A tale of big wins in two communities
Mike Rippee was understandably excited when he heard the score from Friday night’s Yerington High School football game. Since his his Class of ’72 was celebrating its 30-year reunion, Rippee might have even been at Martin Field to watch the Lions in their big 22-18 homecoming against Lowry, except he had another pressing engagement at the same time in Minden. And the Douglas High football coach had a lot to celebrate in his own right when the Tigers rolled up a big 41-8 victory at home against previously unbeaten Hug.
Both were big wins for the respective schools and their communities, as Rippee well knows because he played at Yerington and has coached at Douglas for 25 years.
“I got a little bit of melancholy with it,” Rippee said. “They’ve just been undermanned at times the last couple of years and for them to come up big in a homecoming game like that and beat a team like Lowry, I’m really excited for them.”
Yerington, the smallest school in the Northern 3A with an enrollment of 498, was winless in league the last two seasons before its win over North Tahoe on Sept. 6. But it was special special to knock off Lowry, the league’s largest school with an enrollment that exceeds 1,000, and a team that was 3-0 coming into Friday’s game.
“It was a long-time coming, more so for the kids than me,” Neville said. “Probably the thing I enjoyed the most was the look in the kids’ eyes. I’ve been preaching to them for years about how with hard work, dedication and commitment, good things would happen.”
Yerington took a 16-0 lead after Doug Payne scored on a 40-yard run, Zach Howell returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown and the Lions scored two more points on a safety. Lowry came back to take an 18-16 lead, however, the Lions dug down and regained the lead on Randy Shumate’s touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“We knew Lowry would make a run at us, but the true character our kids showed,” Neville said. “To come from behind and win and then make a stand at the end, I thought that was probably the most impressive thing about the kids that night.”
Yerington’s defense stopped a Lowry drive at the 20 with less than a minute to play, only to fumble the ball away on the snap two plays later. The Lions held on four straight downs to regain possession of the ball with four seconds to go.
“That was one of the more strange endings I’ve seen,” Neville said, adding with a laugh, “I guess it gave our fans a little bit more of a highlight.”
Meanwhile, Douglas needed no last-second heroics in its victory at Keith Roman Field against Hug. The Tigers scored on their first two possessions of the game and then broke the game wide open within a span of 65 seconds at start of the third quarter when Jake Peterson scored on a 1-yard run and then Craig Bell returned a fumble 52 yards for another touchdown.
The win was huge for Douglas. The Tigers (2-0, 3-1) are tied for first-place in the Sierra League and in the hunt for their first championship since 1974. Even more significant was the way they controlled the game against a Hug team that came in with a 45-point average.
“It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever been around where everybody just came together and we really played well,” said Rippee, who has been the head coach at Douglas since 1985. “I’d say the bottom line, it was no coaching, it wasn’t any scheming, it was just the kids coming out with their heart. All 50 of those kids, whether they played a lot or didn’t. It was just a great win for our program.”
Peterson scored one touchdown and played a key role at middle linebacker for a defense that limited Hug to 124 yards rushing and one touchdown that came late in the fourth quarter. Now, here’s a little added nostalgia: Jake’s father, Clay Peterson, was the quarterback on Oct. 3, 1980 when Douglas, then the smallest school in the old Northern 3A, ended an 11-game drought and won its first-ever game in that league — 34-22 over Hug.
“We played good on both sides of the ball and our special teams did a good job. We just played really good as a team,” Peterson said. “This really helped. It put us in first along with Reno; hopefully we can keep up the momentum.”
Looking ahead, Douglas travels to Reno Saturday to play traditional power Wooster (3-1, 1-0) and Yerington has a week off before a trip to defending 3A state champion Tahoe-Truckee. Don’t look now, but the Lions are 2-2 and bidding for a berth in the league playoffs.
“All of a sudden that word’s popped up,” Neville said. “If we stay healthy and stay focused, who knows what will happen. This is a huge thing for the community and I think it’s had a huge impact on the kids. There’s a lot of tradition here and we’re happy as a team and coaching staff to be able to bring some of that back.”
Rippee knows the feeling.
“They used to fill it up over there. Everyone would come down to watch the game and a lot of times we were playing big games for league championships or even state games,” said Rippee, who was a three-year varsity starter for the Lions. “It was just a great place to grow up and to be a part of that tradition down there and coach (Mike) Lommori.
“That’s just a big win for those kids. I was happy for them and coach (Cody) Neville and for all the old-time supporters who have stayed with it for so long.”
And a big win for Douglas.
“We’ll take that, too,” Rippee said with a laugh. “I have to admit, I’m a little selfish, but I’m happier about our win.”
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal