Loaded, Douglas looks to defend Sierra League
Nevada Appeal News Service
MINDEN – Even losing seven all-leaguers off of one of the most vaunted defensive units at Douglas High School ever, it’s going to be a stretch to call this a rebuilding year for the Tiger football team.
Douglas returns 33 seniors, more than any other school in the north, including six starters on offense, one of the biggest lines on both sides of the ball in the region, and four all-league starters on defense as the Tigers look to defend their Sierra League title.
“If you asked me which side of the ball I’d rather have to rebuild on, it would have to be defense,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “Defense is more of an attitude.
“We lost a lot of good players on defense, but that happens every year. We have the ability, but defense is more about desire, confidence and hard work. It’s what football is all about.”
That being said, Rippee, who is entering his 23rd season at the helm of the Douglas football program, has to like how the team is shaping up thus far.
The Tigers return their two top sack leaders on defense (Nose guard Anthony Alvitre, 11 sacks and defensive tackle Jeff Nady, seven sacks) and their co-leader in interceptions (Sean Peralta, six interceptions).
Last season, the Tigers were as defensively superb as anyone in the state, posting two shutouts, allowing an average of just 112 yards on the ground, 108 yards in the air and 12.4 points per game.
“We have a lot of holes to fill in, but the kids have the right attitude to get it done,” Rippee said.
The strength, as it was last year, will probably be the on the line with three returners.
Alvitre, a spark plug at just 5-7, 176 pounds, will anchor the line at nose guard.
“He’s an amazing young man,” Rippee said. “He’s a smaller guy, but he is one of the strongest kids on the team. He is so quick, and he just keeps coming at you. There’s no question he is one of the top linemen in the league.”
Nady, a 6-7, 246-pound tackle, has shown a lot of improvement after earning second-team all-league honors last year.
“He can be a dominant force inside,” Rippee said. “He’s athletic, he’s big, getting stronger every week and he has that defensive attitude where he really wants to get after people.”
On the other side, Forest Scott (6-3, 220 pounds), will take the place of last year’s league defensive player of the year, Sean Molina.
Scott saw some action in the middle of the year when Nady went down injured and is prepared to step up into the starting role.
“He had a great offseason and he’s a big kid,” Rippee said. “We’re starting to see some really good things happen with him during practice and he just has a great work ethic, which means he’ll only get better.”
Douglas will be replacing starters at each of the defensive end positions, with 6-3, 223-pounder Kevin Emm and 5-11, 167-pounder Curtis Hartzell on the other.
“Those are some really quality kids who just played behind some quality players last year,” Rippee said. “I think we’ll be fine there.”
The linebacking corps returns just one starter, Brock Peterson, who earned an all-league honorable mention last year.
Anchoring the defense down in the middle will be 5-11, 203-pounder Luke Wartgow, who was impressive in limited action last year.
“He’s just a kid that is tougher than nails,” Rippee said. “He’s got one of the worst cases of asthma that I’ve ever seen, but he just fights through it.
“He’s a great kid with a great attitude, great grades and great work ethic. All these kids are like that. You can win with a group of kids like this.”
On the outside, Douglas is hoping for big things from senior Tony Ferris, a 5-10, 186-pounder who took last year off to focus on wrestling. He ended up winning a Northern 4A Regional championship.
“He’s a wrestler, so he brings that tough-guy mentality to the middle,” Rippee said. “He’s worked hard and is very strong. The only thing that is really left to see is how fast he can catch up to the speed of the varsity game.”
Senior Brandon Lowrance (5-10, 165 pounds) will rotate in with Peterson on the other side.
“Brock’s going to be carrying the ball a lot on offense this year, so we expect Brandon to be a leader out there on defense for us,” Rippee said.
Linebacker will be among the Tigers’ deepest positions this season with juniors Jeff Kelly, Andrew DeWitt and senior James Lanier all in the mix.
Peralta will lead the defensive backfield, returning at cornerback after a breakout season last year.
“He just came out of the blue for us and had a great year,” Rippee said. “He’s not huge, and he’s not the fastest, but he’ll hit you and stick with you. He understands where to be on the field.”
Senior Drew Hughes, who until this year has primarily been a wide receiver, will step up at the other corner.
