Douglas looks for continued success |

Douglas looks for continued success

by Joey Crandall

One game at a time.

The philosophy never changes for Douglas head football coach Mike Rippee.

It was the same motto heading into each of Douglas’ 11 consecutive victories last year and it will be the same heading into each game this year.

Forget that Douglas lost 34 seniors from a team that claimed the Sierra League title and that advanced to the Northern 4A Regional Championship game while racking up the most wins in school history.

Forget that the Tigers will be trying to fill All-Region shoes at nearly every position on the field.

These are the Douglas Tigers of 2004 and they are preparing to turn heads around the league one game at a time.

You don’t know their names yet, but if everything goes according to Rippee’s plan, you will soon enough.

“Everybody is thinking that because we lost so many quality guys that Douglas will be out of the picture,” Rippee said. “I see that as a challenge and the kids do too.

“You can’t live in the past. It was a wonderful year last year and those seniors were wonderful players and wonderful people to be around but they are not here anymore. You can’t live in the past.

“It’s always tough to say goodbye to your seniors, but you are cheating this year’s players if you just keep living off those memories.”

It’s the type of year that most coaches would see as an opportunity to rebuild. There are new faces at every skill position, across the offensive line and spattered throughout the defensive core.

But, if nothing else, each new face has had a taste of success.

“I don’t see us doing any worse than last year, and hopefully we will be better,” Rippee said. “These kids have worked as hard as any team I have ever had so they are anxious to go out and show their stuff.

“They’re excitable kids. The attitude is great. A lot of them saw a lot of playing time last year, and they’re all going to see plenty more.”

Through two weeks of practice, Rippee said the team’s work ethic has been key.

“Our ideal is to work harder than anybody else,” he said. “We live by that motto and we are going to have to continue to do so because the depth we had last year is obviously not there this year.”

The strength of the group will be at linebacker, where Keenan Copp, Cory Hartzell and Kyle Luken all return.

“It’s not secret that you win on defense,” Rippee said. “Those guys will be our leaders out there.

“They could be the best three linebackers in the league if they play up to their potential. They are aggressive, but they are not huge so they are going to have to really work on their quickness and be prepared.”

As with just about every senior starter, the three will be playing both ways with Hartzell at offensive guard, Luken at tight end and Copp at fullback.

Tyson Estes returns from an All-Region junior campaign at defensive tackle and will see time on the offensive line as well this season.

“Tyson is our best lineman, there is no doubt about it,” Rippee said. “He’s playing both ways and we are really going to be building around him this year.”

Leading the defensive backfield will be senior free safety Bryan Brady.

“He’s an outstanding young man who works hard and is always first in conditioning,” Rippee said. “He’s just got a great attitude and he is going to be our leader there.”

Joining Brady in the backfield will be corners Spike Agosta and Tim Senger. Brady’s brother D.J. is also expected to make big contributions on defense.

“D.J. had a real good summer camp. He’s a fine athlete and if he keeps his mental focus and takes care of the little things, he might be the best athlete on the team.”

It’s perhaps on offense that Tiger fans will see the newest look.

Junior Roman Davis takes over the reigns at quarterback, replacing two-time Northern 4A player of the year Luke Rippee.

“Roman has really stepped up and done a nice job,” Rippee said. “He is getting better every day. He was the junior varsity QB last year and he’s learned the ropes well.

“He’s a great athlete and he’s a really physically tough kid. He’s not afraid and that’s what you want from your quarterback.”

Senior Spike Agosta will be the Tigers’ primary running back.

“Spike is going to be our main guy,” Rippee said. “He had 200 or 300 yards last year behind (former standout) Dusty (Cooper) and he had some moments when he got in last year where he showed that he was really a very instinctive runner. He won’t get much press because of the other backs in the area, but he’s gotten a lot stronger and quicker and he will be one of the best backs in the league.”

Estes will be joined on the offensive line by Datin Whatcot, Nate Newton, Harzell, Mike Buffo and junior Trevor Freitas.

Eric Emm has been solid through summer drills at the top of the receiving corps. He joins Tim Coleman, D.J. Brady and Morgan Ovard as Davis’ targets.

Not to be forgotten in the rush to replace what was lost, Rippee says he feels blessed to have two of the state’s top kickers returning to his special teams units.

Coleman and Emm each earned all-region last year for their performance at punter and kicker respectively.

“That will be a huge part of our game, field position and getting points from 20 or 30 yards out with field goals,” Rippee said.

The first step toward putting it all together comes Sept. 3 at Reed.

“It’s been a long time since November,” Rippee said. “We’re excited to get out there and see what we’ve got.”