It won't show up on the regional bracket, but the Douglas football team's playoffs got under way last week.
Douglas needed a win against Carson to advance to the postseason, and did so in nail-biting fashion --beating the Senators 27-25 in Carson City.
"Carson was do or die for these kids," Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said. "It was the start of the playoffs for us. We've already been in that position for a while now and the kids understand the amount of stress that comes with it.
"Just beating Carson after two years of having their hearts broken in that game was a big step forward," Monfiletto said. "I saw smiles on the kids' faces. There was a burden lifted there. It was extremely satisfying for the kids, for the staff, for all the hard work that this program has put into being successful both this year and in the past."
The playoffs continue tonight as Douglas meets up with a familiar foe in Reed. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Sparks. It will be the fourth time in the last six years the two schools have met in the playoffs. Reed has won each meeting.
On Sept. 7 this season, Douglas and Reed converged while traveling very different paths.
Reed, the defending regional champions, had lost its opening two games of the year against a pair of California schools.
Douglas won its first two against two of the region's top programs, including its first win over McQueen in 25 years.
Reed emerged with a resounding, though not easy, 54-35 win and went on to win six of its last seven and clinch the High Desert League championship.
Douglas, on the other hand, lost four of its next six and needed the Carson win to clinch the last available playoff spot.
"One thing I think we learned about ourselves through this whole stretch is that the kids don't panic," Monfiletto said. "We run a no-huddle offense, so even during practice there is always that sense of being under the gun. But for these kids to show the composure and poise under pressure like they did last week - to perform in that situation, it just proved what I believed about them."
It's that up-tempo offense that has carried the majority of the load for the Tigers' this year. The big-play potential has kept the Tigers in every game - with the exception of a 59-28 loss at Spanish Spring in late September --literally until the closing minutes of every contest.
A subtle wrinkle Monfiletto added to the offense for the Carson game, though, could pay big dividends against Reed.
Douglas employed what is known as an inverted wishbone, or diamond formation, for long periods against Carson. The scheme replaces two interior receivers with a pair of fullbacks who lineup alongside the quarterback, who receives the snap at either shotgun or pistol depth. That allows a variety of play-action options with the fullbacks, and provides a pair of lead blockers for the running back.
The Tigers were able to churn out a large number of yards on the ground utilizing bruising running back Conner Peterson, and drain a considerable amount of the clock against Carson with the set. The increased personnel between the tackles also thinned out the pass coverage, allowing Tiger quarterback Michael Nolting more room for downfield throws.
"We were just getting stale offensively and I really felt we needed to control the ball," Monfiletto said. "We wanted to give Carosn less possessions and just go right at them. We were able to capitalize on a lot of things with it."
A similar approach against Reed could be beneficial. In the last three meetings against the Raiders, Douglas has found itself on the wrong side of huge offensive shootouts. The two teams have averaged a combined 87.3 points per game during that stretch, with Douglas scoring at least 30 points in each.
Douglas also showed much improvement defensively over the past two weeks after switching from its 4-2-5 set to more of a 4-3 for the Manogue game.
The two changes could help the Tigers win what could be the most important battle of the night - time of possession.
"The kids know their destiny is in their own hands," Monfiletto said. "They are behaving with success. I'm not having to talk them into it. They've done their homework and the staff is working hard to prepare."
Reed leads the all-time series between the two schools 22-10.
Douglas' last win in the series was a 40-13 win at Reed in 2008. Reed has won the subsequent five meetings.