Douglas High football

1974: The Tigers’ lone state title

Bill Coverley

Bill Coverley
File photo

In 1974, Douglas High football won its only state title to date.

What makes the achievement more remarkable is that the Tigers won their title after graduating 20 letterman and all but four starters from the 1973 squad.

That ’73 season, Douglas went 8-1, with the only loss coming to Yerington.

Even with so many shoes to fill, Douglas had lots of talent.

At quarterback was three-year veteran Tim Roberts; Russell Burnum accompanied him in the backfield.

Roberts and defensive lineman David Snow both went on to play D-I football at Idaho after winning the state title.

Burnum was named the Nevada all-state player of the year and then coach Bill Coverley was selected as the coach of the year.

By season’s end, it was only fellow North team Fallon which stood in the way of Douglas’ AA (pronounced “Double-A” at the time) championship aspirations.


Douglas went 8-1-1 in 1974, with its lone loss coming by a 22-8 margin to Lowry.

The loss was considered the biggest upset of the season and dropped the Tigers to 5-1.

However, it didn’t take long for Douglas to bounce back. The Tigers bested every opponent after that, outside of an 8-8 tie with Bishop Manogue.

Todd Wilcks, who was a sophomore on that team, said a huge part of the Tigers being as successful as they were came down to the seniors on the team.

“They really were the heart and soul of that whole team,” said Wilcks. “They were the sparks of the team. They were the key for the success.”

Wilcks said the talent on the team first showed through with a 32-15 win over AAA-level Hug.

There were more surprises in store around the North, as Elko knocked off Fallon in the last game of the regular season.

After Douglas downed Fallon, 6-0, the Greenwave ended their season by losing their final two games of 1974.


The 1974 AA state-title game was a rugged, defensive affair.

The Tigers’ Roberts scored the eventual winning touchdown with 46 seconds left in the opening half after Douglas defender Philip Fingar grabbed an interception at Fallon’s 37.

In a postgame interview after the Tigers won their championship, Coverley said he began to understand the pressures of big-time collegiate football.

“Now I know how it feels when college coaches go to bowl games,” said Coverley. “Playing for a state championship is fun and winning is just icing on the cake.”

Burnum carried for more than 1,400 yards that season on his way to being named the Nevada player of the year.

Gil Castillo, Mark Kizer, David Snow, Louis Stodieck and Jerry Popichak were also first team all-state selections.

Burnum and Roberts were chosen as all-state players on both sides of the football.

Wilcks, Jacques Etchegoyhen, Terry Cruz and Russ Wheaton all picked up honorable mention all-state nods, as well.


A rainstorm the night before the championship game forced Coverley and Tiger administrators to scramble to try and get Dressler Field ready in time for kickoff.

Douglas knew its advantage was in its burst plays with its speedsters.

In order to help dry the field, Red Roberts of Harvey’s James Canyon Ranch hovered a helicopter over the field for several hours to dry the playing surface.

“Our team was built for speed. We had some real fast, shifty guys. Fallon was more straight ahead,” said Wilcks. “We knew a wet field was going to be in their advantage. We were doing everything we could to get the field in better shape.”

Wilcks doesn’t feel that they heard too much from their rivals in Carson about not playing them on their way to the state title.

Of course, that was during the 13-year span where the two teams didn’t play, as they were a part of different classifications.

“There wasn’t a lot of trash talking that I remember,” said Wilcks.

The 1974 season still stands as Douglas’ lone state title since the program began more than 100 years ago.


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