Football: Tigers, Raiders clash Monday night
It’s a classic playoff storyline – the two best offenses in the region, both teams riding extended win streaks set to battle for a spot in the regional title game.
One can’t help but think, though, that for all the numbers and everything at stake, it’s the intangibles that might rule the night.
Top-seeded Reed High School (10-1 overall) hosts Douglas (6-5) Monday night in a regional semifinal playoff game beginning at 7 p.m. in Sparks. The game was initially scheduled for Friday night, but was moved due to the county-wide state of emergency stemming from the Caughlin Ranch Fire.
For Douglas, it is the team’s first appearance in the regional semifinals since 2004.
“We’re happy to be here,” said Douglas coach Mike Rippee. His Tigers once stood at 1-5 before turning things around. “There’s nothing like playing in November. That’s always our goal and we’re there.
“It’s been a long, hard road and it hasn’t been easy for the kids. They struggled early and a lot of that had to do with me. Obviously they have overcome that. They could’ve shut down and gone another direction. They could’ve given up, but they are not made out of that. They’ve led us back. We’re in a situation we’re really happy to be in.”
Douglas brings in the region’s top passer, Michael Nolting (185 completions, 2,353 yards and 21 touchdowns). Reed’s AJ Silva is right behind at 165 completions and 2,243 yards.
The Tigers bring in the region’s top rusher, Conner Peterson, with 1,341 carries on the year. while Reed counters with the seventh- (John Covello) and ninth-ranked (Silva) rushers with 608 and 543 yards each.
Like Reed, Douglas’ No. 2 rusher is also its quarterback as Nolting comes in as the No. 12 rusher in the region with 401 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Raiders boast the top defense, by a wide margin, in the region, allowing just 14.3 points per game with three shutouts.
“They’ve come out and really taken it to people,” Rippee said. “They have it going on both sides of the ball. They have some very talented guys all over the field. They are loaded up front with experience and size and their skill guys are very good.
“Their quarterback has stepped up and he is a legitimate passer.
“They throw and catch as well as anyone out there. The only team I can compare them to in that area is us. We’re as good there. Our receivers have gotten a lot better and Michael has moved himself to one of the top quarterbacks in the league.”
Douglas comes in on a roll, having won its last five games, including the program’s first playoff win since 2004 last week (43-15 at Reno).
Reed, on the other hand, basically hasn’t blinked all year. The Raiders haven’t trailed in a game since a Week 1 43-37 loss to out-of-state Granite Bay.
For all the statistics, a number of intangibles could come into play.
Reed has been to the regional semifinals in each of the last seven years while Douglas hasn’t been since 2004. Advantage Raiders in playoff experience.
While Reed hasn’t trailed to an in-state opponent at any point during the year, Douglas has trailed by multiple scores in the first half of five games, but has come back to win two of those. So in terms of experience facing and overcoming on-field adversity, Douglas has the advantage.
The passing games are essentially equal, but Douglas has the edge in running backs with Peterson. Reed, though, has the edge on the line.
“It all evens out, we hope,” Rippee said. “Hopefully we can step up. We told the kids not to be afraid to win and good things will happen.”
Douglas and Reed met each other on Sept. 9 in the first in-state game for both schools.
Reed won 47-30 after a disastrous first quarter for Douglas that saw the Tigers turn the ball over on each of its first three possessions, with each turnover leading to a Raider touchdown. The Raiders led
27-0 after just seven minutes had elapsed on the clock.
“We can’t take that quarter away,” Rippee said. “But we can do our best not to repeat it.”
While Douglas cut the decifit with two late touchdowns against Reed’s second team defense, the Tigers moved the ball well (384 yards total offense) with relative balance (221 passing, 163 rushing) throughout the game.
Another key change since that first meeting has been Douglas switching its defensive front from a 3-4 (three down linemen, four linebackers) to a 4-3 (four linemen, three backers). Steve Wilcox also came out of retirement to coach the defensive line.
Douglas is 6-3 and has not given up more than 32 points since the switch. Opponents are averaging 21.6 points per game compared to 48 before the switch.
“You can point to the turnovers but I blame myself for that loss,” Rippee said. “I was trying to get too creative with the defense. The defense has got to come out and limit them after turnovers. Changing the front has helped with that.”
The matchup at the end of the year looks balanced on paper.
Silva threw only two interceptions through his first seven games. He’s been picked off once in each of his last four, though.
Nolting, on the other hand, has 13 interceptions on the year, but 11 of those came in the first six games. He’s thrown only one in the last five weeks.
Both quarterbacks efficiently spread the passing game between four main targets.
Reed has Devin Gray (41 catches, 690 yards, 9 TD), Alex Young (33-606-11), Beau Tittensor (55-481-6) and Chad Gray (32-363-6).
Douglas counters with Nick Maestretti (42-576-7), Nate VonAhsen (33-583-5), Dusty Fisher (29-462-5) and Connor Hughes (22-244-3) while running back Conner Peterson has 15 receptions for 156 yards and a score and Steven Werth has 13 catches for 114 yards.
“We just have to worry about playing like we can,” Rippee said. “You aren’t going to shut a team like Reed out. We have to hold onto the ball. They’re good enough on their own. We don’t need to help them.
“We have to keep ourselves in position to do what we do best and have a shot to win it at the end.
That doesn’t mean we’ll play conservative. We’ll be aggressive and we’ll get after it. We’ll make them work for everything they get and we can’t be afraid of making mistakes.
“We’ll make mistakes, but we’ll play through them and keep ourselves in position to do something.”
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.