Every postseason matchup this fall was a rematch from the regular season.
Friday night, Galena football got the better of Douglas, stunning the Tigers, 18-7, to win the Class 5A North Div. III regional championship.
On the opening drive, Galena marched 83 yards on 13 plays before Colson Kermode found the end zone on a quarterback keeper.
The Grizzlies never trailed after scoring on the first possession of the game.
Kermode’s legs caused the Tiger defense fits, as the junior quarterback was able to escape consistently with his wheels.
When he did run into trouble, the junior play caller was able to lower his head and rumble for extra yards.
It was a feat almost nobody had been able to accomplish against Douglas’ defense this season.
The Tigers nearly responded in kind to Galena’s opening touchdown, but the Grizzly defense held firm with their backs to the goal line.
Douglas had second-and-goal at the Grizzly three-yard line, but Galena didn’t let the Tigers get into the end zone and forced a turnover on downs.
Douglas’ defense got a fourth down stop of its own on the ensuing series, but punted after a three-and-out.
Galena took advantage, kicking a field goal to go up 9-0.
Galena’s defense holds its own
Six weeks ago, the Grizzlies gave up 51 points to Douglas in a rout.
Friday, Galena didn’t allow Douglas’ offense to score a single point.
The Tigers lone touchdown came on a kickoff return from Brenton Weston.
With the Tigers trailing 9-0 after a Galena 38-yard field goal from Ben Imse, Weston caught a short kickoff with 90 seconds remaining in the half.
His first move was laterally, faking like he was going to pitch the ball to a teammate.
The ball fake opened up a seam and allowed Weston to go roughly 78 yards to the end zone.
It was the only score of the game for the Tigers.
“They just had a good defensive gameplan,” said Douglas High head coach Kyle Mays. “They were able to shut down power (run). Connor wasn’t 100 percent and it cost us a little bit.”
(Douglas High junior Brenton Weston sets up a fake pitch on a kickoff return against Galena in the Class 5A North Div. III regional title game. Weston returned the kick for a touchdown. / Ron Harpin)
Connor Jackson, who ran for over 300 yards in the first meeting between the two sides, was limited to just over 50 yards rushing and 11 yards receiving in the rematch.
The Grizzlies ability to stifle Douglas’ rushing attack allowed Galena to force plenty of third-and-longs.
In the second half, Douglas managed just two first downs on offense.
The second came on a Galena encroachment penalty inside of the final minute of regulation.
In the opening half, all three of the Tigers’ first downs came on the opening drive.
On the other side of the ball, Douglas’ defense kept it in the contest all night.
Even as Galena had chances to put the game away, Douglas’ defensive 11 came up big.
However, both teams hurt themselves with penalties.
With a first-and-goal at the Tiger 9 midway through the third quarter, Galena committed two false starts before a delay of game kept them from getting close to the goal line.
Douglas tipped the Grizzlies 24-yard field goal attempt, which went wide.
The Tigers’ ensuing drive made it down the Galena’s 27, but on fourth-and-11 an incomplete pass gave Galena the ball back.
Weston later grabbed an interception with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed Douglas back inside its own 20 before the Tiger offense went three-and-out.
Galena’s lone touchdown in the second half came after forcing a fumble on the kickoff out of the locker room.
A big hit on the Tiger return man setup up the Grizzlies with possession at Douglas’ 26.
Kermode capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
“We knew they were going to put it in Kermode’s hands. It paid off for them,” said Mays. “(Our) defense held us in. The defense gave up 16 points. The offense just wasn’t able to execute like normal. It ultimately ended up costing us.”
The only other points of the second half came inside of the final 60 seconds when Galena’s Maclain McBride was able to record a safety, following a Douglas defensive fourth down stand on its own goal line.
The safety made it 18-7 with 45.7 seconds to go and essentially solidified the regional crown for Galena.
Galena will play for the Class 5A Div. III state title Saturday at Mackay Stadium against Legacy, the south’s top seed. Legacy beat Palo Verde, 34-18, for the regional title in Las Vegas.
NIAA executive director Donnie Nelson said in an email Friday morning that the kickoff time for the Class 5A Div. III state title game would not be announced until Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
Tiger wrap up historic season
Douglas will not play for a state title, but that won’t minimize what the Tigers did on the field this fall.
Douglas ripped the cover off the school’s record book, setting at least seven different program records over the course of the season.
The senior class consists of 23 players and several will go on to play collegiately.
Douglas will still get promoted to Class 5A Div. II next season after winning the regular season title, replacing Damonte Ranch as the Mustangs will come down to Div. III next fall.
“These kids have worked their tails off. They deserve everything that comes their way,” said Mays. “They worked really, really hard and there is nothing for them to hang their heads about.”
Douglas ends the 2023 campaign with a 10-2 record after back-to-back 1-9 seasons.