“I’ve been part of a few comeback victories, playing and coaching, in college and high school,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “This ranks right up there. I don’t ever remember being down three scores and coming back. To do that, to be associated with that, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
The comeback win gave Reed a berth in Friday’s Division I North championship game against Damonte Ranch. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. at the University of Nevada’s Mackay Stadium.
Two weeks earlier, Reed had put a 47-14 beat down on Spanish Springs, on the Cougars’ home field. However, the second go-round between the two schools was nothing like the first. Spanish Springs changed its game plan and it paid off in the form of a much more competitive rematch.
The rivals were deadlocked at 10-10 at halftime. After Reed opened the second half with a field goal to go up 13-10, the tide turned in a big way. In less than two minutes, Spanish Springs returned a kickoff for a touchdown, forced a fumble for a scoop and scored a touchdown and then forced another fumble that led to a touchdown. The Cougars turned a three-point deficit into a 31-13 advantage in a matter of seconds.
However, with more than seven minutes remaining in the contest, the Cougars could not hold on.
“I just think it was kind of a weird thing,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “I actually think the big lead hurt us a little bit. It threw us out of our game plan and what got us the big lead. We changed what we were doing and so did Reed. It was a bunch of little things.”
The Reed rushing attack torched Spanish Springs in the regular season finale for the two schools, Oct. 25. Spanish Springs (8-4) made it a priority to slow the Raiders (9-3) ground game and it was largely successful in doing so. Facing the 18-point deficit, Reed changed offensive philosophy, often opting for a five-receiver scheme with no one in the back field. The Raiders also began to change what they showed in pre-snap sets, confusing the Cougars’ offense with new looks.
“The bottom line is the adjustments I made were not as good as those Ernie made,” a frustrated Hare said. “Our game plan going in and our preparation was good. We were executing well. We got the turnovers and the score in our favor. Ernie made better adjustments and that allowed them to come back and win.
“Their defense probably showed us eight or nine different looks we hadn’t seen on film. Their offense started dropping balls underneath our coverage and when we rolled up closer, they threw over our head. They took exactly what we gave them. I must tip my hat to the Reed staff.”
Howren admitted his team made some changes, but he also stressed those changes were much less a factor in his team’s comeback than the resilient nature and poise it exhibited.
“The biggest thing and the thing I’m most proud of our kids for is they did not panic,” Howren said. “They understood we had to chip away, one play at a time. We didn’t have a 21-point play. It was going to take three scores. The kids bought into that ... As far as the scheme changes, we practice for those types of situations. If something is not working, we go to Plan B and then Plan C. That’s all based on the kids we have and that they’re able to do those kinds things.”
The RHS veteran coach was ecstatic with the way his Raiders’ defense rose to the occasion, specifically in the final 19 minutes of action. He gave it a ton of credit in holding down Spanish Springs and allowing the Blue and Gold’s offense to mount a rally. He also said a comeback win like this one can go a long way in the confidence bank.
“Our defense was tremendous,” Howren said. “The effort those kids gave was awesome. Your offense is going to make some mistakes. Those turnovers are a lot more glaring.
“You can’t put a price tag on this win, emotionally and mentally. It let’s you know you can come back down three scores. That’s always in our back pocket. We can pull it out there and say we’ve been there and done that. It’s just a huge lift for us as a program.”
Given the emotional drain of defeat, it was hard for Hare, even a few days after the loss, to see the big picture. He was saddling the blame for the loss squarely on his shoulders. Eventually, he at least found the words to look back on the season.
“It’s definitely the most successful season we’ve had,” Hare said. “The goal, the object is to win playoff games and we did that for the first time. We won eight games. We didn’t sneak into the playoffs. We handily won a playoff game.
“We really played well. We put up a lot of points and stopped other teams from scoring. We did a lot of great things. Am I disappointed it came to an end the way it did? Yeah, but I really think the program will grow from this.”