Football: Tigers left their mark with character, work ethic
In the midst of the disappointment after last week’s overtime loss to McQueen, Douglas High football coach Mike Rippee glanced over his team and summed up what he felt about them in a couple simple words.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “You could offer me the team that wins the state championship right now and I would want to take you guys instead. You all did it the right way.”
It might sound like cliche coach talk, but it’s the type of thing Rippee had been saying all year.
“All these guys are great players on the field, but they are even better people off of it,” Rippee said earlier in the season. “They make it a pleasure to come out here and coach them every day.
“You look at the guys we have out there this year, they’re all just stand up kids. They work hard, they do the right thing. They are the types of kids you want to build a program on.”
While that started with a strong core of seniors – like Garrett Tenney, Johnny Pollack, Ryan Moglich, Jacob Phillips, Danny King, Conner Dillon, Luis Pina-Duarte and Walker Higgins, just to name a few – the Tigers will be bringing back a nice-sized group of about nine starters for 2010.
“Those seniors this year, they were the backbone of our team,” Rippee said. “They carried these juniors and lead the team tremendously.”
Douglas will welcome back key starters at every base position on the field next season, save for kicker and punter.
Quarterback Zack Williams will be looking to build on a strong junior campaign during which he completed 102 passses for 1,108 yards and 11 touchdowns while running for 296 yards and six touchdowns.
While the Tigers based much of their offense on the run this year, the returning personnel may provide more options in terms of a solid 50-50 balance between the run and the pass.
Douglas will have the services of running back Ryen Ake (63 carries, 413 yards, three TD) and receiver Austin Neddenriep (30 catches, 444 yards, eight TD) back as well as three-fifths of a formidable offensive line with August Greth, Patrick Miller and Spencer Fellows all seeing significant starting time this season.
Greth will lead a solid group of returners on the defensive line as well, along with defensive tackle Zach Falanga, linebacker Shane Connelly, Neddenriep at cornerback and safety Matt Metz.
Douglas also has a strong group coming up from the junior varsity level that went 7-2 on the year.
Graduation will leave big holes in the lineup, though, with Pollack being among the biggest losses.
Pollack led the region in rushing with 1,277 yards on the year, all while starting at middle linebacker for the Tigers.
“Johnny is just the type of kid that you put pads on him and he is faster with them than without them,” Rippee said. “He gets better as the game goes on. He can turn it on when he gets going. He is football fast.”
Douglas will also need to replace kicker/punter Nikolai Vasquez, who established himself as one of the top players at the position in school history over the past two years, setting what is believed to be a school record with a 51-yard field goal and averaging 44 yards a punt.
King was among the top receivers in the region both statistically and when it came to clutch situations, like third downs. Tenney and Moglich anchored the team’s lines.
“Danny King had double figures in big catches for us,” Rippee said. ” Garrett Tenney was our first home school kid and he ended up being one of our captains. Moglich had to come back from two bad knee injuries in the last year, but he did the work and fought his way through. He is a warrior.”
The Tigers had tough losses against Las Vegas, Carson and McQueen during the season but had a string of impressive wins, including a 28-21 win over Manogue in Minden late in the year and a 24-16 comeback win over Galena early in the league season.
The Galena win got a lot more credibility last week as the Grizzlies advanced to the regional title game with a win over Carson.
The ground game was key on both sides of the ball as Douglas piled up more than 200 yards rushing seven times on the year and held its opponents to less than 100 yards rushing four times.