The Douglas Black Tigers stuck close through three quarters before falling to a 25-0 defeat against the high-powered Vacaville, Calif., Bengals in the Pop Warner Western Regional junior pee wee division semifinals Saturday morning at Reed High School.
Vacaville scored one touchdown in the final minute of the third quarter and then added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to break open what had been a hard-fought defensive struggle.
Even though Douglas had its seven-game win streak snapped and dropped to 9-2 overall for the season, coach Alonzo Hatchett wasn't disappointed.
"These kids played with a lot of heart and determination," Hatchett said. "That was a good, well-coached team, and I've never seen kids so big. They just started wearing us down with the powers."
Vacaville (12-0) controlled the ball through much of the first quarter and scored on Taylor Kendall's 25-yard touchdown run, sprung by a Clayton Jack block on the left side.
The Bengals extended their lead to 13-0 when Ricky Rodarte scored on a 2-yard quarterback sneak with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. The touchdown was set up by Kendall's 46-yard run to the 3.
The Douglas defense stopped another Vacaville threat early in the fourth quarter when Cody Sawin recovered a fumble for Douglas at the 15.
The Bengals put the game away on Joe Walder's 20-yard touchdown run with 3:01 left to play. Rudy Gomez put the Bengals in scoring position with a 26-yard run.
Vacaville's final touchdown came when Kendall returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown with 1:50 to go.
Douglas still has one game left, the Warner Bowl against a Pacific Northwest representative Friday at 9 a.m. at Townsend Field in Santa Clara, Calif.
"There were some teary eyes, but give them credit. They weren't scared, they hung there," Hatchett said. "This game built a lot of character today. We'll bounce back."
The Bengals now advance to the regional final, which will be played against Palo Alto at 9 a.m. on Friday morning at Cupertino High School. The winner of that game plays in the national finals in Florida.
WINDSOR KNIGHTS 6, DOUGLAS TIGERS 2
This game was defensive all the way - even the scoring.
The undefeated Knights (10-0) from Windsor, Calif., scored on a 63-yard fumble return in the first quarter and then held on to win the junior midget regional at Reed High.
"It was an epic defensive struggle," Douglas assistant coach Mike Ivie said. "As much as it was frustrating to lose, our kids have nothing to be ashamed of. We were proud of them. They left it all on the field, and they showed they can play with the big kids from California."
Douglas dropped to 9-1 on the season.
The Tigers scored their points at the end after the Knights took an intentional safety with two seconds showing on the clock. But they had other opportunities to get in the end zone.
Douglas drove the ball on its first possession, only to turn it over on a fumble at the 23. The Tigers took their second possession to the 26 before fumbling again - this one resulting in the touchdown return. Another opportunity was thwarted at the end of the first half when they turned the ball over on downs inside the 10.
In all, the Tigers turned the ball over five times - four on fumbles and one on an interception.
One of those fumbles gave the Knights possession at the Douglas 17, but they were unable to penetrate a Douglas defensive charge led by middle linebacker Corey Hartzell, outline linebacker Kyle Luken, plus tackles Joseph Hodge and Kekoa Shrum.
The Douglas defense, which had allowed only 26 points coming into the game, gave up just 24 yards in total offense to the Knights, according to Ivie.
"Our defense was just outrageous," Ivie said. "They left it all on the field."
Drew Dorsey also had an interception for the Tigers while Hodge and Shrum combined on a quarterback sack.
The junior midget Tigers play again this Friday at 2 p.m. at Townsend Field in Santa Clara.