Football: Douglas breaks through with big win
If there are any three things Douglas High School football is built on, it’s running the football, hard-nosed defense and solid special teams play.
All three were on exhibit Friday night as Douglas raced to a 49-20 win over North Valleys in Minden.
Douglas’ Ryen Ake accounted for 303 yards of total offense, including four touchdown runs, an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown and 210 rushing yards.
On the other side, the Tiger defense limited the potent Panther offense to 287 yards (96 in the second half), holding them scoreless in three out of four quarters.
“The kids stepped up and played good old-fashioned Douglas football,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “This is a big win for us. I felt that we were at a crossroads as a team. We’ve been playing hard but we’ve been making some mistakes.
“We didn’t play well enough to win in the first week, last week I though we did even with some of the adversity we’ve been up against. But tonight was two teams without a win yet and looking down the road, we had to start putting together some wins here if we are going to start talking about the playoffs. The kids really responded. We ran the ball like I thought we could and we kept a really good offense in check.”
Douglas finished with 54 carries for 350 yards as sophomore Conner Peterson had eight carries for 106 and quarterback Sam Cochran had eight carries for 27.
North Valleys took a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter after standout wide receiver Nick Palko caught a 6-yard halfback touchdown pass from Alex Fong and raced into the end zone on a 61-yard pitch-and-catch from quarterback Tim Herman just five plays later.
The Tigers subsequently made an adjustment on Palko, giving him a bump at the line, and limited him to just five catches for 21 yards through the remainder of the game. North Valleys’ passing game, not incoincidentally, managed just 61 yards and no touchdowns through the rest of the game — which proved to be the death knell for the pass-happy offense.
“No. 8 (Palko) is a good receiver,” Rippee said. “We tried to adjust on him and take him away a little bit. He’s a fine receiver and Tim Herman has a great arm. Our whole game plan just came down to making them catch the ball in front of us and then swarming to the ball.
As a result, the Panthers managed only three plays of more than 20 yards in the game.
“We left it up to our guys up front – Zach Falanga, Trevor Hemsath, August Greth, Riley Griffith and Shane Connelly – to take care of the run and pressure the QB.
They did a great job, the defensive backs did a great job. I was very proud of the effort on defense overall.
“This is a team that scored 40 against Spanish Springs and 26 against Carson, so you know they’re pretty good. Our conditioning came up big and our special teams came up big.”
Cochran completed seven passes for 131 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown to Nick Maestretti that put Douglas up 7-0 late in the first quarter.
After North Valleys took the 13-7 lead, Douglas answered quickly with a seven-play, 63-yard drive capped by a 16-yard run from Ake.
The Panthers answered back with a 10-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 33-yard run from Fong to make it 20-14 with 5:41 remaining in the first half.
It was all Tigers from there.
Ake scored on a 22-yard run on the following drive to give the Tigers a 21-20 lead.
Douglas had kicker Nate VonAhsen placed a diagonal squib quick about 20 yards downfield toward the right sideline that Douglas was able to jump on to retain possession.
“We were just trying to put the ball on the ground and see what happened,” Rippee said. “We tried to take them deep earlier in the game but Palko broke the return and if Nate hadn’t run him down, it would have been a score.
“The way the game was going, we thought it was best to keep the ball closer to us and maybe get a good bounce here or there. It worked out.”
While Douglas didn’t score on the ensuing drive, it was able to run about two minutes off the clock and keep the Panther offense on ice.
It proved to be valuable in keeping the momentum heading into halftime.
The Tigers got the ball to open the second half, but their drive sputtered at their own 47.
Their coverage on Steven Werth’s punt, though, forced a North Valleys’ fumble, which Tanner Egan jumped on at the Panther 17.
Ake took the next play from scrimmage into the end zone for the 28-20 lead.
The Tiger defense stopped North Valleys’ first drive of the second half and Ake returned the punt 84 yards for the touchdown, marking the first time the program had a punt-return score since 2006 when Tyler Tinstman returned three for scores against South Tahoe.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those,” Rippee said. “I think that was the backbreaker tonight. That one kind of sealed the deal for us.
“Special teams was huge tonight. We recovered the fumble, had the return and Nate VonAhsen was perfect on PATs. We stress special teams. The kids play hard and buy into it. All year long, our special teams has been big. It’s an aspect of the game we focus on every week. Joe Andrews is the coordinator of that unit and he’s done a great job.”
Ake added a two-yard touchdown run and backup quarterback Michael Nolting tacked on a one-yard touchdown run late in the game to account for the remainder of Douglas’ scoring.
Defensively, Shane Connelly had a sack and a forced fumble, Riley Griffith blocked a field goal attempt and VonAhsen picked off a pass.
The 350 rushing yards were the most Douglas had put up in a game since a 48-20 win over Carson in 2007 when the Tigers had 394 rushing yards.
The was due in large part to the continued development of the offensive line, which primarily consisted of Trevor Shaffer, August Greth, Zach Tierney, Spencer Fellows, Ben Reed and Matt Wylie.