The Raiders were also the 7-1 team that didn’t advance to the Northern 4A Region championship game after being shut out in the semifinals by Carson.
While a couple injuries to wide receivers hurt the Blue and Gold in its final playoff game, the offense sputtered at crucial times throughout the season and was less consistent than in years past.
“I think it was a collective effort. We made a lot of mistakes,” Howren said. “I think it was a lot of immaturity in our game reps, and it caught up to us at times. Fortunately, we had a really good defense that kept us in a lot of those games and got us past those mistakes. That’s how we had to approach each game because we definitely rode our defense.”
Even with the offensive struggles, quarterback Brent Showalter racked up over 2400 total yards and 29 touchdowns through the air and on the ground.
This year, it will be senior A.J. Silva’s turn to guide the no-huddle offense from the quarterback position. Silva didn’t take many snaps last year. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 83 yards and rushed for 34 yards on 13 carries.
Still, Howren is not worried about using a first-year senior starter at quarterback. Zack Parker (2007) and Showalter (2010) were both thrown into that role and flourished, earning the North’s Player of the Year honor.
“For one, he’s really smart,” Howren said of Silva. “We talk about reads and he involves himself in the play and really understands what the scheme is. He has the arm to execute the play. He’s got some physical skills. He’s a very quick kid. He’s very smart and has a good arm. Those are some of the traits you want in a quarterback.”
John Covello is back as the team’s starting fullback. Covello led the team in rushing with 1,158 yards, accumulating nearly six yards per carry. He also found the end zone 12 times.
“He had such a tremendous junior season. I think all the things he’s done in the offseason on the track in the spring, have put him in the position to be an excellent running back this season,” Howren said.
Seniors Chad Gray, Beau Tittensor, Alex Young and David Hibler will all be on the outside at wideout after all seeing some starting time a year ago.
Gray and Tittensor were all-league honorable mention picks at wide receiver as juniors, while Hibler was an honorable mention return specialist. Tittensor led the team with 48 receptions for 485 yards. Gray was second with 20 catches, and Young’s 315 receiving yards was second best on the Raiders’ roster.
Reed will only be as good as its offensive line, which has been very strong the past few years. The reason is the Raiders develop lineman like Jeremy Macauley, who is the reigning Lineman of the Year in the North.
“The scary thing about him is he’s only gotten bigger, faster and stronger,” Howren said of Macauley. “I really feel like the cool thing about watching Jeremy for years is he’s never been a guy who has sat on ‘I’m a pretty athletic guy for my size, and I can just get it done by being better than anyone else.’ He works harder in the weight room. He runs harder. He does everything harder than everyone else to make sure he’s the best player he can be. That’s why he’s Lineman of the Year.”
Macauley is one of four returning starting offensive linemen, who all work hard and get after it.
Jesse Anderson has transitioned from the starting right tackle to center because the coaching staff needed someone it could trust in the middle of the line. Tyler Carnahan returns and was the only player to start on offense and defense last year.
While Reed has 56 players on its roster, one of them won’t be Colton Strawn, who underwent back surgery a couple months ago for a non-football related injury and his return is highly unlikely. Strawn, a first team all-league defensive tackle a year ago, anchored the defensive line from his nose tackle position and will be sorely missed.
“It hurts the team because he’s such a great player. But it hurts us too because he’s one of us. He’s one of our guys. I know it hurts the coaches and players not seeing him suit up with us every Friday night,” Howren said.
Reed rode its defense to a 7-1 Northern 4A league record, which was good enough for a share of the league title with McQueen and Carson. The Raiders held five different opponents to seven points or less, including the eventual state runner-up Lancers en route to a 9-3 overall record.
Howren expects more of the same thing this season
“We’ve been hanging on our defense the last couple years, riding that great defense. I think this year is going to be even better,” Howren said. “I feel like we have one of the best line backing groups in the North, led by Broc Westlake. Just what he brings to the game, he has a feel for the game. It’s something most players don’t have. We can coach some players up, but Broc’s just got it.”
Without Strawn, senior Westlake will be the centerpiece of the defense at linebacker. As a junior, Westlake led the team with 105 total tackles, including 15 for loss and he forced three fumbles while earning a first-team all-league selection.
At middle linebacker, Howren said Kyle Vonschimmelmann is coming into his own. Last year, he showed glimpses of greatness, but Howren said now it’s every play and he will be on everyone’s scouting report.
Jared Emerson and Drew Bryant round out the line backing corps.
Reed opens up the season at home Friday against Granite Bay (Calif.), a team that beat the Raiders 42-24 in last season’s opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Reed then has a bye week and will face Douglas in a non-league matchup. Carson is the other team the Raiders won’t play in league.
Howren hopes the last two weeks of practice will have Reed prepared for Friday night’s home opener.
“It’s been a good camp. It’s been a hard-working camp,” Howren said. “It helps when you have a lot of smart guys who want to work hard. It’s a pretty good combination for double-days because you’re going to get mentally tired and physically tired, so you better have those two traits if you want to do well in double-days.”