A semifinal matchup between Reed (8-3) and Spanish Springs (8-3) guarantees that. That’s because for the second straight year, the two cross-town rivals have met in the regular season finale, only to take on each other again in the playoffs.
Last fall, the Raiders closed out the regular season with a 63-32 win over the Cougars and followed that up a week later with a 48-16 victory in the regional quarterfinals.
This time around, Reed ended the season with a 47-14 victory over the team from north Sparks.
One thing is for certain; the Cougars don’t want to be the victim of another rout at the hands of the Blue and Gold.
“We can’t let the game get away from us like we did. I don’t think it’s anything they did in particular or that we did,” SSHS football coach Scott Hare said. “It was 19-14, and then the next time our offense had the ball, it was 33-14. I just think we’ve got to stay the course. We’ve gotten to this point in the season, and I don’t think this is the time to make a lot of changes.”
In the clash two weeks ago at SSHS, Reed outgained the hosts 513-354 on offense, while holding the Cougars to one offensive touchdown and no points in the second half.
“The effort by the defensive coaches and the players, they go hand-in-hand,“ Reed football coach Ernie Howren said. “The coaches are doing a great job putting together a great game plan, and the kids are going out there executing it like they have been. The success we’ve been having lately is because of those guys.”
The Raiders opened the postseason with another strong defensive performance, shutting down a high-scoring Douglas squad in a 47-14 decision. Spanish Springs advanced to the semifinals by defeating Bishop Manogue 26-6 on the road. The Purple and Silver will have to go on the road again if it wants to extend its season.
The Cougars will travel to east Sparks for the semifinal tilt at 7 p.m. Friday night. The winner will face the victor of the other semifinal, McQueen at Damonte Ranch.
For Spanish Springs to compete against Reed, it will need to limit the big plays. Two weeks ago, the Raiders had three receptions for over 40 yards and a run for over 50.
“Reed has been doing similar things in my time here. There are some little tweaks here and there, but they’ve got good players,” Hare said. “We’ve got to do the right things on defense. The truth is, we just have to make a couple plays. (Devin) Gray beat us on some balls over our head. Probably two of them were really nice plays, and the other one our guy just wasn’t in position. Is he going to get one over our head? Probably, he’s that good. We can’t let the other two happen. We’ve got to be in position at all times, and then make them make a play.”
Howren knows Spanish Springs will get its yards on offense, but the Raiders will also need to stifle the Cougars’ big play capabilities.
“They key is bend and don’t break and minimize the big plays they make,” Howren said. “They have big playmakers with Fralick, Lively, Jurgensmeier and Lowry. You have to limit those for kids. They’re great ball players and make some great plays. They make some big plays. You just have to limit how many big plays they make over the course of the game.”
On the other side, Hare said his team must deal with the fact the Raiders are big and strong up front on defense, and the closer to the end zone the Cougars’ offense gets, the harder it will be to spread out the Blue and Gold and pick it apart. Hare said his players know the offense can move the ball on Reed, but they will have to lower their shoulders and do some damage in order to finish off those drives.
Not much is expected to change from the first time these teams met. Both squads will look to minimize mistakes and play the type of style that got them to this point.
“In a game like this where you play someone twice, you expect both teams to have a similar game plan to what they did before because they are still who they are,” Howren said. “Teams aren’t going to change their personnel in a week and a half. Both teams are just going to go out there and try to execute better than they did the first time”