Football: Douglas looks to break out of early-season funk against top-ranked rival Carson | RecordCourier.com
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Football: Douglas looks to break out of early-season funk against top-ranked rival Carson

by Joey Crandall

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

From the time Douglas head football coach Mike Rippee drew his team¹s 2010 Northern 4A league schedule out of a hat, everyone in orange and black knew they were going to face some major obstacles to start the year.

Reed, Manogue, North Valleys and McQueen. Three of the top defenses and four of the top offenses, right in order.



Having run that opening gauntlet, the Tigers are 1-3 — their slowest start since 2001. It’s the first time in five seasons the team will finish with more than one league loss.

They get to cap this opening run with Friday night¹s 7 p.m. home matchup against top-ranked Carson.



“When we changed the league format last year, everyone knew it was going to

be a tough league,” Rippee said. “There is no one on our slate you can just show up and hope to win against.

“We’ve played Reed, Manogue, McQueen and now Carson and they’re four of the top five in the rankings. I’m not about rankings, but those teams have proven they belong there.

“Every game we’ve played, we’ve had a chance to win. Reed was a tight game, obviously we made some mistakes. Manogue gets us by one point. People look at the McQueen score (28-0) and think it was a blowout, but it was 7-0 at

halftime and 14-0 in the fourth quarter. We were right there.

“The kids are continuing to work hard and get better. We’re optimistic, but this (Carson) is also probably the toughest test we’ve had.”

Douglas’ record certainly doesn’t have the Senators fooled.

“Their record is deceiving,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “They have played arguably the toughest schedule in our league to this point. They played close games against Reed and Bishop Manogue.”

Roman¹s Senators come in with the top rushing attack in the state (7.62 yards per carry, 326.8 yards per game) — a Wing T/Pistol hybrid that features one of the most electrifying players in the state, Dylan Sawyers (71 carries, 801 yards, 10 rushing TD; 13 catches, 170 yards, 1 receiving TD).

“They run a fast-paced, quick-tempo offense,” Rippee said. “You see different offenses all the time, but Blair has stayed true with that Wing T concept. He dds some tough things to it. The bottom line with Carson is Sawyers. I don’t care what offense you run, you’ll look good with a guy like him.”

“We have to quick-tempo our approach, it’s no different than preparing for a Reed or a North Valleys in that they spread the field and go no-huddle, but you are facing a guy that can take it to the house any time he touches the ball.”

Sawyers is averaging 11.28 yards per carry and over 13 yards per catch through Carson’s four games, all wins.

“I¹m glad it’s not a one-on-one game,” Rippee said with a laugh. “It is a team game and we have to focus on getting hats to the ball and playing team defense.

“There’s not one guy on any team that is going to stop him. We have to play as a team, we have to do that for 48 minutes and if we do, good things will happen. Win or lose, good things will happen.”

Carson also features capable ball carriers in the form of Connor Beattie (38 carries, 268 yards, 5 TD) and quarterback Trey Jensen (33 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD). Jensen has also been able to effectively balance out the offense with the passing game, completing 63 percent of his passes for 473.

Douglas will counter with one of its better overall defenses in several years.

They held Reed’s potent offense in check to open the year, limited North Valleys in both the running and passing games and came up with big stops throughout the game against McQueen last week until a pair of late breakdowns put the game out of reach.

Defensive tackles Zach Falanga and Trevor Hemsath have become a formidable pair stopping the inside run and Shane Connelly is a force at the middle linebacker spot. Defensive end Riley Griffith has also come up with a number of big plays in recent weeks.

The Tigers have also had to deal with key losses on the offense due to injury.

They lost starting tackle Patrick Miller to a knee injury before the season started and two of the top skill players in the region — quarterback Zack Williams (foot) and receiver Austin Neddenriep (thumb) — during the Reed game.

They’ve had capable players, like tackles August Greth and Spencer Fellows,

receiver Nick Maestretti and quarterback Sam Cochran, step up in their

absence.

“It’s been hard,” Rippee said. “We had some high expectations entering the year and we still do. Everyone goes through injury problems, but we seemed to get our fair share early on with some key guys. But dealing with adversity is a part of life. How you respond to it is the measure of a man.

“The kids are continuing to buy in. They’re not discouraged and we’re slowly

getting healthier.”

Ryen Ake (105 carries, 529 yards, 5 TD) is the team’s leading rusher, and sophomore Conner Peterson (20 carries, 160 yards, 1 TD) has developed into a nice complimentary back from the fullback spot.

Nick Maestretti has 12 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns and Ake has

14 catches for 122 yards to lead the Tiger receivers.

Carson leads the all-time series 44-21-3 but Douglas has won seven of the

last eight meetings.

The Senators won 34-6 in last year¹s regular season-finale league title game

in Carson.

“I always tell the kids, you might not have a heartbeat if you can’t get amped up for this one,² Rippee said. “It’s the best and oldest rivalry in the region. A lot of people in both valleys have been a part of this game.

“This year, Carson is No. 1. They’re having a great year and they have arguably the best player in the north. It’s a great challenge and that is what football is all about.”