Douglas loses ground in playoff race with 3-0 loss to North Valleys

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By Jeremy Evans

MINDEN -- Most people thought North Valleys would again be the team that would keep Douglas from making the Northern 4A playoffs. That much still appears true but after a convincing 3-0 win over the Tigers on Wednesday at Douglas High, the Panthers aren't worried about making the playoffs. More like winning them.

"I think we can play much better," said North Valleys coach Steve Nicholas. "Honestly, we knew we could come out of this game with a win. We knew they had a young team and not to disrespect Douglas, but I think my guys were looking ahead to the Reno game. When you do that you're doomed, but we still got the win."

North Valleys, which qualified for the playoffs last season in its first year of existence, take on the defending Northern 4A champion Huskies on Saturday. With Wednesday's win, the Panthers are tied with Carson for first place in the Sierra League. Both teams have 3-0-2 records. But South Tahoe, which is 3-0-1, has a game in hand on both of those schools. Reno is currently in fourth place with a 2-1-1 record.

That leaves Douglas in fifth and with some work to do if it still ants to become a playoff team. The Tigers, who missed the playoffs last season for the first time ever under Phil Sheridan, couldn't put together anything offensively against North Valleys. Sheridan said his team's work ethic in practice is borderline pathetic.

"We can't mount any offense," Sheridan said. "We don't have anybody who can score goals. It all comes back to practice. We have to compete harder in practice. That's where it starts. I got guys who can't wait to get out of practice, who'd rather be at McDonald's than at practice. The older guys are the ones who aren't focused in practice. Instead, the young kids are the ones who are focused."

The Panthers went up 1-0 in the 36th minute after Tanner Ruff banged home a loose ball past Douglas goalie Chase Zumpft. Eduardo Ojeda made it 2-0 a few minutes later with his volley off a cross from Bobby Partida.

"We didn't get into a flow today," Nicholas said. "I experimented with a new lineup in the first half and the second half was just sloppy."

Douglas (2-3-1 overall, 1-3 league) had a flurry of chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Trent Hennessey-York had a shot that just missed wide to the left. Then freshman David Sturgess mishit a ball inside the box a few minutes later. And sophomore Colton Mellows had two great chances in a row but one was hit right Panther goalie Mike Jorgensen and the other resulted in a corner kick after a nice save by Jorgensen.

"We had our chances today but we just didn't score any of them," Sheridan said. "Until we start showing up to practice and competing harder, we're going to struggle to win games. We're not a playoff team right now."

North Valleys put the game out of reach in the 58th minute, when Ruff hit a left-footed blast past Zumpft.


Jeff Rogers scored three goals and Bryce Burgess scored two more as the Senators got back on track with their win over the Colts.

"We finally started playing as a team today, which was good to see," said coach Jim Nealis. "They way we played today, hopefully it will turn around our season."

Ernesto Ayala opened the scoring in the first half on a header off a cross from Rogers. Ayala and Burgess both had assists in the game.

Carson, which improves to 4-0-2 overall and 3-0-2 in the Sierra League, plays South Tahoe next Wednesday in a game that should determine first place in the league. The Senators were scheduled to play Spanish Springs on Saturday but the Cougars varsity program has disbanded. Carson will be credited with a forfeit win and will have a 5-0-2 overall record heading into next week's showdown with the Vikings, who are 10-0-1 overall and 3-0-1 in league.


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