For both sides, a lot will be at stake tonight when Douglas visits Damonte Ranch for a Sierra League football game that is important in terms of positioning for the playoff picture.
Damonte Ranch (1-1 league, 4-2 overall) and Douglas (0-1, 1-5) are both looking at winning three straight wins to close the regular season and taking second- or even first-place in the league — the reward being home field advantage to start the playoffs in November.
But first things first. The Tigers have a number of matters to take care of tonight, according to coach Ernie Monfiletto.
“I think every game is important,” Monfiletto said. “We need to improve in every game. We need to take care of execution, elimination of mistakes and play four quarters. We need to get in the win column before we talk about the playoffs, and right now, that means beat the Mustangs.”
The Tigers are looking to build on some positives from their 27-7 loss last week against undefeated Galena, where they only trailed 13-7 with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
One of those positives was a defensive unit that held Galena to season low totals in offensive point and yardage production. It marked the continuation of progress for a defense that in 2012 allowed 42.25 points per game. The Tigers have given up 48 points the last three weeks in games against Hug, Spanish Springs and Galena.
“I think we need to acknowledge the progress those guys have made this year; the effort of our defense has kept us in games,” Monfiletto said. “We put a lot of emphasis on getting better on defense in the offseason. Coach (Rod) Smalley (defensive coordinator) and his staff — Lance Hartzell, Steve Wilcox and Mike Derbyshire — have worked extremely hard, and so have the kids. And now, I think all that work is starting to pay off.”
Damonte Ranch has shown offensive potential all season — 34.5 points per game — and the Mustangs have done it with a large cast of players.
Quarterback Kyle Daugherty, a 6-foot-5 senior, has thrown for 1,148 yards (194.7 average per game) and 10 touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 202 yards and 5 more TDs. Sean Pinching is the leading receiver with 22 catches for 343 yards and 5 TDs, however, Jared Blake had a breakout game last week against Carson with 11 catches for 237 yards, and 3 TDs.
The running game is spread out among various backs — six have scored touchdowns — led by Grant Cooper with 397 yards and 7 TDs.
Daugherty threw for 330 yards against Carson.
The Mustangs showed last week they can score in a hurry in a 38-35 loss at Carson’s homecoming — putting 21 points on the scoreboard in the final 3 minutes, 19 seconds.
“They have a wide open offense with a lot of weapons,” Monfiletto said of Damonte Ranch. “They’re dangerous and they do not quit. They were down last week and came back to put a lot of pressure on Carson.”
Likewise, Monfiletto is confident his Tigers can come back down the stretch this season.
“There’s no quit in these kids,” he said. “I don’t think our record reflects on what a great team this is and what great kids these are.”