Football: Tigers lose overtime heartbreaker to McQueen
They don’t get much closer than this one.
In a game that saw each side come up with one big play after another, it was almost a given that it would all come down to whoever came up with the final gamechanger.
In the end, it was McQueen’s Lucas Fejer – all but stopped dead in his tracks on a dive up the middle on fourth and inches from inside the Douglas one yard-line – who broke a tackle, swept right and punched it in to give the Lancers a 23-20 victory in overtime Friday night in Minden.
“I thought we had him,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “It was just a great effort on his part. We got a piece of him, but he managed to pull out of it and get it in.
“It was two teams playing as hard as they possibly could and they just made one more play than we did. What can I say?”
Indeed, that might even be understating it a bit.
The entire final 10 minutes or so of real time were defined by simple matters of inches.
Douglas had the ball first in overtime and on third-and-goal from the seven yard-line Austin Neddenriep appeared to haul in a pass by his fingertips while diving for the catch in the end zone. It was ruled, though, that the ball skipped off the ground first.
Nikolai Vasquez nailed a 29-yard field goal on the next play to put Douglas up 20-17.
After an seven-yard counter from McQueen’s Corey Sharpe put the Lancers at the three-yard line, the Tiger defense came up with stops at the two on a carry by Fejer and just inches away from the goal line on a carry from Nick Shephard.
Fejer’s desperation sweep followed.
“It’s a hard one to go down on,” Rippee said. “Especially for these seniors. They deserved it. They played hard enough to win. They did everything they could to extend this thing one more week and it just didn’t happen. My heart goes out to them. I couldn’t be more proud of the group.
“They never quit, they did a wonderful job for us all year.”
The Tigers actually had a chance to win the game outright with three seconds left in regulation.
Danny King made an impressive diving catch, where he maintained control despite a bobble on his way down for a 33-yard gain to the Lancer 12 with 26.6 seconds left. Johnny Pollack, who finished the night with a career-high 244 yards on 28 carries, was tackled for no gain on the next play and Douglas let the clock run down to set up a 29-yard attempt for Vasquez on what would be the final play of regulation.
Vasquez got good contact on the ball, had plenty of distance, but it sailed only inches right of the crossbar as time expired.
It was the only blemish on what was otherwise one of the greatest single performances by a special teams player in Douglas High School history.
Aside from his field goal in overtime, Vasquez also had a 63-yard punt in the first half to pin the Lancers inside their own 10. He punted six times in the game for an average of 43.8 yards.
Just before halftime, he nailed a 51-yard yard field goal, believed to be the longest in school history, to put Douglas up 10-7.
He put two of his three kickoffs through the end zone, with the third being a designated sky kick that pinned McQueen inside their 20.
And, on perhaps the most subtly-important play of the night, he booted a 43-yard punt that Matthew Metz was able to down at the Lancer two yard-line with under two minutes left in regulation.
McQueen went three-and-out on its next series, punting from its own seven, which was why Douglas was able to drive back into field goal range with a little over a minute left.
“Those things (the missed field goal) happen,” Rippee said. “We pushed it a little right. We wouldn’t have even been in that situation is he hadn’t hit the long one just before the half.
“We lost as a team, starting from the head coach down. Nikolai doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of. You look at it, he really kept us in the game in the first place. It all evens out in the end.”
Douglas went up 7-0 in the first quarter on a five-yard run from quarterback Zack Williams.
McQueen answered in the second quarter on a 17-yard sweep from Nick Shephard, but Douglas took the lead into halftime on Vasquez’s 51-yarder.
McQueen’s Chris Stocker tied things back up with 7:27 left in the third with a 38-yard field goal and the Lancers went up 17-10 two minutes later on a 60-yard run following a Tiger fumble at the McQueen 40-yard line.
Douglas tied it up at 17 on a 20-yard pass from Williams to Austin Neddenriep on fourth-and-15 with 6:21 left in the game, which is how the score stayed until overtime.
The Tiger defense came up with four sacks on the night and allowed only seven completions. The bulk of McQueen’s 171 passing yards came on a pair of flea-flickers in the first half that went for 50 and 38 yards.
Williams finished with 165 yards on 16 completions for the Tigers while King had six catches for 95 yards. Neddenriep caught three passes for 31, Pollack had four catches for 46 and Vasquez had four catches for 19.
Douglas wrapped up its season with a 7-4 record overall.