Through the first two rounds of postseason play, Reed has played a familiar foe. It had already faced Douglas and Spanish Springs during the regular season, Spanish Springs just two weeks earlier. However, this week Reed will see a set of uniforms lining up across from it that has not seen in 2012.
Reed (9-3), which earned the High Desert League’s top seed this fall, will face a Damonte Ranch team it has not seen since last fall. And that goes beyond the 2012 schedule.
“I’ll tell you this much. As crazy as it may sound, we did not see a single play of Damonte, even on film,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “Not one of our scouts ever crossed over to Damonte.”
While the Raiders may not have seen as much film on the Mustangs this fall as other opponents, Howren doesn’t expect the DRHS gridders to be an unfamiliar foe.
“We are talking about Week 13 now,” Howren said. “We’ve seen just about everything. We’ve seen some pretty talented kids and teams this season. As far as offensive and defensive schemes, we’ve seen them all. I don’t think there’s much out there that will surprise our kids.”
What Reed coaches have learned about Damonte is much what they’d heard before. Mustangs do-everything back Drew Smith is one solid football player. Smith, who was the Mustangs QB last fall, has rushed for 2,034 on 267 carries, an average of 7.62 yards a carry. He’s also found the end zone 26 times.
“Everything we’ve heard about Drew is true,” Howren said. “He’s an excellent football player. He see’s the field really well. He has the speed to take it all the way. He has the ability to break tackles. He’s a very dynamic football player.
“We’d be crazy not to focus on a guy that’s been the focal point of their offense. You have to base your defensive game plan around stopping Drew.”
Not many people expected Damonte to be in this situation. The Mustangs were a mediocre 4-5 in the regular season, but they upset Reno on the road and McQueen at home during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“We’ve been playing better,” said first-year Damonte Ranch coach Shawn Dupris, who had coached at Las Vegas’ Bonanza High the previous six years.. “We’ve definitely had to change things up to be in this spot. Being here comes from our hard work, belief in our players and coaches.
“The biggest thing is we’ve cleaned up our penalties and turnovers. If you go back to league, we were giving up 100 yards a game in penalties and turning the ball over. We’ve cut those two things out and given ourselves a chance. I don’t want to say I didn’t think we’d be in this position because you always think you can win.”
While Damonte did beat Reno and McQueen the past two weeks, Reed also dispatched both of those schools this year and the Raiders have earned the favorite tag after dominating northern Nevada football for nearly a decade.
“Reed is obviously a very talented football team and a great program,” Dupris said. “Those guys are well coached with a real nice QB who is surrounded with nice athletes. Their offensive line is doing a great job. Their running back is good. Their defense gets a lot of guys to the ball. The thing that separates Reed, is it just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
It’s hard to argue that. Reed thrives on making fewer mistakes than its opponents and limiting big plays. That likely goes back to the Raiders ability to build on a winning tradition and then still find a new identity each year.
“I keep going back to it and I may sound like a broken record, but it’s Week 13,” Howren said. “We may have had some new kids starting this season out but they’re veterans now. We’ve been playing for 13 weeks. We told the kids at the beginning of the year, ‘nobody cares if you won a region or went on to state. You need to carve out your own path as a team. That’s what these kids have done. They’ve been working very hard to create their own way of getting into a championship game.
“Here we are again. These kids have put themselves in this position. I’m very proud of them. Obviously, we want to keep going farther.”
Dupris and the Damonte crew would like to keep that from happening. The Mustangs’ coach said his team must limit Reed’s big-play ability if it wants to stay in contention on game night.
“We can’t give up the big play,” he said. “We must make them drive the ball and go the length of the field. On our side, we’ve got to control the ball and not give them turnovers. When we’ve done that for four quarters this year, we’ve come out on top.”