First possession has become a critical juncture for the Douglas High football team.
Three times this season, the Tigers have scored on their first possession of the ball game. In all three games, they came away with a win.
Three times, Douglas has punted away its first possession. All three of those games have now resulted in a loss.
Douglas struggled out of the gates Friday night, spotting the Galena Grizzlies a 25-0 lead before eventually falling 57-43 in Minden. The loss dropped Douglas to 3-3 on the season and 0-1 in Sierra League play. Galena improved to 4-2 and 1-0 on the year.
In three losses, the Tigers have given up 20-0 (Reed), 14-0 (Spanish Springs) and 25-0 (Galena) leads early on.
Galena rolled up 101 yards of offense before Douglas achieved its first first down of the night and scored on eight of 11 possessions in the game. The Tiger defense forced only one punt, which was fumbled back into the Grizzlies' possession, and allowed Galena to convert 12 of 17 third downs and three of three fourth downs in the game.
"I can't answer it, what's going on at the start of the games," Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said. "We come out and I feel like we are focused and ready to go. but when a team come out and grinds at you like they did, my guess would be they owned the time of possession maybe two thirds of the game. When we can't get on the field, we can't score."
Galena rolled down the field 65 yards on eight plays at the start of the game, scoring on a 29-yard halfback pass to go up 6-0.
Douglas went 3-and-out on its first possession and Galena struck quickly, using three plays on its next drive before scoring on a 41-yard pass.
The extra-point attempts on each of the first two scores failed, leaving the score set at 12-0.
Douglas went 3-and-out again on its next drive, but came up with its first stop of the game at the Galena 37-yard line. The fumble on the ensuing punt, though, set the Grizzlies up at the Douglas 14.
They scored on a three-yard run four plays later. The kick was blocked, making it 18-0 in favor of Galena.
Douglas quarterback Michael Nolting completed a 19-yard pass to Conner Peterson on the first play of the following drive for the Tigers' first first down of the game, but Douglas turned the ball over on downs four plays later.
Galena came right back down, this time expending only four plays before scoring on a 29-yard pass for the 25-0 lead.
Douglas got things going on its first possession of the second quarter, driving 80 yards on six plays and finishing with a 35-yard pass from Nolting to Connor Greth to cut the score to 25-7.
Nolting finished 12-for-16 for 278 yards and five touchdown passes. He also rushed for 47 yards on seven carries.
Galena later tacked on another touchdown, this one from 10 yards out, before Nolting found Dusty Fisher for a 14-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 31-14, which held going into halftime.
Fisher took a reverse handoff from Bailey Vidaurri on the opening kickoff of the second half and sprinted 92 yards for the touchdown, cutting the lead to 10 at 31-21.
Galena came right back, scoring on an 18-yard touchdown, and Nolting found Fisher again on the second play of the next drive, this one going for a 75-yard touchdown.
Fisher finished the night with four catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns, plus the kickoff return for the touchdown. He also had an interception in his first extended defensive action of the year.
Nolting spent most of the second half playing free safety for the Tigers and made a number of nice tackles there.
Following Fisher's 75-yarder, Galena set forth on what would prove to be the decisive drive of the game. Leading 38-28, the Grizzlies put together a marathon 23-play, 65-yard drive that melted 10 minutes off the clock. The drive culminated on the third play of the fourth quarter with a five-yard touchdown pass, setting Galena up with a 45-28 lead.
Fisher returned the ensuing kickoff to the Grizzlies 32-yard line and scored two plays later on a 35-yard pass from Nolting with 9:54 remaining in the game.
Douglas attempted an onside kick on the following kickoff, but it bounced off a Galena player and out of bounds at the Douglas 40. The Grizzlies took nearly four minutes off the clock with their next drive, converting a fourth down and a third down before settling for a 35-yard field goal and the 48-35 lead with 5:57 remaining.
Nolting was sacked in the end zone on the first play of Douglas' next drive, setting the score at 50-35.
The Grizzlies later added a final touchdown, this one on a 30-yard run to make it 57-35 with 2:31 left.
Nolting found Garet Rice for a 23-yard touchdown pass, cutting it to 57-43 with 1:36 left and Douglas recovered the ensuing onside kick to make things interesting late.
Galena picked off Nolting's pass on the following play, though, to seal the win.
"We have to get stops, plain and simple," Monfiletto said. "We have to fix this. I'm not disappointed in the kids' effort, in practice or in the game. They busted their butts all week in preparation for tonight. We just have to get better as a team and a staff."
Galena limited Douglas to just 80 yards on the ground in the game. Peterson caught four passes for 57 yards and had 14 carries for 33 yards.
Jesse Urteaga had a sack for the defense and Cody Hayes blocked a field goal attempt.
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.