Douglas wins a thriller
Nevada Appeal News Service
Staring down a 21-6 deficit with a little over three minutes remaining in the first half, it might have been easy for the Douglas football team to start packing it in.
After all this was Hug, arguably one of the most athletic teams in the region, standing on the other side of the ball.
The Hawks had rushed for 111 yards in the first quarter alone and had just turned a Tiger fumble into a 10-play, 40-yard touchdown drive.
Douglas barely even blinked.
The Tigers outscored the Hawks 26-7 through the remainder of the game, culminating with a brilliant six-play, 70-yard touchdown drive late in the game to take the 32-28 victory and improve to 4-1 overall, 2-0 in Sierra League play Friday night.
“We’re always telling the kids that you just can’t panic and they showed us tonight that they don’t,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “We fumbled the ball, they put it in the end zone. We just wanted to match the score and work our way back into things.”
The Tigers were able to do just that.
Douglas recovered Hug’s attempted squib kick at the Tigers’ own 47 and quarterback David Laird completed three consecutive passes (seven yards to Brock Peterson, 17 yards to Kyle Heidt and 24 yards to Heidt) before Peterson broke through for a four-yard touchdown run.
Peterson punched through the two-point conversion to close the score to 21-14.
The Tigers came out of the locker room to start the third quarter with an important 3-and-out on defense, but the offense sputtered on third-and-1 from its own 35.
“The kids wanted to go for it and in my younger years I might have,” Rippee said. “But I thought we could get some good field position out of it and we work so hard on special teams that the kids knew they could come up with it.”
What followed was perhaps the most subtle play-of-the-game of the season.
Hug played for the fake, leaving no one deep to return the punt, and Douglas senior Jeff Nady sent a booming kick 64 yards that rolled dead at the Hawk 1.
The Hawks were called for offsides on the ensuing play and Hug quarterback Duke Williams threw an incomplete pass to follow that.
Douglas nose guard Anthony Alvitre broke through on the following play and tackled Hug’s Tonio Burton in the end zone for the safety and the 21-16 score.
Zach McFadden returned the following free kick to the Hug 42 and Douglas drove the ball to the Hug 15 before settling on a 32-yard field goal from Heidt to cut the score to 21-19.
“We just did the little things, things one might not normally notice,” Rippee said. “We work hard on those things and they paid off for us tonight.”
Hug showed some life on the following drive as Burton took the second play of the drive 83 yards on a toss for the touchdown and the 28-19 lead but Douglas answered right back on a seven-play drive that culminated with a one-yard Peterson touchdown run.
The teams traded punts over the next three drives but Douglas assumed possession with 3:45 left in the game at its own 30.
Laird completed an 11-yard pass to McFadden and came right back with a 20-yard completion to Drew Hughes on the next play.
“That was a big play for us,” Rippee said. “Drew took the big hit and held onto the ball and that set us up.
“The line did a great job of getting David some protection and the kids stepped up and made some big plays.”
Laird kept the ball for a 13-yard gain and after an incompletion he found tight end Kevin Emm on a seam for a 23-yard gain to the Hawk 3-yard line.
Peterson took the next play in for his third touchdown of the game against a defense that had previously allowed just one touchdown on the ground this season.
With 1:51 left, Hug was forced to throw and managed a total of only six yards before Williams was intercepted by McFadden with 45 seconds left to seal the win for the Tigers.
McFadden returned the interception 65 yards for an apparent touchdown, but it was called back on an illegal block.
Douglas knelt the ball to run out the clock.
Laird finished with a career-best 250 yards on 18 completions, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Parker Fellows on the Tigers’ first drive.
Hug looked ready to pull away with the game after Burton answered with a 32-yard touchdown run and Williams later found Popo Kilioni for a 3-yard touchdown pass for the 14-6 lead. Williams also scored on a one-yard keeper to put Hug up 21-6 before Douglas began mounting its comeback.
Laird found seven different receivers on the night, led by Heidt with five catches for 83 yards and McFadden with four catches for 55 yards.
Peterson finished with 74 yards on the ground and 56 yards receiving.
Burton led the Hawks with 185 yards rushing as the Hawks combined for 376 yards of total offense, 312 of which came on the ground.
The offensive line of Mike Colyer, who played the majority of the game hobbled by an ankle injury, Curtis Hartzell, Jordan Volk, Trevor McCarthy, Parker Robertson, Nady and Emm began gaining more ground as the game went on and helped Douglas compile 351 yards of total offense.
The defensive front, which included Alvitre, Nady, Emm, Hartzell and Forrest Scott, along with linebackers Tony Ferris, Luke Wartgow and Brandon Lowrance, managed to close up a lot of the holes Hug was finding early on and held the Hawks to 35 yards on the ground in the fourth quarter.
Douglas improved to 4-1 on the year overall and 2-0 in league play with the win and Hug dropped to 1-4 and 1-1 in league.
The Reno Huskies come to Minden next Friday for another league showdown with big playoff implications.