Oh how the times have changed. Reed has more Northern 4A wins than any other program in the past eight years and it is the program the rest are striving to be like. Now, every fall the question around local prep football circles has become, ‘is Reed reloading again?’
So how has Reed climbed the proverbial mountain and stayed atop?
“Every young man is different and every group of kids is different,” 12th-year Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “The thing I can tell you is it does not matter if it’s been 2001 or 2012, you’ve seen the same expectations out of our program back then that you do today. That’s one of the reasons we’ve had success. We have not changed those values and principles we’ve tried to build on.”
Reed blew through its schedule last fall, drumming Carson 49-0 in the Northern 4A title game. Reed did not lose to a northern Nevada foe. It’s only losses came in its opener to Norcal power Granite Bay and in the state championship game to nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman.
Onlookers will no doubt compare this fall’s Reed team to last years. Howren has made a point to say the 2012 Raiders squad is a new one that deserves its own identity. While he may not stop people from making comparisons, he and his coaching staff still have the same goals and expectations of the current club.
“If you want to be successful, you want those expectation,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re not going to be very successful. You’re not a very competitive person and you’ll struggle. Those expectations are something we welcome. I’m talking in this interview right now and some of this might be bulletin board material but I don’t care. We want to win. We want to stick our neck out on the line and let other people know this is who we are and this is who we want to be.”
So that pretty much sums up whether or not Reed coaches and players think they can be good again in 2012.
Much of Reed’s success, at least on offense, comes from the success of its spread attack. And much of that success been predicated on the Raiders having a quarterback that’s at least been in the discussion for player of the year honors. Zack May, Tony Maldonado, Zach Parker, Tyler Pine, Brent Showalter and AJ Silva have put together a solid string of Reed quarterbacks since 2003. With Silva moving on after a stellar senior season in ‘11 to play at Montana State, senior Mark Nowaczewski gets the next opportunity for the Raiders to add his name to the list of special signal callers.
“I can’t take credit for having a bunch of great kids and having a bunch of studs at quarterback,” Howren said. “Every one brought something special to the table and every one of them would tell you they were fortunate to have had the off line they’ve had.
“The bar has been set and there’s no doubt Mark will rise to it and then some. I think we’ve got another special young man on our hands. He is a stud. He probably has one of the strongest arms we’ve ever had at quarterback. His ability to make every throw in the book and on the money the way he does is something we haven’t seen yet.”
Reed’s spread offense is aimed at getting its athletic playmakers the ball in space so they can make big plays. Howren said the base scheme has not changed much over the years, but admitted its evolved some to try and stay ahead of opponents’ learning curve.
“The base scheme does not change as far as us running our inside zone, counter play or power play,” the veteran coach said. “None of that has changed but there are definitely little wrinkles we put in each year based on the defenses getting better each year. So we’ve got to make our adjustments. I watch a lot of football. My wife gets really mad at me because our DVR is loaded with a lot of football and it will be loaded again. I watch everybody and try to learn new things, not just one team.”
Reed returns three starters on offense and four on defense. Howren cited offensive linemen Austin Corbett and Brent Kelly, middle linebacker Drew Bryant, defensive lineman Jared Greenwald and receivers Brett Chaney and Devin Gray as players the coaching staff sees as leaders. All are seniors.
“None of those guys are ‘me’ guys,” Howren said. “They are all about the team. That’s what’s been so much fun, watching these guys develop and mesh as a team. That’s what’s so impressive about our team. We don’t have ‘me’ guys. Everything is about the team and the willingness to sacrifice for the team.”
While Howren believes the Raiders have good tradition to build on, good team chemistry and the needed special players to be elite, he is the first to point out his team still has a lot of room to grow. Last weekend’s scrimmage exposed that. He pointed to blocking and tackling as two key areas that need improvement.
“We learned a lot, and that’s a good thing, but we’ve got a lot to work on,” Howren said. “That’s expected. That’s why you have scrimmages and non-league games. It’s all about getting ready to win league games. Our scrimmage let us know there’s a lot of work to be done. But, it is all definitely doable things, all that are within our control.”
Reed should find out a lot about itself early on. The Raiders travel the first two weeks of the season to play perennially tough Norcal programs in James Logan of Union City, Calif. and Foothill of Palo Cedro, Calif. near Redding. Reed plays at home against Douglas and at Manogue and Carson, all traditional playoff schools in the Northern 4A. That combination of schools, along with playing four of the first five games away should give Reed quite the early test.
“Definitely the schedule will get us ready for league play,” Howren said. “There’s no doubt the first two games for sure will let us know who we are and what we need to improve on. Logan will be as athletic and big and fast as any team we’ll see this season. It is loaded.”