It took a while to get rolling, but the Douglas Tigers Midget football team exploded to score four second-half touchdowns on their way to a 30-6 victory over the Cardinals last Friday night in the Sagebrush Empire League's Snow Bowl in Sparks.
By winning a game that was stopped inside the final four minutes when tempers on the field flared, the Tigers improved their season record to 9-0 and qualified for a trip to the Northwest Regional Championships and a game against Fairfield (Calif.) on Nov. 23 in Santa Clara, Calif. To do so, they had to get past a stubborn Cardinals team for the second time in three weeks.
Not to mention some rain and mud.
"The rain and wind were pretty bad," coach Alonzo Hatchett said. "The first half looked more like fumblerooski."
The Cardinals (6-3, with two losses to the Tigers) scored first to take a 6-0 lead, but the Tigers came back to tie it on quarterback Reese Kizer's touchdown run shortly before halftime.
Hatchett had a simple message to the team during the intermission.
"I just told them at halftime, 'You got 30 minutes and it's all yours guys. Now it's our turn to step it up,'" he said.
"Our main goal was for the offense to take some pressure off the defense with a score or two so they could relax and play their relentless style of attack."
Linebackers Ryan Pruitt, Anthony Wedlock and Matt Cummiford, along with down linemen Brent Koontz, Garrett Kolbe and defensive ends Jeff Ortega and Kim Stone and Severin Nobriga led a defensive charge that stopped the Cardinals on the opening series after the second half kickoff.
Then that offense went to work when slotback Phillip Mannelly broke loose on a 45-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 12-6 lead. Mannelly scored again in the third period, this time of on a 65-yard reverse and the Tigers never looked back.
The Cardinals moved into Douglas territory on their next three possessions, but the defensive secondary -- cornerbacks Samuel Simmons and Jesse Chiri and free safety Nick Phillips -- produced some big plays.
Simmons intercepted pass to end one threat and Chiri stopped another later on when he stepped in front of a receiver on left side, intercepted a pass and returned the ball 60 yards for a touchdown. The final Sparks possession ended when Cummiford intercepted a pass over the middle.
In between, Tyler Tinstman broke an 80-yard run for another touchdown, sprung by a block at the line of scrimmage by wide receiver Jordan Hatchett on the defensive end.
The win was satisfying for the Tigers, who only beat the Cardinals 20-18 in a game two weeks before. The Tigers also lost to the Cardinals during the Sagebrush Empire League's preseason jamboree in August.
The Tigers move on to face a Fairfield team (8-2) that rallied for a dramatic 22-19 victory over Vacaville in a wet Redwood Empire League D2 finals last weekend. Down by three points with less than a minute to go, Fairfield drove 55 yards in two plays to score the game-winning touchdown.