Urgency is the key word floating around the Douglas High School football program this week.
The Tigers are coming off their third loss in four games, having dropped a 57-43 shootout at home against Galena last week in the Sierra League opener.
Tonight, Douglas squares off with a Damonte Ranch squad fresh off an upset win over Carson. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Keith "Duke" Roman field in Minden.
In all three losses this season, Douglas (3-3, 0-1) has struggled to get the ball moving early on offensively and has struggled to stop the ball, particularly on third downs, on the defensive side.
"That's one of the big things we've talked about all week," Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said. "We need that sense of urgency. We talk about having poise under pressure, but just because you are poised doesn't mean you can forget urgency.
"That's what we have been lacking and that counts with the slow starts and the third downs. I feel like we need a greater sense of urgency. It's what we've emphasized in practice all week."
Indeed, getting a stop has been a trouble area for the Tiger defense, a unit that currently ranks last in Northern Nevada in total defense (2,385 yards, avg. of 397.5 per game).
The three opponents to defeat Douglas - Reed, Spanish Springs and Galena - have converted 66 percent of third downs against the Tiger defense in 41 opportunities. They also combined to convert five of six fourth down opportunities.
"This week has been about three things defensively - Alignment and assignment equalling execution," Monfiletto said. "You take care of the first two, you are in position for the third. That's the big focus this week. The kids have responded well and worked hard. They are doing the things we're asking them to do and we've challenged them."
Douglas has also been outscored 46-0 in the first quarter of the three losses combined. Once the offense, which is the top-rated unit in Northern Nevada both in yardage (489.5 per game) and scoring (43 per game), has started rolling in those games, the Tigers have posted 451, 420 and 375 yards respectively.
"It's a mental issue, an emotional issue," Monfiletto said. "Against Galena, we were going to take the ball if we won the toss. It gives us momentum to start and the team responds to momentum.
"But it is critical and we have to manufacture the momentum. We can't wait until the second half. We just haven't seemed very motivated in the first half. There's not that sense of our backs against the wall."
Damonte Ranch, under first-year coach Shawn DuPris, presents one of the most intriguing matchups of season region-wide thus far.
The Mustangs will counter the Tigers' high octane attack with the top defense, statistically speaking (272.67 yards per game), in the region. Damonte has been nearly impenetrable against the run, allowing just 397 yards in six games, for an average of just 66.7 yards per outing.
The pass defense has given up 1,239 yards, though, which would present the Tigers with some matchup advantages.
Douglas has the top quarterback in the region with senior Michael Nolting (1,745 yards, 18 touchdowns) and his 74 percent completion rate and the region's top receiver, Dusty Fisher (48 catches, 950 yards, 11 touchdowns). Conner Peterson ranks second in rushing in the region with 756 yards and 11 touchdowns on 131 carries. He is also the ninth-ranked receiver in the region with 22 catches for 304 yards and a touchdown.
"We've been having success offensively, but this week will be a different challenge," Monfiletto said. "Damonte runs a high-pressure defense. They send a lot of people every play. It's offers the opportunity for them to have some big plays on defense.
"But, it also offers us the opportunity to have some big plays on offense. It's a high-risk defense, and we have to adjust accordingly."
On the other side of the ball, Damonte has the top-ranked running back in the region in senior Drew Smith (138 carries, 1,098 yards, 13 touchdowns).
Junior quarterback Kyle Daugherty (6-5, 165 pounds) had completed 44 percent of his passes for 561 yards, a touchdown and five interceptions.
"Against their offense, you have to take care of No. 5 (Smith)," Monfiletto said. "You have to take care of that run game and play aggressive, physical football."
The two schools have met six times since Damonte Ranch started competing in Northern Division I in 2006. Douglas has won all six games, including last year by a score of 45-14 in Minden.
Douglas vs. Damonte Ranch series
Douglas leads series 6-0
2006: Douglas 13, Damonte Ranch 0 (neutral)
2007: Douglas 47, Damonte Ranch 17 (dr)
2008: Douglas 27, Damonte Ranch 17 (d)
2009: Douglas 35, Damonte Ranch 20 (dr)
2010: Douglas 56, Damonte Ranch 24 (dr)
2011: Douglas 45, Damonte Ranch 14 (d)
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.