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Focus is on passing for the Tigers

Donnie Nelson

Yes, the Douglas varsity football team will actually throw the ball a few times this year (at least more than last year) and for a good reason.

Quarterback Chris Griffith has had to take preseason drills a little more seriously this preseason because the focus on the passing game promises to be a little bit stronger than it was last year. That’s not to say the running game won’t come first but, with a solid offensive line and a trio of sure-handed receivers, the attack should be more balanced. That would translate into defenses having to be more honest, more yardage gained and ultimately more points put on the scoreboard.

If the offense can give the defense something to work with, look out. The Tigers could be better than last year.

“We’ll pass more than last year, I think,” said receivers coach Casey Shine, a tight end the past two years for the wide-open (but structured) passing game of the University of Nevada. “We have a quarterback that can throw and that’s why the everybody is so excited about the passing game. We’ve really stressed it since I’ve been here. We also have some guys who can catch the ball.”

Griffith will primarily be throwing to seniors Adam Bill and Try Fontana, and junior Jimmy Coyne.

Of course the passing game, and the running game too for that matter, can’t execute without a solid line in front of them.

The Tigers return four starters up front with good size– center Matt Stangle (senior, 6-2, 250), tackles Dan Crawford (senior, 6-3, 270) and James Pendergrass (senior, 6-0, 220), and tight end Beau Krueger (senior, 6-2, 220). Four seniors equal a great deal of experience.

“I believe they’re the foundation of the team,” offensive coordinator Ernie Monfiletto said. “All games are won and lost on the line and they all take it personal and hold themselves responsible. This senior group is the backbone of the line. It’s made my job easier because I have them all back. They will set the tone.”

The starting guard positions are open for now. Matt Tretton (junior, 6-2, 220), Garrett Anderson (junior, 6-0, 235), Mike Varner (6-0, 180) and Sili Mafua (sophomore, 5-10, 265) are the leading candidates. Junior Joel Krueger (6-2, 195) should prove to be a valuable reserve at tight end.

“I feel really comfortable with whoever gets the guard positions,” Monfiletto said. “In fact, I feel comfortable with the entire offensive line. They’re all loyal and committed.”

Seniors Brady Ovard (5-9, 175) and Kevin Lehr (6-2, 210) will start at sweep back and half back, respectively, giving the Tigers arguably the best running duo in the division.

“They have to be leaders for us,” running backs coach Ted Borda said. “We’re pretty young otherwise. Those seniors are great and now we have to have the juniors step up and make a successful transition from junior varsity ball.”

Levi Shoda could start at full back. Wes Naugle, Aaron Nelson and Javier Duarte, also all juniors, could alternate at the running back positions.

“They’re all young guys and we’re waiting for them to step up,” Borda said. “Douglas has traditionally always had great running backs, and that’s going back 30 years. There’s a real chance for the young juniors to step up and fill their shoes.”