All the elements for a great high school football are present.
Second-place in the Sierra League and home field advantage for the opening round of the Northern 4A football playoffs will be at stake tonight when the Douglas Tigers host the Carson Senators. Adding fuel to the fire, this also happens to be the 53rd in a series that dates back to 1923.
The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Keith Roman Field.
"This is what Friday night football is all about," said Douglas coach Mike Rippee. "This is what you look forward to at the end of the year, to play a big game against a good quality opponent. They are playing very well right now, and so are we."
Douglas (6-2 overall, 4-1 in league) is one game ahead of Carson (5-3, 3-2) and Hug in the race for the No. 2 seed and a home game for at least the first round of the playoffs.
The Tigers can clinch that spot with a win and could still receive it even with a loss. If Carson, Douglas and Hug all finish at 4-2, the tie-breaker criteria will boil down to fewest points allowed between Carson, Hug and Douglas in games against each other. To win the tie-breaker and receive the No. 2 seed, Carson would need to hold the Tigers to fewer than six points and beat them by at least 13.
Don't let any of that detract from what promises to be an outstanding football game.
"I think you can throw away the tie-breakers and all that stuff. We just want to win," Carson coach Shane Quilling said. "I don't care who we play in the playoffs. We just want to win the game, and I'm sure coach Rippee would say the same thing."
The two teams are similar in many regards.
"Both of us have guys who can take it to the house and score real quick," Rippee said. "You can't let up for even a single play, or else the other team is going to put points on the board."
Carson senior Chris Kotter has rushed for 1,126 yards (9.6 yard average) and 15 touchdowns, including a career high 245 yards last week in a 69-28 win against Fallon.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for No. 22 (Kotter)," Rippee said. "He's a tough kid who runs hard. We know he is a kid you have to try and contain."
Senior quarterback Frank Bleuss engineers Carson's Veer offense plus he has rushed for 418 yards and eight touchdowns (not including his 95-yard touchdown run against Elko negated by a penalty). Bleuss was also 6-for-10 for 177 yards passing last week against Fallon.
"That Veer offense is a tough offense to prepare for," Rippee said of the Senators. "You might stop them for a play or two, and then bam, they're 60, 70 yards down the field.
"And they can do more than run. They are capable of throwing the ball down the field, so you have to respect that."
Douglas counters with explosive Evan Bill, who has rushed for 820 yards (6.3 average) and seven touchdowns -- three of which have come from beyond midfield. Bill is complemented by the inside running of power backs A.G. Reed and Jake Peterson.
"We're going to want to run the ball, move the chains and eat up the clock," Rippee said. "You've got to figure, the other team can't score if you have the ball."
Douglas quarterback Luke Rippee has passed for 951 yards and 10 touchdowns including a season-high 213 yards last Thursday in a 33-24 loss to Reno. The junior is also a threat with his ability to avoid pressure in the pocket and scramble away to make a big play.
"They can do a lot of things on offense especially with a quarterback like Rippee," Quilling said. "He's athletic and he can make things happen. I think he's most dangerous when he's scrambling. He's like Fran Tarkenton (Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback) in that he finds a way to make big things happen. He scrambles around, finds somebody open and gets them the ball. That's going to be one of our big keys, to contain him and not let him run around and hurt us."
All these impressive statistics don't necessarily translate into a high-scoring game because both teams have quality defensive units with big-play athletes.
Carson is led by its inside linebacker tandem of John Stewart and Nick Shine, along with linemen Jack Brooks, Mike Moore and Allen Wooldridge, cornerbacks George Pincock (who has run 21.79 for 200 meters on the track) and Mitch Cohen plus safeties Matt Waterman and Mike Handley.
Douglas is led by linebackers Jake Peterson, Andy McIntosh and James Bunting along with nose guard Grant Hall. Defensive back Craig Bell has returned three fumble recoveries for touchdowns this season.
"I don't see it being a huge, high scoring game," Quilling said. "I think both of our defenses are playing well right now, so I see a score of 21-14 or something like that."
Rippee believes the game will be decided by the defenses -- one way or the other.
"Both offense have shown they can put points on the scoreboard, but I don't think either of us believe it's going to be a shoot-out," the Douglas coach said. "At this level there's very few all-out shoot-outs so I think defense will win it, for either of us."