Douglas ready to be road warriors
Nevada Appeal News Service
Douglas head coach Mike Rippee knows he’s going to have plenty of what he loves most about football heading into the 2006 season – tough defense and running the ball.
Heading into the year with five backs who saw significant time carrying the ball last season and six returning starters on defense, the Tigers appear well-equipped to say the least.
The biggest remaining question mark, however, is where exactly the team will play.
“We’re going to be road warriors, there’s no question about that,” Rippee said. “We’ll have a whole lot of travel time, probably about eight games on the road.”
The school announced in late July that the team would most likely have to move its first three home games, including match-ups against perennial power McQueen and archrival Carson.
Last week, it appeared that the targeted Oct. 6 home-opener against South Tahoe would have to be moved as well as work on the $2 million renovation of Douglas’ home field ground to a halt over the last few weeks.
The project has experienced several hang-ups along the way, including a delay in the delivery of the asphalt because much of what was available in the area had been tied up in road construction for the summer and even a mis-measurement on the part of the artificial turf company which set the project back another several weeks.
The turf crew was expected to arrive Tuesday to begin laying Sportexe Omniturf down.
“We’re thinking no matter what, we’ll be home for our last game (Oct. 26 against Wooster),” Rippee said. “I feel bad for the seniors. It’s always great to play at home. We have the best crowds around and Friday nights at Keith Roman Field have always been great.
“But on the other hand, we have always traveled with a good crowd as well, sometimes we even match up with the home crowd, so hopefully they will continue to come out and support us.”
Douglas’ Sept. 22 game against Damonte Ranch will be moved to Galena High School on the same night, and the Sept. 15 game against Carson will be played at Manogue on Sept. 16 at noon. The Tigers will take on McQueen at Manogue at noon on Sept. 9.
In the meantime, however, Rippee said regardless of what field the Tigers are on, there’ll be plenty of exciting things to see.
“We can’t worry about it,” he said. “We told the kids we need to put it behind us. We have too many other positive things to focus on.”
Douglas enters the year with a solid stable of returnees on defense, led by first-team All-Northern 4A linebacker Brent Koontz and first-team All-Sierra League defensive back Cole Hamzik.
Second-team all-leaguers Phil Mannelly (defensive end) and Ryan Pruitt (linebacker) also return. Starters Sean Molina (linebacker) and Julius Bailey (defensive back) are also back although Molina will move up to the defensive line.
“We’re pretty solid on defense,” Rippee said. “When it comes down to it, if you play great football you’re going to be in every game.”
Douglas will infuse several new faces into its 5-3 base scheme, led on the line by 6-foot, 6-inch, 225-pound basketball standout Jeff Nady, and sparkplug nose guard Anthony Alvitre.
Brock Peterson, who saw time late in the year at fullback last season for the Tigers, will shift in to replace Molina at outside linebacker.
Rippee said Sean Peralta has shown a lot of promise early on in the defensive backfield, as has Niko Saladis, who had a key interception in last year’s season opener against Reed.
Pruitt returns with three sacks under his belt. Mannelly had two sacks last season.
“We’ll throw in a couple of new wrinkles on defense and see what happens,” Rippee said.
On offense, the Tigers have plenty of options at the skill positions.
“We’re loaded at running back,” Rippee said. “We’ve got three guys who could start for a lot of teams in this league. It’s no secret that I love to run the football. It’s important to building a successful team and we’ll have plenty of options with that this season.”
Douglas returns its three-headed starting corps from last season led by Reese Kizer (749 yards, seven touchdowns), Tyler Tinstman (385 yards, five touchdowns) and Julius Bailey (334 yards, three touchdowns.
Junior varsity standout Will Sheerin (5-9, 150) moves up and figures to be in the mix as well and fullbacks Brock Peterson (139 yards, four touchdowns) and Ryan Pruitt (89 yards, one touchdown) expect to give Douglas solid change-of-pace options.
Junior David Laird, a 6-3, 190-pound standout from the basketball team, is expected to earn the starting nod as Douglas’ quarterback, although Hamzik, who passed for 447 yards and four touchdowns in three late-season starts last year will be available should Laird get injured.
“David has done a great job for us and he has the nod,” Rippee said. “He’s getting better in there every day. He’s very coachable and very committed to the game. He does everything we ask him too.
“Cole is going to be very important in the defensive backfield for us, but we know we have a solid option at backup quarterback just in case.”
Douglas enters the year with some new options receiving the ball as tight end Brent Koontz comes in as the top returning receiver (16 catches, 216 yards, three touchdowns).
Kyle Heidt, Laird’s top target at the junior varsity level, will start at receiver along with Devin Barker, a two-year varsity player.
Bailey may see some time at receiver, as will junior varsity call-up Drew Hughes.
Steven Passalacqua (eight catches, 85 yards) may figure into the mix as well.
It’s Douglas’ tight ends this season that will give Rippee an unexpected new look.
“We’ve got five very capable guys lining up at tight end that will really change what we do,” Rippee said. “We’ve never had anything like this before.
“We’ll do two tight end sets, three tight end sets, even four with two on the line, a wing and one in the backfield as the lead blocker. It’ll be interesting to see what we can do with them.”
Koontz leads the class at 6-2, 193. Basketball players Nady (6-6, 225), Nate Whalin (6-4, 190) and Kevin Emm (6-2, 195) and Molina (6-1, 178) will all see time as well.
“Not one of those guys is shorter than six feet,” Rippee said. “Hopefully we can use them to our best advantage.”
The offensive line, aside from the receiving corps, is perhaps Douglas’ most untested unit heading into the year.
Koontz is the only returning starter, although Keith Lowe (6-1, 177) and Kevin Rogers (5-9, 179) saw significant time last season.
Junior varsity call-up Mike Colyer (6-1, 220) will start at center, guards Ben Johnson (6-2, 177), Curtis Hartzell (5-9, 155) and Luke Wartgow (5-10, 175) and tackles Trevor McCarthy (5-11, 225) and Forrest Scott (6-1, 190) round the group out.
On special teams, Saladis and Kizer will share the place-kicking duties. Kizer kicked Douglas’ only field goal last season and hit 15 extra points while Saladis converted 11 of 12 extra point attempts.
Nady and Hamzik will battle it out for the starting punter position, although Hamzik has the varsity experience advantage.
“This team has a lot of character,” Rippee said. “It’s unfortunate we may be missing those home games, but we’ve put that behind us. These guys are going into it with the attitude that a lot of people never even get to play football, so it is a privilege just to be out there.
“What a great challenge. We don’t look at it as a setback, we’re looking at it as an opportunity.”