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Douglas Tigers looking for first football win

by Chuck Smock, sports editor

The Douglas Tigers and the Reno Huskies enter their matchup Friday in the same precarious position. Both are 0-2 in Sierra League play and are on the verge of elimination from playoff contention.

And even Friday’s winner will have a lot of work left to do to make the postseason.

“We’re in a must-win situation,” said Douglas coach Mike Rippee, whose team lost a 21-14 decision to Hug High last Friday. “We have to beat Reno, but, more important, we just have to play good football. If we play good football, we can beat the people on our schedule. If we continue to play half a game or a quarter of a game and make the mistakes, we’re going to struggle with everybody.

“It’s nice to talk playoffs, but we have to get this thing righted and play for pride and start playing this game the way it’s supposed to be played. We’ve got to play excited.”

The Tigers can look at the last three minutes of their game with Hug for an example of what emotion can do for a football team.

Trailing 21-7 with 2:39 to play, quarterback Jared Kenison connected with receiver Gabe Hatchett on a screen pass that resulted in a 75-yard touchdown and thrilled a huge Homecoming crowd at Keith Roman Field.

The magic continued when Romaine Smokey recovered the ensuing onsides kick, giving the Tigers the ball near midfield with 2:24 remaining.

Kenison then completed key passes to Hatchett and Erik Olson as Douglas drove deep into Hug territory with time running out. The Hawks, however, preserved the victory by tackling Hatchett short of the goal line on a fourth-down pass play with 10 seconds remaining.

“I finally saw them show their emotions when we have a big play with Gabe at the end and then the onsides kick,” Rippee said. “They were screaming and jumping, that’s what the game has to be. But we can’t wait until we’re a touchdown or two down to start playing that type of ball. We have to play that way in the first quarter.”

The Tigers just missed a chance at some early game momentum when Dan Bradshaw broke through the Hawks’ offensive line and sacked quarterback Marco Bisio on the third play of the game. Bisio fumbled the ball, but the Hawks recovered, starting a run of bad luck for the Tigers that would last all night. Hug fumbled three more times without losing possession.

The Tigers also hurt themselves with penalties, including jumping offsides three times in short-yardage situations that resulted in first downs for the Hawks.

Hug took a 7-0 late in the first quarter. The Tigers had stopped the drive, but the Hawks’ short punt hit a Douglas player and Hug kept control of the ball at the Douglas 26-yard line.

Douglas tied the game with a 5-yard touchdown run by Monte McCann with 4:44 to play in the first half. McCann led the Tigers with 97 yards on 17 carries.

Hug won the game in the third quarter with two long scoring drives that consumed more than seven minutes of the period.

“We had many opportunities and just didn’t take advantage of them,” Rippee said. “I believe the third quarter was really what hurt us. They came out and took a lot of time off the clock and scored 14 points in a 7-7 ball game, and that’s when we had the ball first. That just can’t happen.

“You make your own breaks and we’re not making our own breaks. We have to play with a lot more tenacity, a lot more desire and a lot more will to win. It’s as simple as that.”

Hatchett finished with 106 yards on six receptions. Olson added five catches for 73 yards. Kenison completed 14 of 31 passes for 191 yards.