Reed will battle Galena tonight at 7 p.m. at Damonte Ranch High School in the Northern 4A title game.
The two teams have taken vastly different paths to tonight’s championship tilt. Reed was the top team in most Northern 4A preseason football polls and is riding a nine-game winning streak. Three weeks ago Galena wasn’t even a lock to qualify for the postseason, but the Grizz have ripped off three straight upset wins — over Manogue, Spanish Springs and Carson — to earn a berth in the regional championship affair.
“If you look at the games they’ve lost, they’ve still been playing really well,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said, stressing Galena is more than just a team that put together a few fluke wins. “Those guys have stayed the course and stayed focused. And then they have played really good football the last three weeks.”
Reed players seemed surprised and even happy when they heard Galena upset Carson in a regional semifinal last Friday. However, Howren said his team isn’t taking the Grizzlies lightly.
“We can’t look at Galena and say this will be an easy game. Any team that is still playing at this time of the year is a good team,” the Raiders veteran coach said. “Before we even got off the field last Friday, (following a 28-21 playoff win over McQueen), the kids were asking about Galena. ‘What do they run? What do they do?’ So our kids are taking this seriously.”
The Raiders started getting a lot more serious about their football season after a 1-2 start. They had to and it paid off. After opening the fall campaign with a win at Manogue, Reed lost consecutive games to Oceanside, Calif. and Carson. That seems like an eternity ago to most RHS coaches and players as the east Sparks school has not lost since.
“That was so long ago,” Howren said. “We don’t even think about that anymore. They have really come together. I was very impressed with the way the kids have focused. It’s almost like it’s the start of the season; they are asking so many questions. They just want to get our schemes right.
“Those two games made us better on a lot of levels. You’re going to face adversity and you have to deal with it. So far we’ve dealt with it well. This is a regional championship game. We’re going to face adversity in this game and we’d better deal with it well.”
Tonight’s tilt will be played on Damonte’s neutral field, which boasts artificial turf unlike Reed’s natural grass. Reed has only played artificial twice this fall and not since Week 4 in late September at McQueen. The Raiders did however get a chance to practice on the faster playing surface Wednesday night.
“Damonte was kind enough to allow us to practice on their field,” Howren said. “It just allowed us to run around and get familiar with it and the atmosphere. It was good.”
The Raiders and Grizzlies did not meet in the regular season, but after watching film on opponents all season, Howren and his coaching staff have seen more than their fair share of the Grizzlies on tape. He doesn’t expect Galena to be unfamiliar when kickoff rolls around.
“We’ve seen a lot of them on film, just because of common opponents,” Howren said. “We’ve seen so much film I don’t expect it to feel awkward.”