Our Friday Night Rivals Game of the Week sends us to Sparks where the Reed Raiders will host the undefeated McQueen Lancers. The Raiders are 1-1 this season after their game last week against Wooster was cancelled due to COVID-19 within the Colts program. McQueen is coming off a 35-0 victory against Galena last week and is looking to go 4-0 for the first time since 2018.
The Raiders are led by first-year head coach Garrett Hughes, who replaced longtime Northern Nevada coach Tony Amantia, who stepped down in January 2020. Hughes, a former player at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was the Raiders' offensive coordinator last season and was hired in 2017 as the special teams coordinator and offensive and defensive lines coach. Hughes said already knowing his players has been a huge piece to the puzzle during this unusual season.
"For the most part, our entire staff is still intact minus coach Amantia," Hughes said. "So that, especially with what's going on, has helped a ton because they were super familiar. We had a lot of guys who were experienced coming back. So there wasn't a lot of changes that took place scheme-wise, so they were able to hit the ground running with that."
While Reed fell to Damonte Ranch in its season opener 30-24, the Raiders rallied to make it a one-score game after a pick-six by Elijah Acklin halfway through the fourth quarter.
"I was really proud of how we fought back in that game," Hughes said. "I mean, they had us down pretty big early, and our guys hung in there and put up a heck of a fight. And I was really proud of that. And I feel like that was gonna propel us forward. And I was really happy with what we built on for our second game against Carson (a 43-7 win), but just continuing to build. I thought we were ready. But there's a lot of rust that we had to knock off, still is, but they're a super coachable group and they're trying to get better every day."
Through two games, wide receiver Thomas Johnson is second in the Northern 5A in receptions (14) and receiving yards (174) while catching two touchdowns. He's accounted for more than half of the team's receiving yards. Chance Bustillos stepped in at running back against Carson after the Raiders were without Sacramento State commit Elijah Tau-Tolliver, who is expected to be available against McQueen.
"They've got some explosive athletes across the board on their offense," Hughes said. "They can take the game over really quickly. Defensively, it's doing our job giving great effort and minimizing the big plays."
Lancers head coach Jim Snelling has been pleased with his team's progress week over week, and with a short season there's not much room for slip-ups.
"We told the kids that even after our first game," Snelling said. "We said, 'You know what? We've got to get better because one game could determine whether you're the one seed or the three seed, honestly. They've taken that to heart, and they're working hard. So we're gonna go out, put our best foot forward on Friday night and see what happens."
The Lancers are one of three teams in the Northern 5A that's undefeated along with Damonte Ranch and Bishop Manogue, who battle each other Friday.
McQueen's Cody Ciglar has completed 34-of-58 attempts for 490 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. With former Damonte Ranch standout Ashton Hayes moving to McQueen, he's contributed to the Lancers' explosiveness but isn't the only one who's helped make plays this season.
"We've got just a ton of weapons," Snelling said. "You know between Ashton (Hayes) and Syray Goree, and then guys we had coming back, Cody (Ciglar) and Matt Croakin, and we have guys coming up as JV players. There's a lot of guys that are willing to help carry the load, which is great."
Defensively, the Lancers have held their opponents to 503 yards and 31 points through three games. Helping carry the Lancers' defense has been two-sport standout Robby Snelling, who recently de-committed from Stanford. The elder Snelling said it will be important for his defense to win the turnover battle and maintain drives against the Raiders.
"Reed's a great team," Snelling said. "They've only played two games to this point, and they've had an extra week to prepare and get healthy. They're very well coached, and they've got some great skill guys as well. So it should be a fun game."
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Friday on NSN and will be available via stream on NSN's watch tab.
Full prep football schedule
Friday: Bishop Manogue at Damonte Ranch (6 p.m.); North Valleys at Wooster (6 p.m.); South Tahoe at Sparks (6 p.m.); Reno at Douglas (6 p.m.); McQueen at Reed (6 p.m.); Incline at Yerington (6 p.m.); Truckee at Colfax, (7:15 p.m.)
Saturday: Carson at Spanish Springs (1 p.m.); Fernley at Churchill County (3 p.m.); Lowry at Spring Creek (3 p.m.); Elko at Dayton (3 p.m.)