"We've played Reed a lot the last few years. They've had our number in a few games and we've had theirs in a few games," Carson coach Blair Roman said. "Our kids aren't in awe of anybody. What it comes down to is playing better for 48 minutes."
Carson (10-2) will need to play better than it did the last time the two teams met -- Sept. 27 at Reed. The host Raiders rolled to a 64-26 non-league romp on the strength of a third quarter that saw them outscore the Senators 36-0.
"That was just one of those quarters where everything clicked," Reed coach Ernie Howren said. "It's a credit to the kids. Their preparation showed and they took advantage of the opportunities given to them, both scheme-wise and athletically. Our kids did some great things and created some huge opportunities ... But we don't preach trying to replicate what we did in that first game. We're just talking about executing the gameplan."
That third quarter sticks out to Carson too. Going into the postseason two weeks ago, Roman called it 'really the only bad quarter his team had played all season.' While the third quarter in the initial meeting was not good to Carson, the Senators were far from perfect in the other three quarters. The Carson coaching staff knows it will need a much better effort in the second go-round if it wants to upset Reed.
"We cannot turn the ball over," Roman said. "We had three interceptions, a fumble and we lost an on-side kick they successfully recovered. So that's the No. 1 thing. Secondly, we have to move the ball and score some points. That Reed offense is going to move the ball and put up points on anybody. Another big key that goes without saying, is we must limit big plays. They grind you down with the run and then hit the deep ball."
Reed has indeed been beating up its opponents in the run game. Two weeks ago, Reed running back Jordan de Leon needed just 17 carries to rack up 214 yards in the Raiders' first-round playoff romp over Douglas. A week later, the RHS senior tailback/bulldozer got 40 carries and ran roughshod over Galena for 286 yards in a regional semifinal victory. Reed quarterback Chris Denn also eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in both games.
"Our offense Friday will be completely based on what Carson is giving us scheme-wise," Howren said. "Do I think Jordan could carry it 40 times again this week? Absolutely, there's no doubt in my mind if we need to call on him again 40 times, he gladly accept it. And our linemen would too. You play offensive line because you want to road grade people and that's what our linemen love to do."
That should probably put a little fear into Carson fans. Douglas and Galena, the past two weeks, made a concerted effort to slow down Reed's spread passing game. They had some success, but the overall result was Reed did whatever it wanted in the ground game.
"Reed's run game presents an issue for any defense," Roman said. "That's what makes Reed's offense so effective. They run the ball better than they throw it and they throw it well. They do a great job of putting your defense in a bind. You must be on top of your game."
Howren is ecstatic to see the production from his team's rushing attack but he was quick to say it's not that the Raiders' run game is all of a sudden flourishing.
"It's not that we've gotten a lot better, but we have had to utilize it more the last couple of weeks. It's not that we've peaked in the running game. It's just that we've been in the right spot at the right time to use the running game the last couple of weeks. We are fortunate to have our line and Jordan (de Leon) and Chris (Denn), to be able to run the way we do because of the way teams are taking away the passing game."
While Reed has been scoring points seemingly at will most of the season, regardless of the opponent, Howren said his staff and players certainly won't take Carson for granted. The Raiders' long-time football guru stressed that Carson is a quality opponent and that it has made strides all year long.
"I've seen a progression from them," Howren said. "They are a team that has gotten as physical as any team in the (North) league, both offensively and defensively. Carson has gotten back to what they do as well as any team. They're running the football. They've got a very physical offensive line and great running backs."
Carson and Reed are set to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday on Damonte Ranch High School's artificial turf surface. Reed's home field, which is widely viewed as the worst playing surface in the region, is natural grass. Friday's regional championship will be just the second time all year Reed has played on field turf. The RHS gang did practice at Damonte Wednesday night.
Carson has artificial turf on its home field.
Roman said the playing surface will matter little once kickoff rolls around.
"It doesn't really matter to us. It's not a factor," he said. "I'm not sure it'll be a factor for them either. We practice on grass quite a bit, so we'd be comfortable either way."
It may be just that Reed's playing surface is closer to a sandlot than a football field, but Howren and his players are looking forward to competing on a faster, truer surface.
"Damonte is a great facility," Howren said. "We're excited about playing there. The turf is a really great field. We feel good about playing there."