Football: Tigers post statement win
The Douglas football team has only been a handful of plays from being a standout football team this season.
That’s been the general feeling at least.
Friday night, they put it all together and played every bit the standout as the Tigers rolled to a 45-14 win over Damonte Ranch in Minden.
Douglas piled up 493 yards of total offense in the win, controlling the momentum from the opening kick for the second consecutive week and scoring touchdowns in every facet of the game on its way to the blowout.
“It was just a great effort from the kids,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “We truly felt if they put every aspect together, that’s what we were capable of.
“Damonte is a good football team. They are well-coached and are figuring out how to win consistently. Can’t take anything away from them. But our kids just played with so much passion and excitement. It was great offense, great defense and the kids coming together to make wonderful things happen. It was just play after play after play the kids were stepping up and making something happen.”
It started right off the bat as senior Nick Maestretti grabbed the opening kickoff at the seven-yard line and bolted 93 yards for the touchdown. Last week, the Tigers opened the game at Hug by forcing the Hawks to fumble on the first play of the game.
“We work real hard on special teams and Nick is one of the best in the league in that situation,” Rippee said. “You give him a seam and he’ll get right up in there. That was big.”
The Tiger defense, which has been steadily improving ever since switching from a 3-4 front to a 4-3 five weeks ago against North Valleys, quickly forced the Mustangs into a punt to get the ball back.
Douglas’ offense stalled in what was one of the few stumbles of the night for the Tigers, but the defense came back on and again forced a punt.
That set up an 11-play, 86-yard drive that ended with Conner Peterson punching the ball in from four yards away to put Douglas up 14-0.
Peterson finished the game with a game-high 142 yards on 20 carries.
“Things kept rolling and it snowballed from there,” Rippee said. “The kids played hard-nosed football and kept making plays.
“We’ve shown moments like that all year long, but we haven’t been able to put it all together until tonight.”
Of particular note was the play of the offensive line, which primarily consisted of Sean Jones, Logan Shaffer, Pierce Dykes, Zach Kinder, Matt Wylie and tight ends Trevor Shaffer and Jackson Ketron. The unit had its best performance of the season, paving the way for 214 rushing yards on 32 carries – an average of 6.7 yards per carry.
Douglas forced another Damonte punt on the Mustangs’ next possession. Two plays later, Dusty Fisher grabbed a screen pass from Michael Nolting and blistered 77 yards down the near sideline for the score and the 21-0 lead.
For his part, Nolting had an exceptional game as well, completing 15-of-18 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He also carried seven times for 35 yards.
Damonte then put its best drive of the first half together as Jeff Jurgensmeier broke 59 yards toward the far sideline on a third-and-6 before he was knocked out at the 1.
The Mustangs were tackled for losses of two and four yards on the next two plays. Douglas
senior Ben Khongkhatitham picked off a pass at the goal line on the third down play to end the threat.
“That was a big series for us,” Rippee said. “It was our first true goal line stand all year. We tracked that kid down and knocked him out at the one and that was important. We’ve been saying all year just to give yourself a shot to stop them. The kids came up with two plays for losses and that allowed them to sit back on the pass and read it.
“It was like that all night. We only gave up one big scoring play (a 60-yard run from Mustang quarterback Drew Smith in the third quarter). Play after play, the kids were hitting the pass, stripping the football and hustling.”
Indeed, aside from the interception, Douglas also caused five fumbles in the game, recovering four of them.
Nate VonAhsen had a quite a game for himself as well. The senior wide receiver/safety/kicker had a 24-yard field to put Douglas up 24-0 and made a brilliant catch in the end zone with 16 seconds left in the first half to extend the lead to 31-0. He was also 6-of-6 on PAT attempts on the night and returned a fumble 24 yards for a score – his second defensive touchdown in as many weeks – in the third quarter .
The catch before halftime capped a seven-play, 90-yard drive that started with 1:30 left on the clock.
VonAhsen spun away from coverage on second-and-4 from the 32 corralled the ball with his right arm and pulled it in as he was spun to the turf. He finished with four catches for 67 yards.
Peterson had a four-yard touchdown, his second of the night, to round out Douglas’ scoring in the third quarter.
“At halftime the last three games, we’ve been up and we only finished one of those,” Rippee said. “We talked tonight about how it was time to finish one of these off and put one in the win column.
“This was a great game for the kids. They stepped up and owned this. They care about one another and we talked a lot about believing in one another. This is the type of game they’ll remember for forever and I’m just so happy for them.
“It felt like all of the sudden things started to click for them. They played like there was no tomorrow.”
Connor Hughes led the Tiger receivers with five catches for 76 yards. Maestretti had three catches for 35, Steven Werth had one for 10 and Trevor Shaffer had one for 14.
Ryan Simons recovered a pair of fumbles and Cory Dillon recovered another.
Douglas limited Damonte to just 30 yards passing while the Mustangs did roll up 342 rushing yards on 55 carries.
Douglas will travel to Spanish Springs Thursday for a 7:30 game with playoff seeding implications. Both teams need wins to move up in the league standings and avoid the top seeds.