MINDEN - The biggest crowd of the season was treated to a history making win by the Douglas Tigers.
Luke Rippee threw for two scores, Dusty Cooper rushed for 150 yards and the defense turned in another sparkling performance, as Douglas trampled Hug 37-14 to reach the 4A zone finals for the first time in school history.
The 11-0 Tigers play the winner of today's South Tahoe-Reno game next Friday at 7 p.m. at Douglas.
"We're excited, we really are," coach Mike Rippee said, as he accepted congratulations from family and friends. "This is not the ultimate place we want to be, but we're headed in the right direction. We're excited to be there, and the kids really deserve this."
"It feels good," said Luke Rippee, who passed for 72 yards and rushed for 38 yards. "It's what we've been working for all year. People say you should go all the way and you have to live up to those expectations. We've been able to do that so far."
And, the Tigers did it with all three units, offense, defense and special teams, making contributions.
The defense was superb. Hug had less than 100 yards total offense until Frances Hunt broke off a 76-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter against the Tigers' second string, and Tommy Welton intercepted his eighth pass of the season and returned a fumble 42 yards for a score.
"From the beginning we came out fired up more than we have all year," defensive tackle Tyson Estes said. "We kept it up and they couldn't do anything."
Indeed. Isaac Porter left the game in the second half with an injury, and he was held to 46 yards on 12 carries. Mitchell Moore carried six times for 35 yards, and he took some tough shots from the Tigers on both sides of the ball.
"After we shut them down a little bit, they didn't want to play anymore," Estes said.
Moore and quarterback Shawn McKinnish were slowed by the flu, which forced the Hawks to keep the ball on the ground the bulk of the game.
'He (McKinnish) didn't have the strength to throw the ball," Hug coach Rollins Stallworth said. "They are a good football team. The only thing I can say is that I'm sorry that we weren't able to play our best football. They made us look pretty bad.
"They are an opportunistic team. They scored another defensive touchdown on us."
Douglas took advantage of two early Hug mistakes within the first 15 minutes of the game.
The first score came when a Hug punt returner fumbled Tim Coleman's punt around his own 15, picked up the ball and tried to make some positive yardage. Andy McIntosh helped jar the ball loose, and Estes recovered at the Hug 5.
"That killed us," Stallworth said. "It broke our back. Our guy was trying to make something out of nothing. Up to that point, I thought we had dominated the game. We barely missed on a fourth-down try and then stopped them."
Cooper scored on the next play, but a holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 13. After a short gain and an incomplete pass, Rippee found McIntosh wide open in the middle of the end zone for a score and a 6-0 lead.
"It was supposed to be a wheel route to Dusty out of the backfield," Luke Rippee said. "They were in a zone I guess. I saw Andy hold up his hand. I didn't expect him to be open that much."
A shanked punt by Porter gave the Tigers excellent field position at the Hug 47. Ten plays and three penalties later, the Tigers were back in the end zone, as Rippee scored on a 1-yard sneak. Eric Emm's extra point made it 13-0 with 9:48 left in the half.
After another great defensive series led by Stormy Herald, Eddie Shope and Dan Senger, Hug had to punt the ball away.
It only took the Tigers two plays and 48 seconds to get back in the end zone. On second-and-eight from the Douglas 41, Cooper took a pitch from Rippee cut it back and outraced the entire Hug defense to the end zone for a 59-yard TD. Emm's PAT made it 20-0.
Whether Hug knew it or not, that was the ball game. Welton and Nick Summers scored in the second half, and Emm added a 32-yard field goal.
"The offense did some good things and were able to get the ball in the end zone when they needed to," coach Rippee said.