Douglas High football coach Mike Rippee was beside himself following the Tigers' last-second 31-29 loss to Carson, left speechless by what he'd just seen.
It was a familiar foe that defeated the Tigers Friday. And no, not Austin Pacheco, who kicked the 42-yard game-winning field goal with under a second left and kicked the game-winner in overtime against Douglas last year.
It was the team in orange and black standing on Rippee's sideline. More specifically, it was the unnerving combination Douglas has developed of turning the ball over in bunches and giving up big, game-changing plays.
The trend reared its head in the strongest-possible way, creating a 21-point swing that got the Senators into the game.
Douglas had controlled the first half, building a 21-7 lead and moving the ball through the air with relative ease. The Tiger defense had essentially solved up Carson's run-based offense, forcing four three-and-outs and stalling two drives outside the Douglas 25.
But, perhaps most importantly, the Tigers hadn't turned the ball over - or even come close to doing so.
The Tigers forced another three-and-out to open the third quarter and after Carson's fake punt attempt fell short, Douglas appeared ready to cruise to the win.
Douglas drove with ease inside the Carson 5. And in that moment, the wheels came off the cart.
The Tigers fumbled the ball, with Carson recovering at its own 1. Two plays later, after a wacky play that saw Austin Pacheco fumble after a 27-yard gain only to have it scooped up by fullback Joey Thurman. Thurman then raced away 70 yards for the score, cutting the Douglas lead to 21-14.
Douglas drove right back down, this time getting within two inches of the goal before fumbling on fourth down.
"We did it to ourselves right there," Rippee said. "You can't come out and turn the ball over twice inside the 10-yard line. You can't have them stuck on their own two and have them score two plays later. You just can't do that.
"But that's been us. All year long. I don't know what else to say."
Carson later tied the game after hauling in an interception and took the lead on a 63-yard halfback pass from Pacheco, who cemented himself into Carson-Douglas lore as being the first player on record to twice win the game on the final play from scrimmage.
Douglas came back with a solid final drive, capped by quarterback Michael Nolting breaking to the right corner on a seven-yard keeper.
The Tigers took the lead as Conner Peterson steam-rolled into the end zone for a two-point conversion, but Carson drove back down for Pacheco's game-winner.
"We had an opportunity here but Carson came up with the plays at the end," Rippee said. "They put themselves in a position to win and capitalized on it. That's a credit to them. The third quarter was just a huge swing in momentum.
"The offense came back and did what we had to. We made the plays when we had to. We were right there with a one-point lead. We just didn't hold them at the end and that's the story."
Douglas dropped to 1-5 on the year and 1-3 in league play. The Tigers will need a win at Hug Friday to stay in the playoff picture.
"It's up to the kids," Rippee said. "We're going to get back at it this week. We have to start our road back one game at a time. There's no quit in these kids. We have to get a win against Hug."