Douglas hopes crushed in 4th quarter
Douglas’ hopes of hosting a first-round playoff game were crushed in the fourth quarter Friday as Carson rallied and then held on for a 35-30 victory in a Class 4A Northern Division II football showdown.
Carson, 5-1 in the division and 7-2 overall, captured second place and with it a home playoff game Thursday against Reed. Douglas, which came in on a roll after key division wins over Reno and South Tahoe, finished the regular season 4-2 in league and 6-3 overall. The Tigers will play at Elko, the No. 2 seed from Division I, Thursday in the first round.
“I’m disappointed,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “We played hard. We didn’t play very well in the first half and Carson played well the entire game.”
Both teams didn’t waste much time getting on the scoreboard. Carson drove 74 yards on six plays and took a 7-0 lead less than 2:30 into the game. Douglas answered with a 10-play, 80-yard drive and tied the game at 7-all with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
The Douglas defense made its first big stand of the game late in the first quarter. Carson, led by Dave Krueger, Ryan Hoerth and Gary Brooks, ran 10 straight running plays and got down to the Douglas 10 but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-2. Kruger, who finished with 165 yards on the ground, including a 32-yard scamper on the left side on the first play of the drive, was caught from behind by Beau Kruger as he tried to turn up field behind the left guard.
Douglas struggled offensively the rest of the half and failed to keep pace with Carson’s mixed attack.
The Senators drove 66 yards on six plays early in the second quarter and scored a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead. Quarterback Jordan Payette, who finished 8-for-12 for 102 yards, completed all three of his pass attempts on the drive, including a 34-yard floater over the middle to Austin Leck for the touchdown.
Carson extended the lead to 21-7 on its next possession. Krueger broke it big again, bumbling and stumbling through poor tackling for a 45-yard touchdown.
The first half was far from a thing of beauty for the Tigers. Douglas managed 115 yards of offense compared to 300 for Carson.
Kevin Lehr, who would finish with 147 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, had just five carries for nine yards at the break while Krueger had 14 carries for 133 yards. Griffith, who would finish 19-for-36 for 203 yards, was 8-of-16 passing for 97 yards and one interception at the break. Payette connected on his first seven passes for 98 yards.
The Tigers battled back in the second half, scoring on their first three possessions to take a 24-21 lead.
Lehr raced 69 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
The defense held and the offense marched 66 yards on 11 plays on its second possession. Lehr, who earlier in the drive had gains of nine and 22 yards on sweep plays, scored from two yards out to tie the game at 21-all with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
The key play of the drive came two plays before the touchdown when Griffith connected with Joel Kruger for 12 yards on a fourth-and-four play from the Carson 15. The senior quarterback just beat the pressure coming from his backside and made good on the misdirection play.
“That’s the way we can play,” Rippee said. “We got back to doing what we do best, keeping defenses off balance.”
After another defensive stand, Douglas took its first lead of the game with 8:41 remaining. Griffith hit Adam Bill for a 14 yards on a quick out to the left side on third-and-eight from the Carson 30 late in the 14-play drive, but Douglas had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Griffith when the drive stalled at the Carson 14.
“We came back and held them to just three points,” Carson coach Bob Bateman said. “Then came back and scored on them. That may have been the turning point of the game.”
Carson regained its composure on its first possession of the fourth quarter and went back to what worked for them in the first half, running.
Krueger returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards out to the 47, and then had two runs for first downs on the first three plays of the quick drive. Brooks, who finished with 64 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, capped the drive with runs of 17 and two yards, respectively.
Linebacker Ryan Berkich picked off a pass from Griffith on the next play from scrimmage to set up Carson’s final touchdown, a 3-yard run by Brooks with 4:03 remaining.
“I was just back looking for someone to cover,” Berkich said. “I looked up and there was the ball. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Griffith hit Bill four times in the first seven plays of Douglas’ next possession, all for 8-yard pickups on quick outs. He capped the drive by finding Kruger up the middle for 15 yards on a fourth-and-10 trick play from the Carson 20 and then Ovard in the deep left corner of the end zone for five yards and a touchdown.
Douglas, behind 35-30 with 1:40 left after the touchdown, didn’t get the on-side kickoff but did get the ball back with 32 seconds left. However, Griffith overthrew Bill on a fly pattern down the right sideline on first down, Ovard across the middle on second down and was intercepted by Paul Glass on third down.
Carson took one snap and ran out the clock.
“We fully expected a battle up until the last minute and that’s what happened,” Krueger said. “We knew coming in they were a good football team. This was a huge game and should really give us a boost for the playoffs.”