Div. I state semifinals: Fourth quarter propels Gaels past Raiders

A photo from the Division I State Semifinal football game between the Reed Raiders vs Bishop Gorman Gaels played on Saturday afternoon, November 24, 2012 at Reed High School.

Reed coach Ernie Howren this week did not sugarcoat what his team needed to upset nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman: Perfection.

The Raiders played almost as well as they could have in the first half Saturday afternoon and were evenly matched with the heavily favored Gaels for nearly three quarters. Gorman still came away with a 49-24 victory in the Division I state semifinals at Reed.

The Gaels will play for their fourth straight state championship next week after ending Reed's season for the third time in four years.

"Like we talked about, if you're going to beat a team like Gorman, you're going to have to play four perfect quarters," Howren said afterward. "I thought the first two were really good. ... We came out in the second half and did a couple things here and there but definitely let it get away. We just weren't executing like we did in the first half."

Gorman (12-1) outscored Reed, 28-7, in the final 14 minutes to blow open what was a four-point game late in the third quarter.

"They were big and we kept fight(ing) with them. We just made a couple mental mistakes on those big plays," Reed linebacker Drew Bryant said. "But I wouldn't change anything about this game. Everybody fought."

The Raiders (10-4) gave the three-time defending state champs a game like no other in-state team did this year. They threatened the Gaels' 47-game win streak against Nevada opponents with a first half beyond almost anyone's expectations.

Reed forced a pair of turnovers, scored first on a Ty Shepard 1-yard run -- marking the first time this year Gorman trailed to a Nevada opponent -- and answered when the Gaels began to establish themselves and took the lead.

"It was really stressful because we're used to coming out on teams and making a statement really fast," Gorman running back Nathan Starks said. "We just didn't do that today. But we got it together by the second half."

Gorman began to pull away on a 72-yard pass play from Arizona-bound quarterback Anu Solomon to Ryan Smith late in the second quarter that put the Gaels ahead 21-14 at halftime.

"We knew the game wasn't ours. We were losing," said Bryant, whose interception set up Reed's first score.

"We knew we were still going to have to claw and fight, and I think we clawed and fought as hard as we could."

Reed cut the deficit to 21-17 on Chris Denn's 30-yard field goal midway through the third.

"We've been preparing for this for I don't know how many weeks. We just came out like we have all season," said Reed receiver Brett Chaney, who had seven catches for 130 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown reception. "We expected a good game, and it was a good game. We expected an even better game. Coach Howren always talks about momentum swings. In the first half, there were a lot of momentum swings. Then, in the third quarter, we got some momentum back, but not as much as we would have liked."

The big play hurt the Raiders, as it did last year when they gave up seven plays of more than 25 yards in a 44-point loss to Gorman in the state final.

"I thought our kids managed it well, though," Howren said of Saturday's go-ahead Gorman score before halftime. "We didn't let it take us completely out of the game. We came out in the third quarter and moved the ball and got some stops defensively. We did what we needed to do, except we got a field goal instead of a touchdown. That hurts us right there. If we get that touchdown, I think we're talking a different game at that point."

Starks took over from there. The junior rushed for 165 of his 207 yards in the second half. Starks scored on back-to-back runs of 6 and 54 yards that put Gorman up 35-17 and all but sealed the outcome one play into the fourth quarter.

"Once we realized they were really coming to play a game, we had to get our heads together," Starks said., who added a 56-yard touchdown run late in the fourth "We could have fell behind if we didn't get it together in the second half."

Reed had a chance to take down Starks for a minimal gain on each of his big runs, as they did to hold him to 42 yards in the first half.

"You have to play mistake-free football, and on those big runs, there were a couple missed tackles, one in the backfield and one that would have stopped him for about a 5-yard run," Howren said. "Missing those tackles was key.

"There's definitely no moral victories because that probably means you lost the game, like we did. I'm just happy for the seniors, for them to come out and play the way they did. I thought they fought for four quarters."