Football: Tigers reap big rewards in postseason awards
Following a season in which the Douglas Tiger football team claimed the Sierra League title with a perfect league slate despite playing all but one of its regular season games on the road, it was no surprise that coaches around the region showered accolades upon the team.
Douglas, Reed and Galena walked away as the most-honored teams in the recently-announced postseason honors, voted on annual by the coaches.
Douglas linebacker Brent Koontz was named the Northern 4A Regional Defensive Player of the Year after hauling in four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, forcing a fumble, recovering a fumble and recording a sack during the course of the year.
He was also named the Sierra League Player of the Year, along with North Valleys’ Archie Kovich, and earned second-team recognition at tight end.
“Brent was one of many leaders in this senior class,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “He was a three-year starter and one of the top guys around, no question.
“He was in there for us every play on defense and caused our opponents a lot of problems all over the field.”
Koontz (6-2, 215) is receiving recruiting interest from Nevada, to the tune of about two phone calls a week.
“They’re looking at him, but we aren’t sure if they’re going to offer anything or not,” Rippee said. “It’s real competitive out there, but we’ll send out the film and see what happens. He plans on playing somewhere, and he’s willing to do the work it takes to get there.”
Rippee was named the region’s and the league’s coach of the year, although he said he wishes the award were given to entire staffs.
“That’s not one I can take any credit for,” Rippee said. “It’s a program award and it is indicative of what the kids and the entire coaching staff did this year.
“These types of awards come because your kids buy into a system with the right attitude and the assistant coaches prepare them for every game. This award belongs more to coaches (Ernie) Monfiletto, (Steve) Wilcox, (Joe) Andrews and (Bob) Bateman. I feel they are the best around and this season really showed that.”
Sean Molina, who was shifted from outside linebacker to the defensive line over the summer, was named first-team All-Northern 4A and won the award for Sierra League Defensive Player of the Year.
“Sean was just one of those true success stories this season,” Rippee said. “We looked at the defensive line and felt we needed one more piece, so we moved him.
“His work ethic, his coachability and his attitude were second to none. He didn’t have the numbers that some of the other nominees did (6 sacks, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, one return for a touchdown), but when you watched the film, he was doing the dirty work to free the other guys up. Sean was the guy that really stood out in the other coaches’ minds.”
Safety Cole Hamzik, considered to be one of the best pass-coverage backs in the region, earned his second-consecutive all-region mention with four interceptions on the year.
“He came close to establishing the school record for interceptions in a career and he was fantastic on run support this year,” Rippee said. “When you play three deep in the backfield like we do, your safety is critical.
“Cole was beat out at quarterback at the beginning of the year but he went to where we needed him and he just had a great year.”
Lineman Kevin Rogers earned first-team all-region recognition at offensive guard, rounding out the Tigers’ regional honors.
“Kevin was the anchor of that line,” Rippee said. “He’d seen the most time coming in and he just got better every game as the year went on.
“We rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a team and he was that leader up front.”
All of the all-region honorees were first-team All-Sierra Leaguers as well.
Douglas was by far the most-honored team in the league with 10 first-teamers.
Tackle Keith Lowe and center Mike Colyer each earned first-team nods.
“Keith broke his wrist early in the season, but there was no doubt in his mind that he’d continue to play,” Rippee said. “He and Kevin were kind of partners up there and it was very nice to have that leadership.
“He really came alive this year and played through the pain.
“Mike was a guy that we didn’t really know where to put him, at tackle or center. He worked hard and just had a great attitude. It was nice to see all those linemen get recognition. Linemen are the most unselfish people in sports. They work hard, they love the game and pretty much anyone outside of the team barely knows their names.”
Reese Kizer (804 yards, seven touchdowns) was named first-team at running back and Tyler Tinstman (664 yards, 6 touchdowns) earned first-team honors as a return specialist.
“Reese ran so hard for us and he even missed a few games with an injury and was still one of the top producers in the region,” Rippee said. “He was just a few votes off from getting all-region as well.
“Whatever got him going early in the season, it was big. There was no stopping him and he got those tough yards inside and picked up some big yards after contact.
“His touchdown run against McQueen was one of the best plays we’ve ever had. He must have broken about six tackles on that play alone.”
Linebacker Ryan Pruitt earned first-team all-league distinction with one sack, one interception and a host of hard-nosed hits along the way.
“He is one of the toughest kids we’ve had at that outside position and he played through some tough injuries these last three years,” Rippee said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Phil Mannelly also earned a spot on the first-team for his play at weak-side defensive end.
“He was another one that came back from an injury early in the year and really made a difference,” Rippee said. “He just did a great job up front there and honestly was one of the best players we’ve had at that position.”
The front eight for the Tigers was widely considered to be the best ever at Douglas, and as such, all eight earned all-league recognition at some level or another.
Tackle Jeff Nady and nose guard Anthony Alvitre were each second-team honorees and linebacker Brock Peterson and end Nate Whalin were each honorable mentions.
“It’s hard to compare different years, but I think it was definitely as good as we have had statistically, and we’ve had some good ones before,” Rippee said.
Cornerback Niko Saladis (six interceptions, one touchdown) was named second-team defensive back and second-team kicker and junior corner Sean Peralta (six interceptions) was an honorable mention, meaning every defensive starter for the Tigers earned an all-league spot.
“We had a lot of interceptions, and part of that was due to the pressure we got up front, but coach Batemen really showed these guys how to shut down that pass,” Rippee said. “Our turnover ratio was big in the plus column, and that was a big part of our success.”
Offensively, Douglas got a number of second-team and honorable mention spots with Tinstman getting second-team at running back, junior quarterback David Laird making second-team and junior linemen Trevor McCarthy and Curtis Hartzell were listed on the honorable mentions.
“I was very happy for David getting that second-team nod,” Rippee said. “He came a long way, probably farther than any of our guys this year, and is set up for a great year next season.
“We are losing some great guys, but we are getting a lot of great guys back. It’s more than just talen. It’s attitude and work ethic and if they all step up and take on that senior leadership next year, we’re hopefully things will fall into place for another successful year.”
— Joey Crandall can be reached at email@example.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.