The Raiders came into the south Reno school on Senior Night with a 6-2 overall record against the 0-7 Mustangs: one team eyeing the playoffs versus a team that is just looking to finish out a dismal 2010 campaign.
With his team headed for the postseason, Reed head coach Ernie Howren has been looking for his team to improve its execution, something he said in recent weeks he hasn’t seen despite putting up victories. Things were different this week.
“I thought all three phases of the game we executed as well as you could,” Howren said after the win. “You could take away the first fumble and the special teams fumble, but you know what? Call whatever you want to call it, after that I thought they really settled into it and did exactly what we wanted them to do with the game plan.”
Those two fumbles came on Reed’s first two touches on the ball. On its first offensive drive, wide receiver Chad Gray couldn’t handle a pitch from quarterback Brent Showalter and the Mustangs recovered.
Damonte Ranch took possession and was forced to punt after just three plays, but on the kick junior David Hibbler dropped the ball, again turning it over. Once again, Reed’s defense stopped Damonte’s offense, this time sacking quarterback Max Heckendorn on a fourth down and 8.
From there, Reed got back on track. Showalter got it started with a rush of more than 50 yards to set up his own 5-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Connor Cox.
After forcing a Mustang punt, Hibbler repented for his fumble by returning the kick 30 yards, setting up the first of Showalter’s four rushing touchdowns.
Hibbler then intercepted Heckendorn’s first pass on the Mustangs’ next possession, again leading to a drive capped by another Showalter rushing touchdown. For good measure, junior Alex Young caught a pass from Showalter and ran 65 yards for another score, resulting in Reed’s 28-0 lead after just one quarter.
“The thing that was key for us was we wanted to get on them fast,” Howren said of his game plan. “we wanted to get on them fast because they are a team that has hung with everybody they’ve played and they’ve moved the ball well offensively.”
In fact, it was Reed that did the only moving of the ball offensively for most of the night. With two more touchdowns in the first half — one on the ground by Showalter and one in the air by Beau Tittensor — the Raiders had a commanding 40-0 lead at the intermission.
Starting the third quarter, Showalter and running back John Covello combined to run the ball deep into Mustangs territory before Showalter finished his night on the field with another short sprint into the end zone.
He gave way under center to junior Anthony Silva, who added a rushing touchdown of his own after Damonte Ranch fumbled a kickoff at their own 19-yard line. Other than that, the Reed backups didn’t do much offensively. Howren said the second-stringers have worked hard and earned their time on the field, but that with a lot of respect for his opposing coaches he felt no need to be running parts of his game plan at that point in the contest.
The Mustangs finally managed to put the ball in the end zone with 5:45 left in the game, when on fourth down Heckendorn scampered around the right side and evaded a tackler from two yards out. That was a faint whimper of life in light of the 53-7 final.
While Reed has had some one-sided wins this season, the east Sparks school can expect a tough matchup when it goes head-to-head next week in its final regular season game against cross-town rival Spanish Springs. Reed improved its record to 7-2 this week, while Spanish Springs dropped to 5-3 after a brutal 51-14 loss at Douglas on Friday.
“They’re doing such a great job this season, they’re just playing so hard,” Howren said of the Cougars. “They got themselves in the playoffs and they’ve done some great things against a lot of teams so far this season, so it’s a huge game. It’s a rivalry game, you know and I don’t downplay it because it is a big deal. I mean, it’s exciting for the kids, the guys they’ve been playing with for years and it’s been established everybody gets after it when we play this game.”