It is not fair to compare this year's Reed team to the prolific one of a year ago. But the players who still don the Raiders jersey have made that nearly impossible of late.
For a second straight season, Reed blew out the next best the North had to offer and did so with a nearly identical blueprint.
The Raiders on Friday night continued their offensive onslaught and racked up 620 yards in pasting Damonte Ranch, 50-9, at Mackay Stadium in the Division I North championship.
Reed's ticket to next week's state semifinals was printing during halftime and was stamped less than a minute into the third quarter. The Raiders will host Sunset region champion Bishop Gorman on Nov. 24.
"We lost some dudes last year and we told the kids nobody is going to care we lost those guys," Reed coach Ernie Howren said minutes after he was doused with the water jug. "You have to find your own way to carve a path through the region championship, and they did."
With an entirely new cast of skill position players, the Raiders picked up the region hardware with a second consecutive 40-plus-point victory. They handled Carson, 49-0, a year ago.
"You guys had a big article about filling in shoes, and I feel like we've done that," receiver Brett Chaney said. "We just wanted to come out and prove we weren't those guys' backups, that we were good. They were just great."
Chaney helped fill a void all season and did so again Friday, when Devin Gray, the state's leading receiver, was out with a broken collarbone. Chaney had seven catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns lining up where Gray normally would, and senior Casey Higgins added seven receptions for 97 yards playing in Chaney's usual spot.
"All our receivers stepped up big for us. I'm proud of them," quarterback Mark Nowaczewski said.
Nowaczewski used all his weapons to throw for 337 yards and four touchdowns, and run for 100 yards and another score.
"Mark's been doing it all season. He's a special dude," Howren said.
Ty Shepard added 108 rushing yards and a score, and Jordan Deleon scored on a 50-yard jaunt well after the outcome was decided.
Reed's 620 yards was its most this year and was the fifth straight week it eclipsed 445 total yards. Since Week 9 of the regular season, the Raiders (10-3) have averaged 536 yards per game.
"It's so fun to make the reads and throw the ball and have the receiver end up in the perfect spot," Nowaczewski said. "It's just a good feeling."
Damonte enjoyed very few good feelings in its first region championship appearance. The Mustangs (6-6) grabbed the early momentum with a 60-yard kickoff return by Drew Smith and forced a pair of fumbles on Reed' s first two possessions. But they netted just a 32-yard Grant Cooper field goal.
"We had some penalties that killed all those drives," first-year Damonte coach Shawn Dupris said. "That's what hurt us all year long. That's the game and we didn't come out and execute in that area."
Reed was thrilled to find itself down just three points after the sluggish start, and the Raiders scored the next 20 points of the first half and the first 30 of the second before Damonte used a hook-and-lateral to score on the game's final play.
"I'm most proud that we made mistakes and kept plugging away," Howren said. "We didn't let those mistakes take us out of our game plan or make us go, 'Uh oh, we're in trouble.' We just kept focus on our game plan and stayed that course.
"I felt OK just because our defense gave us that confidence. They've been doing that last five or six weeks. To give up the kickoff and two fumbles, the offense not living up to its end, the defense just said 'we'll keep plugging away.'"
That defense held Damonte's Smith to 58 rushing yards, five in the second half, on 25 carries. Smith was averaging 221 yards in the playoffs.
The lack of a ground game forced junior quarterback Kyle Daugherty to attempt 27 passes, his second most this year, and he completed just 14 for 118 yards.
"Scheme-wise, they did what we expected and they just beat us at the point of contact," Dupris said.
In Gorman next week, the Raiders face a team that beat them 72-28 in last year's state championship game and 62-21 in the 2010 state semifinals.
"I expect a great game," Chaney said. "They're one of the top teams in the country, of course. Coach Howren will have a good game plan for us."