“Tonight was very important because we went 0-2 down in California and everybody was doubting us,” Reed starting running back Ty Shepard said. “We came together as a family more tonight. In California we took plays off, but tonight we came together as a whole family. We were sending a message.”
Opening play against Douglas, the Raiders reverted to the form that has become all too familiar to Reed opponents. Jumping on the Tigers early, Reed swarmed the visitors en route to a 54-35 victory Friday night.
“We were flat and they were on,” Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said. “They were on fire and they were determined to rectify their losses. They came out and smacked us and we didn’t smack them back until the second quarter.”
Fired up for its home opener and eager to prove itself, Reed hit the Tigers early and often. Helping deliver a majority of the blows was Shepard, who gashed the Douglas defense for 272 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns.
“He’s great. He’s an amazing running back,” Monfiletto said of Shepard.
While Shepard was cutting the Tigers open on the ground, Reed quarterback Mark Nowaczewski and wide receiver Devin Gray were doing similar damage through the air. Nowaczewski finished the game completing 21 of 27 passes for 245 yards and three scores, all to Gray who totaled 15 receptions for 197 yards and the trio of TDs. It was a group performance that Reed coach Ernie Howren was pleased to see from his players.
“It feels really good,” Howren said. “To come out against a team like Douglas that’s been playing so well for two weeks, it means a lot to us as a program right now. Our ego is hurt. We were 0-2, whether it was against two good football teams or not, it still hurt. We pride ourselves on coming out and playing the best we can, and we didn’t play that well in the first two games. I really felt like today we played really well. When they kept coming back, our kids kept answering.”
After both sides traded possessions to start the game, the Raiders took their second possession starting in Douglas territory. One quick dash later and Shepard was in the end zone for the Raiders as he swept to the right for the 33-yard score to put Reed ahead 7-0 at the 6:46 mark.
Following an interception by Collin Palian, Reed was back in business again. Wasting no time, Nowaczewski hit Gray in stride down the left sideline, their first of three connections, for a 49-yard bomb to put the Raiders up 14-0 still in the first quarter.
Reed forced a Tigers three-and-out directly after that before marching down the field and capping of a drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive from Nowaczewski for a 20-0 lead to open the second quarter. The Raiders’ swarming defense suffocated Douglas’ usually potent offensive attack, guiding RHS to its three-score advantage.
“We tackled better tonight,” Howren said. “We gang-tackled and we minimized big plays. That’s probably the biggest thing we did. They have playmakers and we didn’t allow them to have those big plays on us.”
Douglas appeared to be mounting a comeback late in the second quarter, scoring twice to cut the deficit to 20-14 with 6:18 remaining in the first half, but two quick strikes from Reed put the game back in the Raiders’ hands at halftime with a lead of 33-14.
Following a 25-yard touchdown pass to Gray on a fade to the right corner of the end zone that capped off the Raiders opening drive of the third quarter and made the score 40-14, the Tigers again attempted to get back in the contest. Putting together two successive touchdown drives of 79 and 92 yards, Douglas pulled within a score of 40-28 with 7:35 remaining in the game.
With little time left, an onside kick attempt fell by the wayside for the Tigers as the teams traded three scores the remainder of the game, resulting in the 54-35 final.
Howren was happy to be back in the winning column.
“It’s a good start,” Howren said. “If anything, most importantly it reminded us we’re going to be okay. However people look at it, we know who we are.”
Reed (1-2) next plays at Bishop Manogue on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.