Football: Douglas clinches playoff spot with win over Spanish Springs
Coming off its best performance of the season to go up against a team coming off its worst performance of the season, the potential for a “trap” game was certainly there for the Douglas football team Thursday night at Spanish Springs.
The Tigers, though, shrugged off a sluggish start and rode four scores on plays of 50 yards or more to a 37-14 win over the Cougars.
“Came off an emotional win last week where we put a lot of things together,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “We were worried about a letdown.
“You have to make you own atmosphere. Again and again we had the big play. We have to establish a few more drives, but we’ll take the big plays. Any way we can get a 6, we’ll take it. Hopefully that’s something we can continue to do.”
The win clinched a playoff spot for the Tigers, who improved to 4-3 in league play and could still fight for a home playoff game if they can beat Galena next week and get some help from a Reno loss and some favorable tiebreakers.
On Thursday, Spanish Springs was without the region’s leading rusher, Conrad Tanyi, who was ineligible for the game.
Douglas took advantage defensively, holding the Cougars to just 264 yards of total offense, 143 of which came on 16 completions out of 40 pass attempts. They also forced 10 Spanish Springs punts in the game, eight of which came in the first half.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers had little trouble moving up and down the field, but had to overcome a slow start that saw a stalled drive and the first of four fumbles (three lost) on their first two possessions.
“He’s got his kids playing hard in a tough situation,” Rippee said. “You have to change your offense in the middle of the year, that’s tough.
“Thos ekids flew around and played hard. They helped themselves stay in the game and made some things happen.
“I was proud of our kids to overcome some of the mistakes we made. They played hard and got themselves and important ‘W’. The defense played well.”
Douglas got things going on its third drive when junior running back Conner Peterson busted up the middle untouched for a 60-yard touchdown.
He finished the night with 22 carries for 132 yards.
Nate VonAhsen later tacked on a 24-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to put Douglas up 9-0.
Douglas stalled Spanish Springs’ next drive at the Cougar 30, but the Tigers fumbled the punt return, setting the Cougars up at the Tiger 36.
A 24-yard pass play followed by a 25-yard run off tackle put Spanish Springs on the board and cut the score to 9-7.
The teams traded possessions before Michael Nolting hit Peterson for a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage. Peterson got a nice block along the perimeter and cut the run back 58 yards for the touchdown and the 16-7 lead with 3:19 left in the first half. That too was the first play of the drive.
The teams then traded possessions seven times over the next three minutes, with each team fumbling once, before Nolting hit VonAhsen on a slant with 18 seconds left in the half. VonAhsen eluded the potential tackle and sprinted past two defenders for a 75-yard score and the 23-7 lead.
“That was great,” Rippee said. “Things were still in question. 16-7 is a two-score lead. But a big play like that before halftime can start to deflate your ego a bit.
Nolting finished with 14 completions for 245 yards and two touchdowns.
Coming out of halftime, Spanish Springs forced Douglas into a 3-and-out and drove 51 yards before missing a 27-yard field goal attempt.
“That was a big turning point,” Rippee said. “We made a big stop and rode it from there.”
Peterson then carried eight times for 47 yards on what would be a 12-play, 80-yard drive culminating with a three-yard score by Peterson.
Spanish Springs tacked on a late score against Douglas’ second-team defense, and Tiger senior Cole Melhus, in his first appearance as a varsity kick returner, took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for the score to set the score at its final with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game.
The Douglas defensive front had a field day in the game as Trevor Shaffer came up with four sacks and Zach Kinder, Jackson Ketron and Cory Dillon each came up with one.