The importance of the ground game was showcased last Friday at Keith Roman Stadium.
Galena ran for 222 yards and limited the Douglas Tigers to less than 100 yards of rushing. Not surprisingly, the Grizzlies won the game 14-8.
"We're not going to win a game giving up 220 yards rushing," Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. "I've said it over and over and over, you win in this league - you win in any league - by being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run."
Those two facets of the game will be the focus Friday when the Tigers travel to Reno to play the Hug Hawks (3-0 overall, 1-0 in the Sierra League). And neither will be an easy task.
Offensively, Hug is led by Antoine Barlow, a big, talented runner with the speed to score from anywhere on the field.
The Tigers will key on Barlow, one game after Galena's Luke Penrose rushed 22 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
"Barlow is much faster than Penrose," Rippee said. "He's more of a big, big play type of back. You give hime a seam, and he'll take it to the house. We've seen him in three games now and he's a guy who can be stopped, but if you don't put hats on him all the time, he'll find a seam eventually and he'll be gone.
"Barlow is probably the best big-play back we'll see all year. I don't take anything away from Penrose, he's a heck of a player, but he didn't bust anything big on us. Barlow will. We can't let them beat us with their best weapon. We're going to try to keep eight in the box and try to shut that running game down. If we can't shut their big back down, they'll hold on to the ball all night or score 40 points."
One of the easiest ways to stop a stud running back is to keep him on the sidelines. And that's where the Douglas offense can play a big role in helping out the defense this week.
The Tigers weren't particulary effective on offense against the Grizzlies. Monte McCann rushed 13 times for 63 yards and Luke Rippee completed seven passes for 111 yards. Erik Olson caught four passes for 69 yards.
Rippee tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Andy McIntosh on the last play of the game. The sophomore duo also teamed up on the two-point conversion pass.
Douglas - like it did two weeks ago in a 21-14 win over Reed - will need to control the ball and the clock if the Tigers to have a chance to beat the Hawks in their Sierra League opener.
"Offensively we want to establish the run. We've got to," coach Rippee said. "We can't throw the ball 28 times and run 22. You can't do that and win a football game.
"Our goal is to reestablish our running game. Ninety-eight yards rushing, that's not going to get it done. I don't care who you are. We won't win very many games if we throw more than we run this year."
The Douglas defense continued its trend of coming up with big plays in critical situations against Galena. Late in the second quarter, Olson picked up a fumble on a third-and-agoal play from the Douglas 1-yard line to keep the Grizzlies out of the end zone.
Jake Peterson stopped Penrose for no gain on a fourth and one play from inside the Douglas 10 early in the fourth quarter.
One possession later, McIntosh roched quarterback Pat Flynn and caused a fumble that was recovered by Kevin Jones.
Nate Bennett and Shane Cauley teamed up to stop Flynn on the conversion run following Galena's second touchdown.
But anyone who saw Douglas play in the first two weeks of the season couldn't help but notice that the Tigers looked like a different team on Friday.
Rippee refused to blame his team's loss on the fact that his players might have been distracted following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
"From Tuesday on, and I'm not making excuses because everybody went through a real rough week, they seemed real complacent," coach Rippee said. "Their minds were not really focused. It really just wasn't there.
"A football game just didn't seem that important in regards to everything that was going on. There was no excitement and they came out and it kinda showed. Like I told them at the end of the game, losing a football game is no big deal. We got beat. The other team played a lot better. We made mistakes. But you know what, it's not that big of a deal. I told them they're awfully lucky to be able to bounce back Monday and have more opportunities because certain people are not going to have that opportunity. Keep it in perspective.
"We all had an empty felling because of what happened. I'm sure it was that way for Galena, too. It just worked out better for them. They came down and whipped us. I have no excuses."