The 2023 fall football season will be unlike anything Nevada high school sports fans have seen in quite some time.
With Class 5A now three divisions, the landscape is wide open.
Douglas High will be in Class 5A Division III this fall and the Tigers are chomping at the bit to get the season underway.
After a 1-8 season last fall, the Tigers have a completely different league slate to work through this year.
Making the calls in the huddle will be Jackson Ovard, who showcased his arm at moments during the scrimmage Friday against Galena.
Ovard takes over for Owen Evans, who separated his shoulder and will be back at some point in the middle of the fall slate.
“We will see what happens when Owen comes back, but I have a lot of confidence in him,” said Douglas High head coach Kyle Mays. “His greatest strengths are throwing the ball. He’s really, really smart in reading defenses.”
Returning as the work horse and feature back will be senior Connor Jackson, who had 652 yards rushing and five touchdowns last season en route to a second team all-region selection.
“I don’t think we get the ball in his hands enough,” said Mays of Jackson. “He will have the ball in his hands 20 or 25 times a game.”
Joining Jackson in the backfield will be fullback Andrew Strand, who Mays said would also get some touches.
Ovard’s options on the outside will be Trace Estes and Kyle Koontz, who were first and third, respectively, in receiving yards last season for the Tigers.
Koontz was also a second team all-region choice last fall.
Senior Aaron Moss and junior Brenton Weston will also be a part of the receiving core as well.
Starting at right tackle and right guard will be Jack Ross and Sage Adie, respectively. Ross and Adie were all-region honorable mention a season ago.
Austin Pitts will see time on the line once he returns from a knee injury.
Ledger Soule will be at center and Michael Cahill will be the lone underclassman on the line, starting at left guard.
“He is every coach’s dream,” said Mays of Cahill. “He’s a hard-nosed, tough, working kid.”
Senior Michael White will return as left tackle.
(Douglas High defensive lineman Nathan Stevens wraps up a Galena ball carrier while Cole Smalley, right, comes in for the assist. / Carter Eckl)
Defense and special teams
Starting from the inside out, a couple of Tigers will be two-way threats on the line.
Adie and Koontz are expected to have solid roles on the defensive line this fall.
Trevor Shaver will be Douglas’ nose tackle while Nathan Stevens and Justin Parra-McGee will rotate into the mix.
Returning at linebacker will be first team all-region selection Cole Smalley, who was second in Northern Nevada in tackles last fall.
Aaron Tekansik, who was an honorable mention all-region player last season, will join Smalley in the linebacking corps.
“He does what Cole does. Everybody knows Cole,” said Mays. “We will put the scout defense in Tekansik’s hands and he does a great job.”
At outside linebacker senior Zach Westbrook, Estes and Strand will see playing time.
With all three playing on offense, Mays says they’ll have to rotate to keep fresh legs on the field.
Moss and Ryker Rivinius will be staples at cornerback until Evans returns.
Weston and Jackson will play some safety, but the head coach added that Jackson’s time on defense would be limited due to his role with the offense.
Zach Jackson, Connor’s younger brother, has worked his way into the starting safety role.
Mays said the kicking side of special teams is still up in the air.
“We hope we don’t ever have to punt,” said Mays.
Coaching staff and expectations
Mays will take over the play calling reigns on offense this season and said the only change fans may notice will be featured around a smaller playbook with more nuance.
Brady Ovard has been the passing game coordinator for the Tigers this offseason, while Steven Nelms also returns to the sideline and has been the run coordinator.
Ryan Moglich is back for the Tigers where he has continued working with the offensive line and will be the defensive coordinator.
Colin Inwood, who has coached at the lower levels, will also join the varsity staff this fall.
Since Class 5A Division III is new, Douglas will see some teams in league games it hasn’t faced in a while.
The Tigers will take on Hug, North Valleys and Wooster this season before also testing themselves against Galena and Carson in league play.
Mays said Galena will be ‘one of the top dogs’ this fall, but he’s anxious to see more film from the new teams in the league.
Douglas Tigers football schedule
Aug. 18 – at Argonaut (California), 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 – vs. Elko, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 – at Spring Creek, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 – at Damonte Ranch, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – vs. Reed, 7 p.m.
*Sept. 22 – at Galena, 7 p.m.
*Sept. 29 – vs. Hug, 7 p.m.
*Oct. 6 – at North Valleys, 7 p.m.
*Oct. 13 – vs. Wooster, 7 p.m.
*Oct. 20 – vs. Carson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 – First round of Class 5A Division III postseason
*denotes Class 5A Div. III league game