Douglas faces familiar foe in McQueen
Record-Courier Sports Editor
It will be a familiar opponent standing across the field from the Douglas Tiger football team tonight.
Qualifying for the football playoffs has been seemingly synonymous with facing off against the McQueen Lancers for Douglas coach Mike Rippee and his staff over the years.
This is the 10th time a Rippee-coached Tiger squad has qualified for the playoffs, and it will be the fifth time the Tigers (8-2, 7-0) will take on the Lancers (5-3, 3-3).
It’ll be the fourth time the teams have met up in the first round.
Four times before, it has been the Lancers who ended the Tigers’ season.
But for this year’s Tigers, it would be hard to forget the first matchup with this year’s Lancers during week three.
McQueen escaped with a 34-31 overtime win after Douglas dominated the second half defensively, playing at Bishop Manogue High School because the Tigers’ field was still under construction.
It was the closest a Douglas team had ever come to beating McQueen.
The Tigers will get another shot tonight, this time at home with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ESPN Radio 630 will be broadcasting the game with a pre-game show starting at 6:30 p.m. Updates will be posted throughout the game at http://www.recordcourier.com.
Because it will be only the second game the Tigers have played at home this season and because McQueen travels such a large crowd of spectators, Douglas High administrators are recommending that fans get to the high school early.
Douglas athletic director Jeff Evans said more than 2,500 fans attended Douglas’ home-opener last week and that was against Wooster, who brought with them only 20 to 30 fans.
He said because of the playoff atmosphere, the school is preparing for around 3,500 to 4,000 spectators.
Evans said he’s brought in nine extra cases of bleachers, which they will most-likely put around the north end of the field.
“I have been talking with some of the guys at the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and they are expecting this to be the largest crowd to see any of the first-round games this year, if not ever,” Evans said.
However many fans do show up, the game promises to be pretty good.
Adding to the drama, McQueen head coach Ken Dalton was suspended Monday by Washoe Country School District officials for allegedly striking two students, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. Details of the incident were unknown at press time, but Dalton may miss tonight’s game.
Douglas gave up 16 first-quarter points in the first meeting, but recovered to shut McQueen down quite well throughout most of the rest of the game.
Reese Kizer, who finished the regular season with 664 yards and six touchdowns, had a breakout game against McQueen, running for 146 yards and a touchdown.
The Tiger defense also scored two touchdowns in the first match-up.
Douglas will have to watch out for Lancer running back Styker Ngongseke, who ran for 113 yards in the first matchup. Receiver Josh LaGrone also gave the Tigers fits, catching five passes for 180 yards, although two of those came on long breakdown plays.
His 86-yard touchdown catch to open the game was the longest play from scrimmage the Tigers allowed this season and his 57-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was the second-longest scoring play given up this season.
McQueen boasts a much larger lineup, but Douglas counters with quicker, physical players.
Kizer has been the go-to back for the Tigers over the last two games, but fellow senior Tyler Tinstman can be electric, having run for 597 yards and six touchdowns of his own this year.
Kizer is the traditional power back and can rumble for that extra yardage. He has been golden on third-down situations this season.
Tinstman is perhaps the biggest breakaway threat in the region this year with his lightning-quick speed.
Will Sheerin also stepped up last week against Wooster and could prove to be a viable third option for the Tigers, having run for 231 yards and four touchdowns on the year.
But the story of the Douglas offense has been the development of the passing game over the second half of the season.
Junior quarterback David Laird had an excellent game against Reno two weeks ago and can spread the ball around with ease.
He has completed passes to 15 different receivers on the year, nine of which are on the field pretty regularly for the Tigers. The multi-faceted look on offense gave McQueen problems in the first matchup, although Laird was still trying to learn the system at the time.
Junior tight end Kevin Emm has been the Tigers’ leading receiver with 15 catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Junior receiver Kyle Heidt has 11 catches for 170 yards and senior Steven Passalacqua has eight catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Drew Hughes has come on as well, catching five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line has been strong all year and its performance tonight will be pivotal toward the outcome of the game.
The Douglas defense must have another big game, but that hasn’t been too much to ask in any of the other big games for the Tigers this season.
Aside from its role in the first McQueen matchup, the defense also had a momentum-changing touchdown against Hug and picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown against Reno.
Nose guard Anthony Alvitre leads the team with 11 sacks on the year while Jeff Nady has seven and Phil Mannelly and Sean Molina each have six. Senior defensive end Nate Whalin has five sacks.
It’s that stifling pass rush that has literally made it open season on opposing passers for the Tiger backfield.
Niko Saladis has six interceptions to lead the team on the year and Sean Peralta has five. Brent Koontz and Cole Hamzik each have four.