Banged-up Tigers hold on for win over Damonte Ranch | NevadaAppeal.com
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Banged-up Tigers hold on for win over Damonte Ranch

BY JOEY CRANDALL

Nevada Appeal News Service

It seemed that everywhere you looked Friday, there was a Douglas High standout

coming up hobbled by an injury.

And yet, for each one of those, there was another Tiger waiting in the wings to make something happen.

Douglas pulled off a gritty 27-17 win over Damonte Ranch in Minden Friday night amid an on-and-off-again snow storm. The win proved costly though, as standout wide receiver James McLaughlin (leg) and running back Jordan Cruz (shoulder) were among several key injuries for the Tigers.

“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “Never seen so many front-line guys go down in one game. You just have to give credit to the team for stepping up.

“We knew it was going to be a tough battle. We had (starting tackle) Parker Robertson and (middle linebacker) Jeff Kelly out already. Thankfully they’ll both be back. But this was something else.

“Everyone goes through this type of thing, but I’ve never seen so much of it. You have to give credit to the team. They put so much hard work into it and they just refused to allow everything that went on to faze them. They played hard and won a tough game.”

Tim Rudnick threw for 224 yards and Johnny Pollack rushed 29 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tigers in the win.

The Tigers defense had a big game collectively, holding Damonte Ranch to 222 total yards and just 24 on the ground. However, it was a late-game goal-line stand after a bizarre exchange that stood out for the defense.

Douglas had the ball at its own 15-yard line with a 10-point lead and less than 30 seconds left in the game. The Tigers were attempting to run the clock on a series of kneel-downs when things got interesting.

With time running out, a Damonte Ranch defender appeared to bat the ball away from the line of scrimmage before the snap and another Mustang player picked the ball up and ran it to the 4-yard line. The play was ruled a fumble recovery in favor of the Mustangs, setting them up with 25.1 seconds left on the clock.

Douglas’ Tanner Thomas broke up a pair of pass attempts to the back corner of the end zone and Nico Barker picked off a final pass attempt with two seconds left to seal the win.

“We went from running out the clock to standing with our backs against the wall there at the end,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “Damonte could’ve easily passed for the score and gone for the onside and then anything could’ve happened.

“Tanner Thomas makes two outstanding plays out there, he’s probably the best cover guy in the league and then Nico makes a nice play to end it. The defense just did a great job all night and they really answered the call again for us at the end.”

For defensive lineman Robbie O’Dell, who had a sack on the night and gave Damonte quarterback Ray Daniels constant pressure, the mission was simple at the end.

“We just knew we had to stop them,” O’Dell said. “We came up with some big plays all game, but we knew we had to do it again.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Douglas got on the board with a 10-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown run from Pollack. Cruz dislocated his shoulder on the sixth play of the drive, after a seven-yard carry. McLaughlin went down on the previous drive after an 11-yard reception on a screen pass.

“Jordan Cruz really had a great week of practice and we were looking for him to be able to spell Johnny a bit tonight because we needed Johnny on both sides of the ball,” Rippee said. “He just caught a bad break there and we had some kids step up in his place. I just can’t say enough about how much this team went above and beyond tonight. That’s why it’s a great game, everyone has to contribute if you are going to win.”

On its next drive, Douglas moved inside the Damonte 10 on a 37-yard screen pass from Rudnick to Pollack and was threatening to score. Damonte’s Luigi Terrana stepped in front of a Rudnick pass at the 2-yard line, though, and returned it 98 yards for the touchdown and the tie game.

Douglas came back with a four-play, 60-yard drive that finished with Rudnick finding receiver Zach McFadden in stride for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left in the first half.

McFadden made a nice move on the play to get behind the Damonte defense and make the catch.

A fumbled pitch early in the third quarter set Damonte up at the Douglas 35 and the Mustangs later capitalized with an 11-yard touchdown run from Mike Artemis.

Douglas again came right back, this time with an 11-yard touchdown run from Pollack to wrap up a seven-play, 69-yard drive. Damonte later added a field goal to close the score to 20-17, but a one-yard keeper from Rudnick put Douglas up 27-17 for the final score.

Douglas got strong play from its offensive line of Nick Mortenson, Ryan Moglich, Garrett Tenney, Sam Barragan and Jacob Phillips.

McFadden led the Tigers receivers with six catches for 94 yards. Defensively, Douglas got strong pressure from its line of O’Dell, Tenney, Moglich, Eric Guzman, David Kolbe and Matt Garren and linebackers Barron Santiago, Luis Pina-Duarte and Pollack.

Davey Fisher and Brad Gonzales teamed with Thomas and Barker to provide solid pass coverage in the game.

Douglas (5-1 overall, 3-0 in the Sierra League) next travels to Wooster on Oct. 18.