Reed knocked off Bishop Manogue 30-24 in a first-round playoff last week to keep its season alive. The regional semifinals are nothing new to Reed. The Raiders have reached them in each of the past six seasons. Unfortunately for fans of the Blue and Gold, their teams have not advanced past the semis since 2004, the year it last claimed a Northern 4A championship.
“We’ve addressed that because it’s out there and we felt we needed to talk about it,” Raiders coach Ernie Howren said of his team’s recent inability to advance past the second round. “It’s not like it’s a weight on the players or coaches. I think the players understand and the coaches understand that we need to get out of the second round.”
Reed won the High Desert League this season and in doing so handed McQueen a 30-14 regular season loss in late September. That Raiders win helped the team bounce back from a 1-2 start and get back on track.
“I think it goes back to the basics of football,” Howren said. “That first game against them I think our offensive line and receivers did a great job of blocking and defensively, we did a great job of tackling. We had a lot of solo tackles and a lot of gang tackles. A lot of guys did a great job with their tackling technique and it paid off.”
First-year McQueen coach Jim Snelling has vivid memories of the first meeting between the league rivals. He remembers his team’s woes and how it gave up too many big plays. He knows the Lancers will need to be better in this second go-round.
“Hopefully, we’ll cut down on some of our mistakes,” he said. “They created some and we gave them some. When you’re playing a team of Reed’s caliber, you can’t afford to make that many mistakes and expect to win.”
While Reed may have handled McQueen without too much trouble when the schools met in the first week of the High Desert League season, both have improved since. Snelling said his squad is definitely excited for the semifinal affair.
“Any team that gets into the playoffs and makes the final four is going to have some excitement built up,” Snelling said. “The last week of the regular season we lost to Spanish Springs and that was kind of a wake-up call. The kids are doing a good job. They worked hard and played great against Douglas last week. So they’re excited. I’m just not sure if it’s because we’re playing Reed again or if it’s being down to the final four.”
Howren did not mince words when talking about McQueen. The RHS skipper fully expects a physical contest and the best McQueen has to offer when kickoff rolls around tonight.
“This McQueen team is much improved over the first time we played them. Both teams are,” Howren said. “Defensively, they’re going to play traditional McQueen football and swarm to the football and offensively, their schemes haven’t changed.
“You’re not going to come out and track play McQueen’s defense and they’re not going to come at you with a bunch of new schemes. They’re very fundamentally sound. We have to be very fundamentally sound. That’s the way you have to play at this point in the season.”
Reed certainly won’t come out of the huddle and run wishbone or Wing-T schemes. The Raiders will work out of their spread formations, but Howren did say it’s important for any team to continue to add new dimensions as the season goes along.
“You’re always trying to add new wrinkles,” he said. “You’re not changing your gamplan or what got you to this point. Obviously, some things have worked well to get you to this point, but you have to show new wrinkles and come in with something fresh, something McQueen has not prepared for or seen from us.”
With a berth in the regional final on the line, we’ll see what new wrinkles the Raiders have up their sleeves this eve.