed's win over Carson gave the east Sparks school its third-straight northern Nevada large school football championship and its fourth in five years. Reed (11-1) has won more games and more playoff games than any other team in the DI North Region over the past decade.
Whether Reed may or may not struggle to slow down a southern Nevada opponent in a state semifinal next weekend is really irrelevant. I posed a question to Coach Howren ... 'given that many people think you should be blowing teams out, is your team underachieving, or are you indeed playing well, doing just enough to succeed?'
"We are making plays when we have to," Howren countered. "We did everything we needed to win a championship tonight and I couldn't be prouder of these guys. We're still playing. And if you're still playing, you have to be doing something right."
It's hard to argue with that sentiment.
Howren is a good guy and good football coach. He and his staff are doing a lot of things right at Reed. The proof is in the pudding. They should enjoy the fruits of their labor.
"This feels awesome," Howren said, alluding to yet another regional title, in a postgame interview. "At that moment, right after the game, I kind of struggled to find the right words to tell the kids how proud I am of them. But all the hard work we've put in, that culminated in a win tonight. Now we'll go after a state semifinal. This regional championship feels as good as the first."
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's Managing/Sports Editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org