Empty feeling for Douglas
RENO-Following their 27-24 loss to Wooster on Saturday, the players on the Douglas High School football team should have felt some satisfaction knowing they had turned in their best performance of the season against the top team in Division II.
Instead, the players were left with the hollow feeling that the game’s outcome had been decided by an official’s call rather than a play on the field.
The call in question came with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining in the game with Wooster on its own 34. On third down, the Douglas defense appeared to stop Colt running back Josh James well short of the first down marker, seemingly forcing a punt which would give the Tigers one last shot at securing the upset.
But on the tackle, a face mask penalty was called and gave the Colts an automatic first down. The upset Tigers then drew another personal foul for unsportsmanlike language, putting the ball at the Tiger 32-yard line.
From that point, it was easy for Wooster to run out the clock and raise its record to 4-0 in division. Douglas, now 1-3, will have to win its final two games of the season to have a chance of reaching the playoffs.
“I think we beat them in all aspects of the game, but that last call messed us up,” said receiver Jared Kenison, who had five catches in the game.
Douglas coach Mike Rippee said he didn’t want to “make a big deal” about the officiating, but he was obviously upset at the manner in which the game ended.
“What can I say? We played toe-to-toe with one of the best,” Rippee said. “We could go into a cave and feel sorry for ourselves, but we’ll come back; this team has had a lot of adversity, but has not once let down.”
The Tigers were dealing with adversity even before the game started, as receiver Gabe Hatchett and running back Kyle Baker were expected to miss the game with knee injuries.
But in a move that served to inspire his teammates, Baker surprised everyone by taking the field. Wearing a brace to protect his recently torn MCL and ACL knee ligaments, he was in on four plays as well as performing the punting duties for the Tigers.
Amazingly, he scored touchdowns on two of his plays. Both were fourth-quarter receptions from quarterback Brandon Griffith, the second a 25-yarder that cut the Colt lead to 27-24 with 2:13 left.
“(Baker’s) an example of a kid who does everything right,” Rippee said. “He wants to play, coming back before his (scheduled) time.”
The first half of the game went exactly as Rippee would have wanted, with the Tigers taking a 10-6 halftime lead by controlling the ball and the clock. Wooster had taken a 6-0 lead on its first possession on a 1-yard run by Josh James, but Douglas methodically drove 75 yards on its subsequent possession to score on Jason Porterfield’s fourth-and-1 plunge into the end zone and take a 7-6 lead with its successful conversion.
The Douglas defense stifled Wooster for the rest of the half. With 1:08 left in the second quarter, the Tigers found themselves in a 4th-and-goal situation once again. This time, they settled for a 21-yard field goal from John Hillenbrand to take a 10-6 lead into halftime.
Wooster regained the lead 13-10 midway through the third on a quarterback draw by John James. The Colts began to pull away with another TD late in the quarter on a Josh James (John’s brother) 19-yard run that made the score 20-10.
But Douglas didn’t let up and cut the lead to 20-17 on the first of Baker’s two touchdown receptions. Despite his bum knee, Baker was able to outrun the Wooster defense to the pass Griffith had lofted into the end zone.
Wooster then matched Douglas’ TD by driving 61 yards in nine plays, the big play coming on J.J. Stallings’ 29-yard run to the 2 which set up yet another Josh James TD run to make it 27-17.
It took only 36 seconds for the Tigers to score on Baker’s second touchdown of the quarter, but the crucial face mask call prevented Douglas from touching the ball again in the game.