Reed Raiders Season Preview
The high school football season begins in less than two weeks, with that being said we are previewing over twenty teams from our local area. Today's team: Reed.
2022 record: 7-4 overall, 5-1 league
Head coach: Garrett Hughes, fourth season at Reed (14-11 overall, 10-6 league in three seasons at Reed)
My question for the Raiders heading into the season was twofold: Will they be able to replace the production they got out of Spencer Firebaugh last season? And how can they display a more balanced approach on offense this upcoming season?
When I caught up to Coach Hughes his answer was simple, "Yes, we will display a more balanced attack this season. Thing is after the first couple games last year the play calling turned towards [Spencer] Firebaugh because he was lighting it up - we built on it as we rolled on." Hughes continued on stating "[It's the] most I've ever relied on one guy, luckily this year I've got three running backs to share the load, which will help be call plays offensively."
Reed's strength will lie within the trenches where they return a plethora of starters from last year's team. Hughes was quick to point out that they "[had] a good offseason - everyone who committed got bigger, faster and stronger because they are coming back with a vengeance." The Raiders remain committed to getting better and their plan(s)/goal for this season as Coach Hughes put it is "to win the whole thing." The Raiders strength on both sides of the ball will lie in their experience and depth, having had a senior group who has gotten a ton of varsity snaps over the last two years and at times has taken their lumps.
Offensively the Raiders will continue to run their variation of a "Spread 'Pistol' with two wideouts." The Raiders try to get the ball in space and let their athletes make plays while creating space for their running game. They were dealt a tough blow when QB Dakota Dunlap suffered a season ending ACL injury on a non-contact play a few weeks ago. The Raiders have an open QB competition ongoing because of the unfortunate series of events, but they will return five starters on offense at the onset of the season.
Defensively Reed runs a base 3-4, with big lineman in front of athletic playmaking linebackers. Coach Hughes said, "we believe it gives us flexibility to get into different looks easily." The Raiders return six starters from last year's squad including a handful of talented seniors that have been playing varsity since their sophomore year. The defense will be key for the Raiders in the early season as the offense breaks in new starters at over half of their positions.
The Big Three:
LB Cooper Park, Senior: Park has been a stalwart on the Raiders defense for the past two seasons, having racked up 143 tackles, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Coach Hughes was quick to note "[Cooper] had a great offseason, he'll finish his career as a three-year varsity starter, he really is a do-it-all at MLB." High praise for a kid that has the ability to play himself into multiple scholarship opportunities this season. Cooper is someone who I'll be paying attention to this season.
WR Zack Taylor, Senior: Taylor begins this season as one of my most underrated players in Northern Nevada. He's "6-foot-2, runs well and can take the top off" according to Coach Hughes. In two seasons on varsity, he has accounted for 428 receiving yards and three touchdowns. I assure you I'd bet on his production doubling that this season.
TE/LB Anthony Comba, Senior: One of many seniors that began playing on Reed's varsity as sophomores two seasons ago, Comba is a huge red zone target, measuring 6-foot-5 and almost 200 pounds. Need proof? Last season he scored a touchdown almost every other time he touched the ball corralling seven receptions for 47 yards and three touchdowns. He's also a starting OLB on defense so he'll be a big catalyst in the Raiders success this season.
Continuing on a Tradition...
That goes back a decade plus and includes Austin Corbett and Kyle Roberts. You can't talk about Reed football without mentioning the strength that lies within the offensive and defensive lines. This year is no different as Coach Hughes stated "[our] strength is in the trenches." He will look for Seniors Loni 'Dun Dun' Bloomfield, Emmanuel Akutey, Ryley Richards and Courage Osawe to lead this unit. Also be on the lookout for Juniors Mataio Aiono, and Jacob Leininger (a transfer from Bishop Gorman) to make a name for themselves as well as Dun Dun's younger brother Charlie making his impact felt along the offensive and defensive lines. This unit is good and ready to make an impact into the future.
The three players listed in this category will be responsible for filling the void by you know who... oh, he also accounted for 2,348 rushing yards, 31 rushing touchdowns, 186 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns and a punt return touchdown so yeah, no pressure.
RB/LB Sione Vakapuna, Senior: Vakapuna stepped up as a leader this offseason, as Coach Hughes puts it "[He] loves impact, he's a legit 215 [pound] hammerhead with wiggle." He rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown last year. Hughes was quick to point out that "[Vakapuna] is improved, physical, [an] old school type of player, someone you love to have on your team." Look for him to make an impact defensively as well at OLB.
RB/DB Bronwyn Rios, Sophomore: Rios came on last year to start for the Raiders as a freshman, which is almost unheard of. Hughes stated "[He] does a little bit of everything and can make you miss." When I saw him last year his body type reminded me of MJD, Hughes said that in the offseason "[Bronwyn] got bigger, faster, stronger, and more athletic." Hughes said that Rios now checks in around 195 [pounds] after being around 180 last year. He carried the rock for 138 rushing yards last season. Hughes was also quick to point out that "[his] football IQ is through the roof, we're excited to have him for three more years."
RB Shay Rivero, Sophomore: I don't know a lot about Rivero but Hughes was quick to point out that "[he] will be a huge part of our backfield rotation this season."
Don't @ me, I know he's injured but he deserves a shoutout...
QB Dakota Dunlap, Senior: Dunlap would have been the top returning QB in the 5A had it not been for a torn ACL in a non contact drill a few weeks ago. Coach Hughes told me "[He's] out for the year, it just stinks for him - especially after that brutal hamstring injury he suffered in the playoffs against Spanish Springs to end last season. You really feel for him because he's a great kid." Last season Dunlap accounted for 1,576 passing yards, and 11 passing touchdowns while scrambling his way to 310 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Dunlap has the skills and grit to play at the next level, prayers up for a speedy recovery kid.
Aug. 18 vs. Churchill County
Aug. 25 at Del Oro (Loomis, Calif.)
Sep. 1 vs. Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Sep. 8 vs. Hug
Sep. 15 at Douglas
Sep. 22 vs. McQueen
Sep. 29 at Reno
Oct. 5 at Bishop Manogue
Oct. 13 vs. Damonte Ranch
Oct. 20 vs. Spanish Springs
J. Ray Dockter has been covering high school sports since 2022. If you have a story worth telling let him know via Twitter @J_RayDoc.