After winning the starting quarterback gig in preseason camp, Reed’s senior signal caller, Chris Denn, has orchestrated the Raider’s offense with grandiose precision and led Reed (11-1) to its third straight North title and a berth in Saturday’s DI state semifinal against Liberty.
Denn admitted he was nervous (many are their first time driving on the freeway) taking over the dynasty that is now the Reed football program. However, the butterflies’ stay was short-lived, exiting after the opening drive of the season at Foothill High in northern California.
“Especially after the long bus ride down to Foothill, it was kind of nerve-wracking,” Denn said. “I’m just glad we went down and we scored on the first series. That pretty much settled the nerves for the whole entire season.”
Finishing with 190 passing yards, Denn threw for three touchdowns in his Raider debut. Now he's one of the most prolific dual-threat quarterbacks in the North. Denn ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns in Friday’s, 47-39, North title game win over Carson at Damonte Ranch.
Standing at 5-feet 10-inches (on a good day), Denn admitted he has occasional troubles looking over his linemen to find passing lanes but he still prefers to throw the ball as opposed to tucking it and running.
“(I like) throwing more, definitely throwing,” Denn said. “It’s what I grew up playing as and it’s more fun for me to get the ball into other guy’s hands — and it’s not as tiring.”
When he does tuck the ball, Denn said is sub-six-foot, 177-pound frame helps him “sneak through places taller quarterbacks couldn’t.”
Denn watched from the sidelines as Reed won North titles in 2011 and 2012. He said there was pressure after coach Ernie Howren named him the starter over junior Jackson Gilmore, but it was no different from the pressure felt in any program. Pressure and
expectations come with being a varsity quarterback regardless of the program.
“(There wasn’t) so much pressure from keeping the streak alive, just, we wanted it because it’s our senior year,” Denn said. “We wanted to leave our mark too. We don’t want to go out on a loss.”
While screening outside expectations to win a third straight North title, Denn took a similar approach in August about the possibility of losing the quarterback competition.
“If you thought about losing your position, you probably would,” Denn said. “So I tried not to think about it as much as I could and just did everything I could.”
Entering Saturday’s state semifinal against Liberty at Bishop Manogue, Denn said he’s thought about the possibility of his high school football career coming to a close but he isn’t anticipating it.
He, and the rest of his Raider teammates, would love nothing more than to get another shot at Bishop Gorman, which eliminated Reed in the state title game and state semifinals respectively the last two years.
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, the Reed fan base will not see the last of a Denn under center. His younger brother, Matt, a sophomore at Reed, was the quarterback of the junior varsity squad this year.
“Honestly he (Matt) has enough skill he could probably win the (North) championship again just like we have the past few years,” Denn said.
Denn has thrown with his younger brother since they were 8- and 10-years-old and they will continue to work “footwork and fundamentals” in the offseason.
“He is faster than I am, so I get a lot of grief for that,” Denn said of his younger brother.
But before he turns to coaching up little brother, he remains focused on Saturday and potentially earning Reed’s second trip to the state title game in three years.
“We've got to play hard and just execute our game plan and do what we’re coached to do,” Denn said. “We have to have fun with it if anything.”