MINDEN - A smoky sky overhead almost seemed like the perfect setting for Douglas High School's boys soccer team on Saturday afternoon.
After all, this past week has been a hot and hazy one for the entire program in the wake of the sudden resignation submitted by fourth-year head coach Mike Robinson on Wednesday.
In his place, Phil Sheridan became the sixth head coach in the program's 17 years on Saturday, and the Tigers responded with a relatively easy 8-1 Northern 4A triumph on home turf against Lowry.
Dylan Sheridan scored three goals, Kevin Gardner added two goals and one assist and T.J. Plummer scored once to go with two assists as the Tigers raised their conference record to 7-3-1.
This is a program accustomed to success, and Robinson has been its most successful coach. Robinson compiled a 55-11-9 record during his three-plus seasons at the helm, including back-to-back zone tournament championships in 1996 and '97 and a Division II title in 1998. He was honored as Northern 4A Coach of the Year last year.
Robinson declined to comment on his reasons for stepping down Saturday night. School officials responded only with a press release on Friday that explained it was announcing two coaching changes in the program. In addition to Robinson, the school administration stated that former J.V. assistant coach Drago Dimitri is no longer associated with the soccer program "in any official or unofficial capacity."
Sources close to the program indicated a big reason for Robinson's decision was parental pressure.
With the home stretch of the Northern 4A season on the horizon - the zone tournament kicks off Nov. 2 with games scheduled at Carson and Douglas - how has the coaching change affected the players? Co-captain Dylan Sheridan, a third-year varsity starter at Douglas and the son of the new coach, said the team is going on about its business.
"A change of coaches is not a serious aspect of soccer," the senior forward said. "The important thing is how we play as a team. It's all up to us."
Sweeper Nick Hernandez, who contributed an assist Saturday, feels the Tigers are ready to rebound after losing three of five games between Sept. 11 and Sept. 24. Douglas is fourth behind South Tahoe, Reno and Carson in the Division II standings.
"I think our team will improve a lot," Hernandez said. "There's no more confusion now. We know what we're doing."
The Tigers wasted no time Saturday on a muddy field that had been over-watered beforehand. Sheridan scored twice in the first four minutes off assists from Plummer, and the senior forward started an attack that led to Kevin Gardner's pass to Dave Harder for another goal. Gardner converted a penalty kick to make it 4-0 just eight minutes into the contest.
The Lowry Buckaroos (1-9), who only had 12 players suited up, answered with a Martin Urtiz goal that was assisted by Nathan Jacobs.
Plummer scored on a follow shot and Sheridan blasted in his third goal of the day and 14th of the season off an assist from Nate Gardner for a 6-1 score that stood at halftime.
Possession was the team's primary focus, according to coach Sheridan.
"All but three of our goals came on one-touch shots," Sheridan said. "One of the things we wanted to accomplish today was to have a lot of one- and two-touch balls.
"I believe possession time is important. If possession time goes up, the quality of shots goes up, and if that happens, then the outcome of the game is usually in your favor."
Other bright spots Saturday, according to the coach, included the back-line defense played by fullbacks Caleb Currence and Rex Belshaw as well as Hernandez at sweeper.
The Tigers play again Wednesday at home against Galena.