The defensive game plan is familiar by now – Reynolds High needs to figure out how to limit a very talented quarterback to win a playoff game.
The Rockets (14-1) have found a way to get past South Iredell’s Brady Pope and Sun Valley’s Sam Howell the past two weeks, victories that have allowed the program the privilege of playing for the state 3-AA title Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham.
The opponent is New Hanover (14-1) in the 7 p.m. kickoff televised live by MY40.
And the thrower du jour is Blake Walston, the Wildcats’ QB who has completed 230-of-406 passes for 3,918 yards and 38 touchdowns, with just 14 interceptions.
“They’ve definitely got a real good quarterback, just like we’ve seen the last two weeks, but (Walston) is a little different,” said Reynolds coach Shane Laws, who is chasing his fourth ring with the Rockets.
After serving as an assistant under legendary coach Bobby Poss for Rockets’ 4A state titles in 1999 and 2002 and earning another 4A championship as head coach in 2009, Laws believes his defense is ready for another challenge.
“(Walston) is really good at getting the ball into his playmakers’ hands, and while he can extend plays, he is not as mobile and as quick to run as Pope and Howell,” he said.
In addition to pressuring the QB, the game plan for defensive coordinator Bryan Craig includes a heavy presence around game-breaking receiver Wiz Vaughn (85 receptions, 1,380 yards, 12 TDs).
“He’s impressive,” said Laws. “They will play him at the slot and put him in the backfield, and he runs extremely well. We’re going to have to do a good job on defense of tackling the ball, the same kind of things we’ve done the last couple of weeks.”
The Reynolds offense will counter with quarterback Alex Flinn, a junior who has directed a very productive offense by completing 272 of 398 passes for 3,743 yards and 40 scores.
Flinn has spread the ball around to a variety of weapons, including senior Nathan St. Onge (93 receptions, 1,074 yards, 12 TDs), receiver Bryson Patton (58 catches for 864 yards, 10 scores) and tailback I’dre Bell (963 yards rushing, 636 yards receiving, 18 combined TDs).
Shrine Bowl lineman Jacob Setterlind has helped pace a unit that has produced an average of 40 points per game this season.
Linebacker Frank Torres (134 tackles) paces the defense.
With a hand that can flaunt three championship rings, Laws knows what it takes to bring home a title.
And what he is impressing on his kids this week is to relish and savor this journey.
“This is an exciting time, and I told them to enjoy this week, have some fun,” Laws said.
“There is a lot of stress and pressure of the expectations, and most people go through their careers and never get a chance to play in this game.
“I want these kids and coaches to enjoy this.”