Douglas High football finding growth in younger players
Carson (2-7, 0-4) at Douglas (3-6, 1-3)
Where: Douglas High School
When: 7 p.m.
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Douglas football has seen an influx of younger talent take over on the football field this season.
Nearly everywhere you look on the Tigers’ team leaderboard, offense or defense, you’ll find a plethora of sophomores and juniors helping to carry the weight of the football team.
This Friday, those players still growing through the ranks will face a must-win scenario on their home turf against their rivals, Carson High (2-7, 0-4).
A win means Douglas is likely postseason bound, assuming Wooster falls to Damonte Ranch and Galena loses to Bishop Manogue.
With both Wooster and Galena playing on Saturday, Douglas will be forced to scoreboard watch to see where it may fall. A Wooster win over Damonte Ranch would effectively eliminate the Tigers, regardless of their result against the Senators on Friday.
“Let’s start with priorities here, No. 1 it’s your rival and so you have to beat Carson, period,” said Douglas head coach Ernie Monfiletto. “This is a playoff game. … The kids understand how important this is so this sits on their shoulders.”
Growing alongside each other
A large senior class last season allowed some underclassmen to make progress and learn the speed of the game on the field last season, but this year those same pieces have become mainstays on the turf.
The skill positions on offense are nearly entirely composed of sophomores and juniors in the black and orange.
Starting quarterback Isaac Shaver has been one of the best passers in the Sierra League this season as a sophomore.
He’s had plenty of help from his main two wideouts in Cameron Swain and Isaiah Geilenfeldt, who are both juniors.
The two wide receivers were the leading pass catchers in 2018, but 2019 has seen the two turn into much bigger threats as they’ve combined for 10 touchdown catches as opposed to one in their sophomore seasons.
“I think we throw the ball pretty well,” said Geilenfeldt and Shaver in near unison.
The confidence between the trio has developed all season long and all three are well aware they have another season to continue to make plays.
“There definitely is (confidence), knowing that next year you can come back and play,” said Swain. “You always have to come back and fight for your spot because nothing is guaranteed every year. It’s just nice to know that you have another year of football.”
Another staple in the offense this year was also able to break on scene last season and impress as running back Trevor Kruger has rushed his way to 1,124 yards this season.
The junior halfback was called up to varsity action three games into his sophomore campaign in 2018 and quickly made a name for himself, averaging over 100 yards per contest.
“I think it’ll be fun because I love playing with the guys out there already and I still get to play with them for another year. It’s just exciting,” said Kruger. “We’re tight together as a group.”
Though Douglas sits at 3-6 this season, none of the younger players are waiting to develop into their roles.
Of the 31 touchdowns the Tigers have scored this season, 29 have come from a sophomore or junior.
Getting their feet wet on defense
The Tigers’ defense is nearly as reliant on its sophomore and junior classes as well.
Six of the top seven tacklers will be back next season and outside of senior Isaac Leigh, it has been the young guns leading the way.
Gabe Foster and Christopher Smalley have been forces to be reckoned with at linebacker as the two have 76 and 65 tackles, respectively, this season.
Juniors Brady Dufloth and Dominic Costarella have also made an impact with 37 and 36 tackles tacked on to their own resumes.
In his sophomore season, Dufloth had 33 tackles in eight games and he noted how important that early playing time was in his development.
“It really helped me this year because I got that experience with varsity reps,” said Dufloth.
Smalley echoed Dufloth’s sentiments while also adding the younger talent wouldn’t be nearly as successful if it wasn’t for the seniors above them.
“They lead by example,” said Smalley. “I think it’s been good because we can build team chemistry and as we get older it will help us.”
Douglas has recorded nine sacks this season, 8.5 of which have come from its non-seniors and out of the four interceptions and six fumble recoveries all but two have been by a sophomore or junior.
Numerous members of the varsity team have been playing alongside each other since their middle school football days as well, adding to the familiarity.
Even with the confidence of knowing there is more time ahead, the younger members of Douglas haven’t lost their focus on what is right around the corner with a chance at the postseason.
“We’re ready for Carson. If playoffs come, we will be ready for that too,” Dufloth said.
“Playoffs aren’t secured, but we’re still fighting for it,” added Shaver.