“He won that corner spot during the offseason and he’ll be tested early,” Rippee said. “He’s been in the program four years and he’s shown that he wants to be out there.”
Replacing two-time all-region pick Cole Hamzik at safety will be senior Kyle Heidt, another player who was primarily a wide receiver before this year.
“Safety is a really important position for us,” Rippee said. “You have to find a guy that is coachable and that loves the game. We think with Kyle’s attitude, he’s just going to get better every game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers are nothing short of loaded, with returning skill players, a strong line and one of the top quarterback recruits in the area, David Laird (6-3, 227 pounds).
“David has worked extremely hard and he is just a stellar young man,” Rippee said. “He went through quite a bit last year. He was a starting junior, he had to lead this team all season on the road.
“We believe he’ll be just that much better this year. He’s making good decisions under fire and he’s always had a strong arm.”
Laird threw for 963 yards and six touchdowns last year and ran for another five touchdowns.
Behind Laird will be promising junior Tim Rudnick.
For targets, they’ll have returners Heidt (14 catches, 225 yards, 1 touchdown last year), Parker Fellows (3-36-0), and Hughes (5-44-1) and promising newcomers Zach McFadden and Ross Bertolone.
“If anybody has really stood out in camp, it’s Zach McFadden,” Rippee said. “He has the frame, he has great speed, tremendous hands. He’s really solid.
“Ross has a lot of athleticism and a great attitude. Anyone could step up, we have a good receiving corps.”
Carrying the ball this year for the Tigers will be Peterson (6 carries, 46 yards, 1 touchdown) and speedy senior Will Sheerin (27-231-4). Lowrance (20-206-2) is also expected to get some carries, probably at the fullback position.
“Brock is more of a pounder,” Rippee said. “He has great instincts and he runs hard. Will has tremendous speed, so both guys will get a lot of opportunities.”
They’ll be running behind an experienced line — one that will probably end up being the hallmark of this year’s team.
At center will be 6-1, 243-pound first-team all-leaguer Mike Colyer.
“We expect him to only get better,” Rippee said. “He’s just the type of lineman you want out there. He does the right thing and he gets better every day.”
Hartzell will return as a starting guard after an all-league honorable mention year.
“He’s probably in the best shape on the team, and he’s actually one of the fastest kids out there,” Rippee said. “He saw a lot of action last year and he’s a great kid.”
On the other side of Colyer will be a battle between seniors Jordan Volk and Jake Sanford. Wartgow will also see some time at guard.
“Jordan is 5-7, 160 pounds,” Rippee said. “If you would’ve told me last year that he’d be my starting guard, I would have just shook my head. But he shows up to every workout, he’s coachable and he gives everything he has. It just goes to show that size doesn’t matter if you can get off the ball and get after somebody.”
Douglas will bring two of the top tackles in the region at the bookends.
Returning all-league honorable mention Trevor McCarthy (6-3, 244) will be joined on the other side by junior Parker Robertson (6-4, 257).
“Trevor made huge gains in the offseason with our conditioning in the weight room,” Rippee said. “He’s dependable and he has increased his strength tremendously.
“Parker is just a tremendous athlete. He plays basketball, so you know he can run. I think we’ll be hearing a lot about him over the next couple of years.
“If you can’t run behind these guys, I don’t know what it would take.”
Rounding out the offense will be towers Nady and Emm (who was the team’s top
receiver last year with 15 catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns) taking turns at tight end.
“Our line only gets bigger as you move outward,” Rippee said. “Both of those guys will be playing both ways for us. They’ve both put in a lot of work and they complete a very solid line for us.”
Nady will also be the teams punter after booting the ball nearly 60 yards on several occasions last year.
“He’s big time,” Rippee said. “His leg is as tall as me, so he has some leverage. He has great hang time, great distance, we’re very comfortable with him back there.”
Heidt will handle the kicking duties after making several appearances there last year.
HOME SWEET HOME
Perhaps the biggest change this season is that Douglas will actually be playing at home after spending the first nine games on the road last year while the new field was installed.
“It’ll be nice to be at home, especially for the opener,” Rippee said. “We’ve opened with Reed for quite a number of years now. It goes back and forth, but it’s always a good battle. It’ll be the High Desert League champion against the Sierra League champion, so that’s a pretty good game right there.”