Football: Tiger ‘D’ paves way to big win over Spanish Springs
by Joey Crandall
It’s the moment linemen dream about.
Douglas linebacker Riley Griffith hammered Spanish Springs quarterback Tanner Oates, sending the ball bouncing into the end zone.
Tiger senior defensive end August Greth watched as teammate Scott Rudnick pounced on it, only to see the ball squirt loose. The ball somehow travelled straight into Greth’s hands.
It was a moment Greth had been waiting for for a long time.
Greth fell on the ball to score the first touchdown of his football career and give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead in what would be the defining moment of the evening.
Douglas rode the emotion of two defensive touchdowns (the most for the Tigers since 2003) to an impressive 51-14 win over Spanish Springs on Senior Night in Minden Friday night.
The Tigers clinched a playoff berth with the win, improving to 4-4 overall on the year and 4-3 in Northern 4A play.
“I’ve been playing football for eight years,” Greth said. “It’s always been on offensive and defensive line. I’ve never gotten anywhere close to scoring a touchdown.
“This was totally unexpected. It’s Senior Night, it was an opportunity to shine and I did. It felt incredible.”
The Tiger defense, particularly its seniors, dominated the night, forcing five turnovers and holding Spanish Springs to just 291 yards of total offense, a good portion of which came late in the game with the decision already in hand.
“That’s what happens when you step up and play hard,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “You get down to this time of year and it becomes about stepping up with desire, committment and playing all 48 minutes. We were led by our seniors tonight and we kept the pressure on and made some big plays.
“This was on the kids’ shoulders. It’s a big win. The kids really stepped up to play. They played with intensity and passion and that gets things done.”
The Cougars managed just 20 yards rushing in the first half and finished with just 135 against Douglas’ first-team defense.
Senior middle linebacker Shane Connelly scored a touchdown on another fumble recovery in the third quarter and junior cornerback Connor Hughes picked off a pair of passes.
“That’s what we’ve been about all season long, stopping the run,” Greth said. “It’s what we’ve been doing and what we’ve always tried to do. We felt like tonight, against a good team, this was an opportunity to prove ourselves a bit.”
That’s not to say the Tiger offense was absent in any form.
Douglas’ 1-2 punch of running backs had a stellar night as well as sophomore Conner Peterson ran for 246 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries and senior Ryen Ake ran for 112 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.
For Peterson, his performance raised his two-week total to 568 yards and seven touchdowns on 38 carries – an average of 14.9 yards per carry. It the highest two-week total for any running back in school history.
He has now run for 899 yards on 75 carries on the season, which is good for an average of 11.98 yards per carry.
As a team Douglas piled up 381 yards on the ground (quarterback Zack Williams had 23 yards on six carries) and only needed one pass attempt in the second half.
That was due in large part to the continued domination up front by Douglas’ offensive line – Greth and Spencer Fellows at the tackles, Matt Wylie and Zach Tierney at the guards and Ben Reed at center with tight ends Trevor Shaffer and Griffith.
“As a group, we just keep trying to get better and better,” Greth said. “We’re at a point here where we’re at the top of our game, but we can’t let up. We have to keep going and trying to get better.”
Williams completed 6 of his 11 passes for 24 yads.
Following Greth’s touchdown, Spanish Springs kick returner Austin Rah bobbled the ensuing kickoff, scooped it up at the 2-yard line and blazed 98 yards for the touchdown, tying it up at 7.
Peterson burst 58 yards down the right sideline two plays later and Ake took the next play 11 yards for the touchdown. From there, Douglas never looked back.
Peterson had a 74-yard touchdown run, Nate VonAhsen nailed a 27-yard field goal and Ake burst up the middle on a perfectly-executed fake punt for a 42-yard touchdown run on Douglas’ following three possessions, setting the score at 31-7.
Spanish Springs recovered an onside kick to open the second half and drove to the Tiger 24 over the next 13 plays, running four minutes off the clock, but Hughes ended the threat with his second pick of the night.
While the Tigers’ following drive stalled, forcing their second and final punt of the night, Steven Werth pinned the Cougars down on their 7-yard line with his kick.
The Cougars fumbled on the next play, which Connelly recovered for the touchdown.
Ake had a 7-yard touchdown, set up by a 56-yard gain from Peterson, and Peterson scored from nine yards out to wrap up Douglas’ scoring on the night.
Douglas travels to Galena Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the regular season.
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.