On a positive note, the Reed defense looks to be in prime-time form. The Hug offense had no answer for anything Reed did Friday. The Hawks' efforts proved futile against a Reed 'D' that seems to have no ceiling.
"The part that we can definitely hang our hat on after the game is our defense," Howren said. "To only allow a team to cross the 50 twice and then for that to only happen late in the third quarter is awesome. I'm proud of our defensive effort. Those guys are flying around, executing the defensive game plan. It's fun to watch them play."
Conversely, it's Reed offense that needs to get better. Raider coaches want more consistent execution as well as fewer physical and mental mistakes on that side of the football.
"In the first half against Hug, we had seven drops, three holding penalties and we had an emotion penalty. We shot ourselves in the foot as bad as we could in the first half," Howren said. "That lack of consistency is still an issue with us offensively. I will say that in the second half we came out and in the first three drives we scored. I loved the way we came out of halftime. We came out flying around, executing the game plan. That was good. It makes you feel like, this is what we can do."
In the big picture, Reed (4-3) got its record over the break-even mark for the first time this fall and improved to 2-0 in High Desert League play. That unblemished league record is the most important thing to Howren.
"That's something we pride ourselves on," Howren said. "Over the last seven or eight years going through double days and into our non-league games, our whole focus is preparing for league. I feel like our kids have done a great job buying into that."
While everyone from coaches to players to the Blue and Golf faithful are excited about the 2-0 league start, the inconsistent play from the Raiders' offense is the biggest concern in Reed camp. Reed coaches know if it persists, the continuing mistakes will likely hurt the RHS crew in a big game, in a big spot.
"Hey, offensively, we know it," Howren said. "At some point, we have to play team ball. We have kids making great individual efforts, but we have yet to have a series where all 11 are on the same page for an entire drive. That's just where we're at right now. At some point, that must come together."
Still, Howren likes his team's work ethic and he believes his Raiders will get better, admitting Reed coaches are the team's biggest critics.
"We're getting maximum effort for 48 minutes every Friday night," Howren said. "If we just come around offensively and perform at the level we know we can perform at, we'll be fine. If we had a bunch of guys that were not very good, you wouldn't hear us calling ourselves out, but we have guys we know can do some neat stuff. We'll keep pushing and keep talking about it until we get it."
•At Spanish Springs, the Cougars are dealing with the aftermath of just their second loss this season, and their first to a northern Nevada foe. Spanish Springs (5-2) never found an offensive rhythm in its 34-20 league home loss to Reno. Poor execution, untimely penalties, you name it and the Cougars' offense suffered from it.
"We struggled with our snaps," Cougars coach Scott Hare said. "What happened was we were reaching for it a little all night. I think that kind of hurt our cohesiveness. Now obviously our struggles were more than that but that did have something to do with it.
"And we have to get rid of the football. We actually had guys open short. We had time to throw to those guys and we didn't. We were waiting for the longer routes to come open and their pressure didn't allow us to do that. I'm not sure we got beat as much up front as it was just them bringing extra guys and we weren't willing to dump it off short."
Immediately after Friday's folly, Hare thought his team got beat up physically. He backed off that statement a bit after watching film and reflecting during team meetings Saturday. He did however admit his team was nowhere near as mentally sharp as it needed to be if it has plans to be successful in league play.
"I don't know if we got beat up physically as much as we just didn't play with the same level of intensity that we have played with before. It's not like Reno was rattling off eight or nine yards on every run. We were definitely getting after them with our running game. But then when it was third-and-4, a down that we needed to convert, we didn't. They'd stuff us. It was the main plays, the ones we had to have and on those Reno brought it a little bit more than we did."
Cougars coaches were also frustrated with player mistakes that led to penalties. Hare said his team was flagged for a season-high 18 fouls. The miscues time and again either helped Reno drives or stymied Spanish Springs drives.
"The biggest thing in the whole game was penalties," Hare said. "That was the game right there, Some of our smartest players were getting fouls and extending their drives. I'll take a holding penalty, a pass interference penalty, those things happen. But we absolutely made mistakes on the kinds of things that are not a coaching thing, not a practice thing, just, once again, a little bit of an intensity thing. Every down matters."
The Cougars were off to a 5-1 start before getting dumped by the Huskies. Spanish Springs has been off to good starts before in its recent history, but then floundered in league play. Next up on the Cougars' schedule is perennial regional power McQueen. Critics will say this is the same old Cougars mantra — 'decent program, it wins preseason games but it can't win big league games when it counts.' Hare openly admits his team is in a similar situation as past years, but he believes there's more to this team.
"We've got to find a way," Hare said. "I told the kids we practice hard. Our coaches do their work and know what's going on. We play hard. Now it's just a situation where we must overcome. You watch the film on McQueen and the Lancers are good. We must find a way to win a game against McQueen ... I don't think there is any magic potion here. We must go out find and find a little chink in that armor, see if can't get a win out of it."
•At Sparks, the struggles continued for the Railroaders in Week 7. They fell to 0-7 on the season with another lopsided loss, 53-6 at home against Lowry. A week earlier, SHS coach Rob Kittrell said his club played its best game of the year in a loss at Fallon, but the Railroaders' longtime leader felt his squad may have taken a step backward against Lowry.
"We really struggled offensively," Kittrell said. "They had a couple guys up front that really manhandled us. We couldn't block them and we couldn't run the ball effectively. When (quarterback Geo Vasquez) got hurt, that changed the complexion of what we wanted to do offensively. It took us until the fourth quarter to get anything rolling.
"Defensively, it was a fairly good effort for us. A lot of the stuff we gave up was on broken plays, stuff where they just had better athletes than us."
Kittrell is a veteran of many a league season. He's been the SHS coach since 1998. Kittrell believes Lowry is certainly among the top group of Northern Division I-A teams, along with Fallon, Truckee and Fernley, that can compete for a conference crown.
"Lowry is a playoff team for sure," Kittrell said. "When you take a look at Fernley, Fallon, Truckee and Lowry, those are the top four teams. We're starting to watch film on South Tahoe, which is definitely the most improved team. I'm not sure you can take them out of that mix either."
Kittrell and his winless Sparks squad have three games left on their regular season slate, all league games. The Railroaders host South Tahoe and then travel to play at Dayton and at Wooster. You can bet the SHS gridders would like nothing more than to right their ship and find a win or two among that group of remaining games.
So how can the local club get that done?
"At this point, we're just focusing on us. We can't worry about the scoreboard or anything else," Kittrell said during a phone interview Saturday evening. "We've got to play with emotion and work to get more physical. These guys are young. We are getting better.
"We'll get in Monday, go over the mistakes we made against Lowry and put it behind us. We'll focus on South Tahoe and trying to be a better football team than we were last week."