Reed trailed for much of the clash, but with Carson driving for what could have been a nail-in-the-coffin score, the Raiders responded with a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown. A few defensive stops followed, a punt return and finally a go-ahead score. Reed had momentum on its side and a 30-26 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game. The perennially tough Raiders had seemingly overcome plenty of adversity to steal a comeback win.
But then things turned from euphoric to disappointing in a hurry. Carson drove the length of the field and won the game when a controversial call by the officiating crew sealed a CHS comeback win. Carson receiver Matt Nolan was awarded a catch in the end zone on the final play of the game for a winning score. Reed safety Austin Warner dislodged the pigskin with a powerful hit but officials called it a catch and Carson had the upset victory.
Video of the controversial play is inconclusive, but you can bet it was an emotional bus ride home for Reed.
Raiders coach Ernie Howren took the high road when asked if he thought it was a Carson touchdown.
"I could see it going either way," the veteran RHS coach said. "That was just such an emotional swing for us ... It was tough, but we watched film and we're ready to move on."
Immediately after the late-game drama concluded, Howren said one play did not lose his club the contest. He stressed his squad missed many opportunities to make big plays that could have changed the outcome of the game. He said the missed opportunities killed his club more than anything else. He reiterated that after watching film of the defeat.
"We had opportunities to convert on big plays and we didn't. Honestly, that's probably the game right there," Howren said. "You have to take advantage. And when you don't, it makes for a long night.
"We went back and watched film and it showed exactly what we thought. We didn't play well and it started in the trenches. Physically, we got beat up a little bit. We have to play better than that up front."
Considering the team's poor performance, Reed coaches won't see a silver lining. Still, the game was not a league affair so the loss won't have any bearing on the Raiders' potential postseason positioning. Additionally, there's plenty of reason for Reed put the loss in its rear-view mirror and speed away. Next up on the Raiders' schedule is its High Desert League opener, at traditionally tough McQueen.
The upcoming affair will not only feature a Reed team trying to bounce back, but McQueen was upset by Reno last weekend and it too will also be looking to rebound.
"McQueen is one of the best teams in the area. It is well-coached," Howren said. "We know we'll have to bring our 'A' game. Couple that with it's a league game and it's huge. You really have two teams with the same game plan. We both have to get back on track."
•At Spanish Springs, the Cougars were probably flying as high emotionally Friday night as the Raiders were feeling low. That's because the Cougars buried a well-respected Douglas opponent, 59-28.
The SSHS gridders blew out to a 38-14 halftime lead and led by as much as 38 in the fourth quarter before Douglas tacked on a score in the waning minutes.
"We played really well in all three phases of the game," Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. "We played definitely our best and cleanest game yet."
The Cougars coach said a key area of emphasis in recent team workouts has been improvement through individual drills rather than team drills. He believes that recent focus is paying dividends.
"I think the individual stuff is helping our team stuff," Hare said. "I've seen it. We are a lot cleaner. A lot of times we've been blocking the right guy, but not the right way. When we block the right way, our pocket is cleaner. Guys have to understand that. When (QB) Hunter (Fralick) is comfortable, probably, you're going to be pretty successful."
Hare is most pleased that the time his coaching staff is taking in practice throughout the week is showing up on the football field on Friday nights.
"As a coach, you work on a lot of things," he said. "If you're at least seeing what you've worked on Tuesday and Wednesday, in your games, then you can say the kids are growing, listening and developing. That's what's fun about coaching."
The win over Douglas capped the Cougars' non-league preseason schedule. Spanish Springs is riding a wave of confidence after its weekend demolition of the Tigers and considering its 4-1 start, there is reason to be brimming. Still, Hare is trying to keep his club grounded, using lessons from the past to do so.
"The win over Douglas is as quality a win as we've had since 2009, at least in terms of beating a team everybody respects," Hare said. "But we're 0-0 in league as we start conference play this week. I think the kids feel good but I've told them 'we've been 5-0 twice and still have not won a playoff game.' Being 4-1 is nice. It shows we're working. But we've been here and done this. We have to carry it forward. There has to be more to show for it. Nobody is going to look back in five weeks and talk about that win over Douglas, if we don't stay the course."
•With five weeks down, northern Nevada's prep football regular season is only at its midway point. Still, it probably already feels like a long season at Sparks, where the Railroaders fell to 0-5 on their fall campaign, following a 56-0 loss at Truckee Saturday. To make matters worse, none of those five games have been competitive, all have ended with one-sided margins.
The task of a rebuilding Sparks squad doesn't get any easier when it goes up against the likes of Truckee, a three-time defending 3A state champion, which has won 40 straight games, the fifth-longest streak in the nation.
"They're the best team we've seen," Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. "It's the same Truckee with what they do. They're just so dang fundamentally sound. Defensively, it's tough to move the ball against them.
"A bright spot is I thought we did move the ball a little bit against them, but then we'd cost ourselves on a drive with some mental mistakes."
Sparks senior quarterback Geo Vasquez had a solid day targeting receivers. He completed 17-of-32 passes, mostly on short routes. He was picked off twice though. Kittrell said one of those came when a pass hit a Railroaders receiver directly in the hands. The receiver than deflected the pass up into the air where it found the intercepting hands of a Truckee defensive back.
It can be hard to find positives in the short end of a 56-0 loss, but Kittrell said there were a few. The play of his special teams was one.
"We did not give up a special teams touchdown and that's a first time in forever. Truckee usually blocks a punt, returns a kick or something. So that was good; and again at times our offense did good things. Geo looked the most comfortable against them as he's looked in the last three years," Kittrell said.
Kittrell added that after a disastrous first half, his defense was still flying around with high intensity in the third quarter and that overall his offense had an improved effort in cutting down on negative rushing plays.
"The defense in the first half, it was just bad. There was no improvement there, but, all around, outside of that, I think there were some improvements. When you're playing the three-time defending state champion, those improvements may not show up on the scoreboard," Kittrell said.