The game pits two of the top teams in northern Nevada. Carson and Reed, along with McQueen, shared the Northern 4A League's regular season title after finishing 7-1 in conference clashes.
“Carson is one of the best teams in the North,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “If you expect to go after regional and league championships, you have to play the best. And I'm sure Carson is saying the same thing about us. They want to come after us and we want to come after them.”
Carson reached tonight's tilt by outlasting Spanish Springs 28-21 in a first-round regional playoff last weekend. Reed advanced with a first-round postseason home win over Douglas, 20-18, seven days go.
Reed nearly saw a late lead slip away. Leading 20-12, the Raiders turned the ball over deep in their own territory with less than two minutes to go in the game. The miscue led to a Douglas touchdown and Reed needed to turn away a potential game-tying two-point conversion to secure the win.
Still, Reed found a way to win and advance.
"We didn't play our best last week," Howren said. "As a team and coaches, we could've done a lot of things differently and a lot of things better. At the same time, there were some great individual efforts that you can't take away from the guys. And I couldn't be more pleased with the defense. When you're talking about a playoff game, teams always have new wrinkles to throw at you and I thought our defense did a tremendous job of adjusting to those."
The defense has been Reed's savior most of the season, limiting six of the 11 Raiders' opponents to 14 points or less.
"It was defense and special teams that won that game for us against Douglas," Howren said. "The offense did a couple good things, but when it comes down to it, they're the reason we came out with that victory.
"The biggest thing with our defense is it is playing team ball. Those guys are doing all the things you want from your defense: playing physical, trusting each other and doing their assignments. That's why the defensive execution is so good, everyone doing their jobs."
His praise of the Raiders' defensive unit continued.
"There's the old coaching cliché, defense wins championships. Teams are going to do things to take you out of your game offensively, but you always have to hang your hat on defense. We've rode ours this far this season and that's what we'll continue to ride."
The Reed defense will have its hands full tonight when it looks to limit Carson's all-everything tailback Dylan Sawyers. In his first game back after an injury last weekend, he scored all four of Carson's touchdowns in its quarterfinal win over Spanish Springs.
Sawyers, a Northern 4A player-of-the-year candidate, racked up 110 rushing yards on just 10 carries. He also caught seven passes for 64 yards and returned a punt for a touchdown in the Senators' win over the Cougars.
"His performance in his first game back speaks for itself," Howren said. "He's a tremendous young talent. I can't say enough about the kid. He does it all … He's an extremely dynamic player. You must use good technique. If you try to arm tackle him, you have no chance.
"But for us, we can't key on one kid. That's what they try to get you to do, focus on #32 (Sawyers) with the schemes they have. You can't key on one guy or they'll beat you with somebody else."
Reed played a pair of tough non-league road games early in the season, at Granite Bay, Calif. and at Douglas. Howren's scheduling philosophy has always led him to try and play tough road games so his squad is ready for games like tonight.
"We pride ourselves on being road warriors," Howren said. "You know at some point, when you get into the playoffs, you have to travel. When you do get to a road playoff game, it's a non-factor, something we could care less about."