R-C Sports Notebook: Weeknight lights

Passers-by might have done a double-take last Tuesday and Wednesday with the lights on at Keith "Duke" Roman Field at Douglas High School.

Like it or not, high school soccer in Carson Valley has hit the prime time.

Both the Douglas girls' and boys' teams made their night home debuts last week on the artificial turf of Big George Sports Complex, each picking up wins over league-rival Reno.

They will get two more shots this season to play under the lights, each in rivalry games with Carson coming on Oct. 14 (girls) and Oct. 15 (boys) and South Tahoe making the trip Oct. 21 (girls) and 22 (boys).

The atmosphere for the Reno was actually surprisingly entertaining.

Not that soccer is normally any less competitive during the day, but the night games bring a couple of key elements that change the makeup of the matchup.

Because of the later start time (the teams normally go at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) the crowds were quite noticably bigger as more parents were done with work and more classmates were done with their respective afternoon practices and games.

Splitting the opposing fans on either side of the field with a home and away side also minimized potential conflicts, as can happen with bitter rivals like Carson and South Tahoe.

Playing under the lights, one could notice quite a boost of energy from the players on the field, and that in itself created some high-entertainment.

But the field itself changed visibly changed the game, resulting in perhaps the best atmosphere alteration of all.

As has been dicussed since the field was installed last year, the soccer lines are just on the cusp of the minimum width requirement of 55 yards. It was pointed out to me that the corners on Douglas' grass field on the opposite side of campus would lie somewhere in lane 1 of the new track on the artifical turf.

For those who haven't seen it, that makes for about a 10-yard difference on either side.

At first glance, it appears that the biggest effect from the narrow field would be on the corner kicks.

Instead, it changes the flow of the whole game as both teams are funneled into a vertical style of play, creating a "drag-strip" back-and-forth feel to the game.

It's not the width of the field alone that causes the change. The artificial turf doesn't actually slow down the ball all that much during travel, so teams are forced to play exceptionally fundamental ball when placing their passing game.

The speed of the ball also significantly decreases the advantage of a team with particularly speedy forwards trying to send the ball long in the hopes of a breakaway.

On a long clear, the ball will reach the goalie, or the baseline, much faster that the offensive players, so the field, already being narrow, shortens itself by the sheer velocity of the ball. It literally results in the feel of an arena soccer game.

The minimal dimensions also take away the possession game, so nobody will be able to simply play to run out the clock anymore.

There's no room to play for possession and it is next to impossible to spread out your opponent with your passing game.

Player's have much less time to make a decision with the ball, which creates a distinct advantage for teams that boast veteran depth, because decision-making will obviously come easiery to a more-seasoned player.

On a smaller field, mistakes and defensive breakdowns are magnified exponentially, so the teams that execute better are going to have a much easier time of playing at Douglas.

With time, it stands to reason that the Tigers soccer program will learn the quirks of the new field and be able to use them to their advantage.

They already looked more at home in their first game there than Reno did, and that will only improve with more touches out there.

In the meantime, look for higher scoring games with plenty of back-and-forth play and a more physical style resulting from the close quarters the players will be operating in.

If that doesn't spell spectator-friendly, I don't know what does.

While the football field was host to two great soccer games earlier in the week, Friday night's 32-28 win over Hug may go down as one of the best games at Douglas High in the last 10 years.

Aside from the solid 15-point comeback the Tigers posted, the game had a little bit of everything.

Quarterback David Laird moved within striking distance of the school's top-five in career passing yardage with his career-best 250-yard performance. With 32 yards in the air this week, he could move into third behind Luke Rippee (4,064 yards) and Chris Griffith (2,471 yards).

Brock Peterson punched in three rushing touchdowns against a team that had previously only allowed one on the ground in four games this year. He'll be the first to tell you that his line had as much to do with that as he did.

The defense gave up more rushing yards in a game (312) than they had since the beginning of 2004 and still found a way to make the big stops in the fourth quarter and the offense got itself rolling after it appeared Hug had an answer for just about every move the Tigers made.

If the Tigers' hadn't made a case for the league title yet, they made a big statement Friday night.

They didn't just win and they didn't just come from behind. They came out against a team that was simply superior on the athletic side of things and relied on old-fashioned grit, heart and determination to claw out a win.

This Friday night will tell a lot of the story as Reno comes to town, but as Douglas coach Mike Rippee told his players after the Hug win, "This is one you're going to remember for a long time. This is one that is going to stick in your head as the reason why we do things the way that we do."

We are heading into the midpoint of the fall sports season and, at last count, all seven of the team sports competing for a league championship at Douglas are still in the running.

Football, volleyball, girls' tennis, girls' soccer and girls' golf are all undefeated in league play.

All five of those teams will be in for some tough tests this week with some of the other top teams from the league on the schedule, but those who emerge from this week unblemished will be on the inside track for the crown.

Based on the cummulative votes in the Sierra Nevada Sports Media poll, here are the top-ranked overall athletic programs based on football, boys' soccer, girls' soccer and volleyball so far this season.

1. Douglas

2. Galena

3. Reed

4. Carson

5. Truckee


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