Douglas wins Sierra League crown | NevadaAppeal.com

Douglas wins Sierra League crown

by Joey Crandall
Nevada Appeal News Service

RENO- Once the dust cleared Friday, Douglas coach Mike Rippee approached his team, shrugged his shoulders and shouted, “You guys are champions.”

After overwhelming the Reno Huskies with 21 first-quarter points, the Douglas High School football team had to hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally to clinch the Sierra League title at Reno.

Douglas had just enough left in the tank to claim a 24-21 win over the Huskies, getting a late field goal and three fourth-quarter onside kick recoveries.

“We knew Reno was simply just too good of a football team to go into the locker room at halftime and lay down,” Rippee said. “We kept stressing to the kids all season that special teams would win us a football game down the road, and tonight was it. A late field, all of our extra points and those big onside kick recoveries, that was big for us.”

The Tigers came out and absolutely blind-sided the Huskies from the opening drive.

After Reno ran five successful plays on the ground, Reno quarterback Jon Dankworth – the No. 2-rated passer in the Northern 4A – attempted his first pass of the night and promptly got picked off by Douglas’ Niko Saladis.

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Saladis returned the ball to the Reno 36 and David Laird completed his first pass of the night to Kyle Heidt, a nice 25-yard fade, to set Douglas up at the 11.

Tyler Tinstman put the Tigers up three plays later with a five-yard run untouched off tackle.

The next drive was even more disastrous for Reno as they opened with a five-yard penalty for delay of game – one of four on the night. Douglas’ Ryan Pruitt picked off Dankworth’s next pass attempt and returned it 27 yards for an apparent touchdown, but it was called back on a defensive holding penalty. It didn’t matter much as Saladis picked Dankworth off on the next play and returned that one 36 yards for the touchdown.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Rippee said. “I was real disappointed to see that defensive touchdown taken off the board, but that didn’t last long.”

The Tigers forced a three-and-out on the next drive and drove down in seven plays before Laird found Steven Passalacqua on a 25-yard pass in the end zone. Passalacqua made a phenomenal play on the ball, chasing it down and making the diving over-the-should catch for the 21-0 lead.

Laird finished the night with 12 completions for 146 yards.

Neither team was able to mount much of anything offensively until midway through the fourth when Reno finally started finding a rhythm.

Douglas held Dankworth to just 31 passing yards in the first half, sacking him three times along the way, but he started finding big tight end Dan Knapp and his top target Casey Brown, leading to Reno’s first score, a 5-yard completion from Dankworth to Knapp with 7:48 left.

Reno attempted an onside kick, but touched the ball before it traveled 10 yards, turning possession over to Douglas.

The Tigers fumbled on the next play, however, and Reno make quick work of the field. The Huskies drove 44 yards in five plays before Kevin Kahan took the ball nine yards up the middle to narrow the gap to 21-14 with 5:31 left.

Douglas managed to run nearly two minutes off the clock before Reese Kizer broke 33 yards off tackle on a third-and-3 from the Reno 45 to set Douglas up at the 12.

Douglas couldn’t punch it in, but it was Saladis again who nailed a 25-yard field goal with 2:55 left to put Douglas up 24-14.

Reno drove back down, this time 63 yards in nine plays before Dankworth found Brown for a 24-yard touchdown.

The Huskies again attempted the onside kick and the ball batted around to both teams several times before Laird fell on it.

Douglas ran the ball four more times to run out the clock and clinch the win.

Dankworth finished with 188 yards in the air.

Kizer had 118 yards on 20 carries and Kevin Emm had three catches for 21 yards.

The offensive line of Brent Koontz, Trevor McCarthy, Luke Wartgow, Mike Colyer, Kevin Rogers and Keith Lowe helped spring the Tiger backs for 173 yards on the ground.

Defensively, Jeff Nady was in on two sacks while Phil Mannelly, Ryan Pruitt, Anthony Alvitre and Sean Molina were each in on one.

Douglas (7-2, 6-0) clinched its first league title since 2003 with the win.