Reed (8-1, 4-1 in the HDL) sealed its third straight league title Friday night at home with a convincing 63-28 win over Spanish Springs (4-5, 2-3 in the HDL).
“It feels great every time,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “It doesn’t feel like, been here done that. Every time is as great as the first time.”
Leading 14-7 coming out of the locker room at halftime, Reed’s offensive line asserted itself as the Raiders scored on seven of eight second-half drives to blow the game open.
The Raiders received the kickoff after halftime and Jordan de Leon broke off a 54-yard touchdown run two plays later to extend the lead to 21-7.
The senior running back carried the ball 20 times for 179 yards and found the end zone three times.
“When the line’s on, he’s got an easy hole to run through,” Howren said. “With one guy making a mistake, de Leon is making that guy miss. It’s a combination of both of them working their butts off, the offensive line and de Leon.”
Spanish Springs responded with a 15-play, 73-yard, drive down to the Reed three-yard line but quarterback Hunter Fralick was stuffed on fourth and goal giving the ball back to the Raiders’ offense.
The play was one of the few times Fralick couldn’t find running room as the senior ran for 172 yards on 15 carries racking up three touchdown runs: of 10, 34 and 49 yards. He also completed 26-of-46 passes for 215 yards.
Fralick’s completion percentage would have been much higher but the Cougars were haunted by 10 drops, eight in the first quarter.
“I don’t know,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “But you know what, if you got to take eight drops this week, and catch all eight next week, I’ll take it.”
Both teams traded punts following Reed’s goal-line stand before the Raiders extended their lead to 28-7 with a four-play, 55-yard drive capped by quarterback Chris Denn’s six-yard touchdown plunge.
Denn carried the ball 14 times for 121 yards and the touchdown. He completed 8-14 pass attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
“(It feels) awesome. It’s been our goal all along,” Denn said of winning the HDL. “Now we've just got to go for region … This game goes to our line though. They did incredible the whole time. I only got hit one time where it wasn’t my fault.”
Spanish Springs’ Shamir Geisinger showed off his blazing speed on the kickoff following the Denn dive, returning the kick 93 yards to close the gap to 28-14.
The Raiders recovered the Cougars ensuing on-side kick and marched 51 yards on four plays to push the lead back to 21, capped by a nine-yard touchdown grab by Trae Wells.
Reed’s most dangerous deep threat hauled in four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Leading 42-28, the Raiders proceeded to score on three consecutive drives to turn the game into a rout in the fourth quarter.
“We would get a score and Spanish Springs would come right back and answer back with a score. How are you going to handle that mentally? I thought our kids did really well with that,” Howren said.
In the first half, Fralick’s first touchdown run, a 34-yarder, gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 6:53 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars’ only lead of the game was short lived. Fifty five seconds later, Reed linebacker Jordyn Rather returned Fralick’s only interception of the night, and just his third of the season, 50 yards to tie the game.
SSHS linebacker Roman Lawlor recovered a de Leon fumble three plays after Fralick’s touchdown scamper to give the ball back to the Cougars’ offense, setting up Rather’s pick six.
On its final drive of the half, Spanish Springs marched inside the Reed 5-yard line with three seconds left following a seven-yard grab by Gehrig Parks. Parks was unable to get out of bounds, after getting the first down, setting the clock to run once the ball was spotted.
The Cougars’ field goal unit ran onto the field but was unable to get the kick off before time expired.
Parks grabbed eight passes for 75 yards, tying the school record for receptions in a season with 100.
Jacob White caught 10 passes for 76 yards.
Despite the lopsided score, Hare was pleased with his team’s performance, particularly in the first half. The Cougars played the game conservatively fighting numerous injuries.
“I feel really good,” Hare said. “I saw a team that looked poised and the best we’ve looked, at times, this year. I thought our defense played really, really well. The score is not indicative at all of how we played.”
As the HDL’s fourth-place team, the Cougars will play at Carson (7-2, 4-0 in the Sierra League) in the first round of the North Region Tournament next Friday.
“I’m excited to start the tournament where we are starting it,” Hare said. “I think we are going to be a tough out. I respect Carson. They do a great job. But we are going to be a tough out, I know that.”
Reed opens the regional playoffs at home against Douglas (2-7, 1-3 in the Sierra League), next Friday, but Howren does not believe Friday’s win over Spanish Springs will have any affect on the game.
“I don’t look at momentum going into the playoffs because if you need momentum to go into the playoffs, then you ain’t competitive,” Howren said. “It’s the playoffs. You've got to come into the playoffs with an attitude that you’re going to do everything you can to win that ball game. I don’t think you need any momentum to lead into that.”