For the remainder of the contest, the Blue and Gold defense caged Smith and the rest of the Mustangs’ offense as Reed took the northern Nevada large school title with a 50-9 victory.
Everywhere Smith went, a swarm of Raiders followed. When the standout tailback rushed up the middle, he encountered a wall of defenders. If he tried to use his speed to stretch a run out to the edge, the Raiders beat him to the corner. Twenty-five times Smith searched for a crack in the Reed defense, and 25 times he found nothing. The second leading rusher in the state, who carried Damonte to the regional title game with three straight games of 239, 316 and 113 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns, never found the end zone against the Raiders and totaled just 58 yards, his lowest output of the season.
“The defense did a great job of keying in on their best offensive weapon in Drew Smith,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “The kid is a dynamite player. To hold him to under 70 yards in the rushing game was a pretty tall task, considering what he was putting up for the last three or four weeks.
“It was definitely a group effort. It was our inside linebackers, our safeties, our D-line. Jared Greenwall came up with a huge tackle where he scrapped flat down the line of scrimmage and tackled Drew for about a 1-yard gain that could have easily been about a 65-yard touchdown. That was just one example of many from each position contributing to stop Drew.”
The effort on the defensive side of the ball allowed the RHS offense to find its groove as it stumbled out of the gates to begin the game. A pair of costly fumbles left the Raiders ahead just 6-3 at the end of one quarter.
Once Reed quarterback Mark Nowaczewski and the Raiders got going though, there was no stopping them. They scored on six straight possessions, putting up 38 points in a matter of just over 12 minutes of play.
“Damonte did a good job of stripping the ball twice on us. We had a couple of big gains and they got our guys from behind and stripped the ball away, so the credit goes to Damonte on that,” Howren said. “After that though, I felt like the kids did a good job of taking the things that Damonte was giving to us defensively. The kids were able to execute and take advantage of those things.”
The dominating performance on the part of the Raiders earned them a home date against Bishop Gorman in an upcoming state semifinal. While Smith and Damonte presented plenty of problems in the North championship, Howren said the Gaels will create dilemmas all over the field.
“The reality is you’re playing Gorman,” he said. “They are just bigger, faster and stronger than any other football team we’ve seen. They have a great coaching staff. Everything we do we have to be cleaner and more physical if we want to put ourselves in a position to play against those guys.”