It was a twist that couldn't have been more cruel.
The Douglas High School football team got its best defensive effort of the season Friday night, only to see its normally powerful and explosive offense stymied by an inspired effort from the Manogue Miners.
Manogue recovered three fumbles, intercepted a pair of passes - returning one for a touchdown --and held Douglas to just 222 yards of total offense on its way to a commanding 37-21 win in Reno.
"They played better football than we did tonight," Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said. "They bracketed our outside receivers, took away some things we like to do. They brought some pressure from the middle and forced us into some mistakes. They did a heck of a job defending us."
Manogue sacked Douglas quarterback Michael Nolting five times in the first half, totaling a combined loss of 49 yards. Miner cornerback Shane Talbott picked Nolting off twice, returning the first 34 yards for the game's first touchdown.
It was the lone score in a surprisingly quiet first quarter that saw two teams known for giving up points in bunches clamp down defensively.
Douglas matched Manogue punch-for-punch early on, stopping the Miners on their first four possessions and on five of six first-half possessions. Dusty Fisher had an interception, Cale Kynett had a sack and the Tigers limited the Miners to minus-seven rushing yards and 114 passing yards in the first half. For the game, Cody Hayes had 1.5 sacks, Conner Peterson had a sack and Zach Kinder had 0.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
"I was really excited about our defensive effort," Monfiletto said. "They stepped up and gave us an opportunity in the first half."
Nolting, who was doubling as the Tigers' starting free safety in the game, appeared to suffer a head injury while trying to make a tackle on Manogue's Devonte German as German caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from MJ Farthing with 4:55 left in the second quarter.
Nolting remained down for several minutes before coming off the field. He returned for Douglas' next offensive series and directed a nine-play touchdown drive that he capped himself with a one-yard sneak, cutting the score to 14-7 with 1:25 left in the first half.
The Tiger defense came up with a quick stop on Manogue's next possession, running just 40 seconds off the clock.
Douglas set up at its own 25 with 35.6 seconds remaining in the half and advanced to the 40-yard line before Manogue came up with twin sacks to end the half.
It proved to be Nolting's final plays of the night as he returned for the second half in street clothes, giving way to junior Wes Hundley at quarterback. Nolting finished with 83 passing yards, completing seven of 11 attempts.
Douglas posted its sixth defensive stop of the night to start the second half but things quickly turned catastrophic for the Tigers.
Manogue jarred the ball loose from Conner Peterson after a seven-yard gain on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage in the second half and came away with possession.
Two plays later, Farthing completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Gray.
The Tigers went 3-and-out on their following possession, and Manogue answered by tacking on another touchdown, this one a 25-yard pass from Farthing.
Douglas fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff and Manogue turned that into a 10-play drive that culminated with a 33-yard field goal from Jake Taylor, stretching the lead to 31-7.
Douglas finished the game with six fumbles, losing three of them.
"We're down a touchdown going into the second half, and then we made some critical errors in the third quarter that really cost us," Monfiletto said. "Manogue didn't give us an opportunity to get back out of that hole after that."
Douglas narrowed the gap late in the fourth quarter when defensive end Cody Hayes hit Farthing in the Tiger end zone, jarring the ball loose. Zach Moehle fell on the ball for the touchdown, cutting the score to 31-14 with 5:43 remaining.
Manogue drove quickly back down, with Farthing tossing his fourth touchdown pass of the night for the 37-14 lead (the kick failed).
The Tigers wrapped up the scoring on the ensuing drive when Hundley hit Fisher for a 27-yard touchdown.
"There was some light there (with Hundley)," Monfiletto said. "He played hard, didn't quit. He did what we asked him to do. We're proud of his for coming in that second half and leading the offense. He did the best job he could."
Hundley finished with 33 passing yards and 34 rushing yards.
Peterson led the Tigers with 22 carries for 103 yards and three catches for 17 yards.
Fisher had five catches for 51 yards and Connor Greth had a catch for 27 yards.
The loss put the Tigers' playoff hopes within a shred of disappearing. The Tigers (3-5, 0-3) now need to defeat Carson on Oct. 25 to sneak in. Douglas is off next week.
"Mathematically we are still in it," Monfiletto said. "Right now, the rivalry (with Carson) is the carrot. The playoff opportunity is not as important as beating the Carson Senators for us. That is our focus now."