Football: Douglas everywhere in postseason honors
Heading into the season, no one really knew what to expect from the Douglas High football team this year.
Losing 34 seniors from a team that rattled off 11 straight victories and advanced to the regional championship game in 2003, most in Carson Valley thought it would be a basic rebuilding year.
But the 2004 Tigers not only far surpassed the expectations of just about everyone outside the program, they out-worked, out-played, and out-charactered their opponents, making their way into the Northern 4A semifinals.
Nearly every one of Douglas’ eight wins came with extraordinary and complete team efforts, but coaches around the league recently recognized some of the outstanding individuals on the Tigers’ roster for their efforts this season.
Douglas had five all-region selections, eight first-team all-league winners, nine second-teamers and three honorable mentions in the annual postseason awards.
“There’s no secret to our success this year,” Douglas head coach Mike Rippee said. “We had great players and great leaders at every position on the field. I think the way the all-league vote turned out and the results of the season are really indicative of that.”
Douglas standout running back Spike Agosta took the opening offensive play of the season behind left tackle Tyson Estes 44 yards for a touchdown at Reed High School.
The play set the tone for the entire year as Agosta ran for a school record 1,881 yards (averaging 7.43 yards per carry) and 25 touchdowns. He kicked 39 PATs and four field goals to lead the entire region with 207 points.
Appropriately, Agosta was named the 2004 All-Sierra League Offensive Player of the Year.
“He is one of the best running backs we have ever had,” Rippee said. “What else can I say? It wasn’t just by accident, he worked extremely hard to get to that point. He maintained a great attitude, even as a junior.”
Agosta sat behind Tiger standout Dusty Cooper (the previous single-season rushing record-holder) in 2003, and came out and won the starting tailback job during the spring.
He was the Tigers’ go-to guy all season, carrying the ball more than 250 times. He earned first-team All-Northern 4A and first-team All-Sierra League honors at running back, and even garnered a second-team all-league nod at kicker and an honorable mention at return specialist.
“He kept a great work ethic,” Rippee said. “Guys who have that kind of great attitude tend to have really good things happen to them.”
Douglas also had four of its offensive linemen, who all had a hand in Agosta’s record-breaking season, honored in the postseason awards.
Leading the group was Tyson Estes, who was named the Sierra League’s Lineman of the Year, going with his first-team all-region and all-league mentions at both offensive and defensive tackle.
“Tyson was the best lineman in the state,” Rippee said. “There were few who saw him play that would argue with that. He played on both sides of the ball and was a team leader.
“He was first-team all-region on defense as a junior, and he came out this year and had the type of season we knew he could have.
“We built both our offensive and defensive lines around him and he was another guy who just had a great attitude and provided us with that complete package you really want in a player.”
Datin Whatcott, the Tigers’ starting center this year, also earned first-team all-league recognition for his efforts on the season.
“He got switched over to center as a junior,” Rippee said. “He is a guard or a tackle, but he stepped in and in our scheme, the center is a very important part of our scheme. He got better with every single game, just kept improving and learning. One of his best games was against Manogue (a 30-14 victory in the first round of the playoffs) and that was a great time to have it.”
Nate Newton, who saw time at tackle and guard this season, received an second-team all-league nod and guard Trevor Freitas received an honorable mention.
Punter Tim Coleman rounded out the Tiger first-teamers with an all-league recognition at punter.
“Tim got dinged a little because we just didn’t punt very much this year,” Rippee said. “He was a first-team all-region guy as a junior and nothing really changed. We place a lot of importance on our kicking game, and he was able to consistently place the ball down inside the 15 and the 10 for us and that was real important to our defensive success this year.”
Coleman had a deceptively strong leg, with a regular ability to punt the ball more than 50 yards. He had more than one returner backpedaling this season. Against McQueen, one of his kicks caught the Lancer returner out of position, forcing him to fumble deep in Tiger territory, setting up one of the Tigers’ best scoring chances in the game.
“He kept us in good shape this year,” Rippee said. “He is the best around.”
Douglas had one of the better defensive units in the region all season, using a swarming philosophy to literally smother their opponents.
The Tigers 5-3 defense allowed only six touchdowns in league play and four of those came against eventual league champion Hug High School.
“It’s a lot harder to replace people on offense, ” Rippee said. “Defense is the fun side of the ball. It’s a lot more heart and desire and our defense was just indicative of our team. They always went out and played hard for 48 minutes.
“These guys bought into our concept here, and they had to work very hard to do that.”
Leading the Tigers’ defensive juggernaut was what many considered to be the best all-around linebacking corps in the state.
“The three guys we had there, we knew they would be good,” Rippee said. “As a unit they were better than anyone. All you had to do was watch how they played.”
Outside linebackers Keenan Copp and Kyle Luken each had first-team all-league mentions and middle linebacker Cory Hartzell received second-team all-league recognition.
Copp added a first-team all-region mention as well.
“Cory had a tough job,” Rippee said. “That middle is tough, you don’t ever really get a great shot at people. He was always in the bunch, making tackles with the opposing guards and tackles right in his face.
“Keenan and Kyle were my bookends. They were always in the middle of every play.”
All three exhibited extreme amounts of toughness throughout the season. Hartzell played through a recurring stinger problem while Luken played on a badly sprained ankle through the second half of the season and Copp played with a bad cut on his nose that often forced the refs to remove him from the game because he was bleeding to much.
“That was the only time he ever left the field,” Rippee said of Copp, who also rushed 386 yards and five touchdowns at fullback. “And even then he was mad that he had to come out.
“All three of those guys were just what you wanted at linebacker. The toughest players out there. Kyle played on a broken leg for a while last year. Keenan had some of our biggest hits on the entire year, he was our big play guy, he had some big interceptions too.
“Cory played right through his problems, and I can’t even tell you how though that must have been. Anyone who has ever had a stinger, knows how much that hurts. The amount of strength and courage he showed us was amazing.”
Safety Bryan Brady also received first-team all-region and all-league honors at safety.
“Bryan was basically a linebacker playing safety for us. I considered him just a member of our linebacking crew,” Rippee said. “Anytime he read run, he was right in their.”
Brady badly dislocated his knee during summer workouts in June, just days after suffering a severe concussion during summer baseball after colliding with his brother D.J. in the outfield.
“He was sitting there not sure if he was even going to play, but he just kept working,” Rippee said. “Bryan was in the same mold of a lot of our tough defensive backs in the past and he stepped up and led this team with a lot of heart. He had a fantastic year.”
Senior nose guard Tyree Holeridge and senior defensive back Tim Senger also had second-team all-league mentions. Senior defensive end Mike Buffo, who had a number of sacks on the year, received and all-league honorable mention for his play.
“Tyree is just a wonderful young man,” Rippee said. “He played through a tough shoulder injury that he had to have surgery on last year and then had to rehab it.
“He was a linebacker/fullback, but we switched him over to nose guard this year and he just kept learning every week. In our defensive scheme you have to have a good nose guard, and he really continued our tradition of having strong nose guards.”
Douglas also got a big boost for its future, getting second team all-league mentions for junior quarterback Roman Davis, junior receiver/defensive back D.J. Brady, and sophomore defensive end Brent Koontz.
“Roman had some big shoes to fill this year and he really hadn’t played a whole lot of quarterback coming into the season,” Rippee said. “He had to compete for a starting job, he won it and then did a fine job of leading this football team.
“His greatest attribute is his toughness. That’s something you can’t teach. He learned and kept us moving the ball.
“D.J.’s best year is yet to come. He had four interceptions and some great catches at receiver. He was an impact player for us this year and now he has to assume that leadership role for next year.
“I watched Brent play freshman ball, and that can be misleading because he’s out there against other freshmen, but his work ethic really told us a lot. We told him we’d take a look at him and didn’t promise anything, but he got up there and really saw himself as a varsity player. He put in the work to be just that.”
Rippee said he would probably be moving Koontz back to linebacker in the future.
“Playing strong side defensive end is probably the toughest position on the field and here we had a sophomore who is really a true linebacker.
“He just got better every game, and he has two more years.”
— Joey Crandall can be reached at email@example.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.