Football: Tigers, Senators lock up Friday night
It’s a rite of Fall for any high school student in the Carson Country and Friday night it lands at midfield of Carson High School as the Senator and Tiger football teams meet up for a 7 p.m. date.
Carson is riding high after senior Austin Pacheco’s national-headline-making 64-yard field goal to beat Manogue 27-24 last Saturday. The Senators are 3-0 in Nevada after falling 34-0 to 5A Highland (Idaho) in Pocatello to open the year.
Douglas, on the other hand, is 1-4 and trying to emerge from a stifling early-season schedule that has included regional favorite Reed (47-30 loss), defending regional champ McQueen (32-14 loss) and Idaho 4A state favorite Pocatello (49-36 loss).
“We really believe you have to challenge yourself early in order to be where you want to be at the end,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “That’s why we never duck a game with Reed and why we wanted the opportunity to play Pocatello.
“It’s a long season and we count on the kids get better as things progress. The best way to do that is to challenge yourself and test yourself. These kids are committed. There’s no quit in them. They have great character, they show up to get better every day and they work hard. That’s going to pay off.”
In it’s lone win, a 51-22 romp over North Valleys two weeks ago, Douglas looked impressive throughout, piling up 552 yards of total offense.
Carson put up similar numbers against North Valleys in a 45-0 win with 527 yards of total offense.
The only other common opponent so far has been Manogue, whom Carson beat in the waning seconds and Douglas lost to 29-7. One key difference was the Miners had standout running back Kenni Rogers (10 carries, 131 yards) against Douglas while he missed the Carson game with an injury.
Against Carson, Douglas will be looking to solve some issues stopping the big play (of 25 touchdowns allowed this year, 10 have been on plays of 30 yards or more and six have been for 50 or more) against the top big-play artist in the state – Dylan Sawyers.
Sawyers has 71 carries for 565 yards (an average of 7.96 per carry) with 11 touchdowns.
He’s scored 13 of the Senators’ 17 touchdowns on the year.
“He is a player, there’s no doubt about it,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “Probably the best player we’ve seen this year. He’s been doing this since he was a sophomore.
He has good strength, good speed and tremendous instincts.
“The key is knowing you’re probably not going to stop him completely. You’re working to contain him. You hope those four or five big plays he his going to make on his own don’t end up in the end zone. We have to make sure we get guys swarming to him to limit that from happening.”
Defensively, Douglas started lining up with a 4-3 front (from a 3-4) two weeks ago with Jackson Ketron moving from linebacker to defensive end and 6-6, 288-pound defensive tackle Nick Fickle winning a starting spot alongside defensive end Trevor Shaffer (6-3, 210) and tackle Trevor Hemsath (6-5, 275).
“We changed there, we think we are better in that,” Rippee said. “We’ve done better with it and it’s easier for the guys up front to play it. We have to get more solid there and close those seams down. We have to tackle better across the whole defense and swarm to the ball.
“We can’t be letting running plays turn into 40 or 50 yards.”
Offensively, Carson has been run-dominated, rolling up 256 yards per game on the ground while throwing for 94.
Quarterback Matt Nolan is the team’s second leading rusher with 147 yards on 30 carries. He’s also thrown for 322 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception on the year.
Brock Pradere has been his top target with six catches for 97 yards while H-back Chance Quilling has four receptions for 43 yards.
Fullback Joey Thurman has been a nice compliment to the running game, carrying 24 times for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Offensively, Douglas brings its own elite back in junior Conner Peterson, who has piled up 598 yards on 129 carries this year. His 4.63-yards-per-carry clip has also garnered six touchdowns.
The Tigers have been balanced between the run and the pass, though, and junior quarterback Michael Nolting has settled into an effective role, completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns.
He’s also the team’s second leading rushing, going 79 yards of 37 carries.
He six receivers averaging at least two catches per game with Nick Maestretti (19 catches, 157 yards, two touchdowns), Dusty Fisher (18-247-2) and Nate VonAhsen (14-227-2) leading the group. Peterson, Steven Werth, Connor Hughes have proven to be reliable targets as well.
One area Rippee said the team is looking to clear up is in ball security.
Douglas has turned the ball over 16 times on the year for an average of 3.2 per game. The majority of those have led to opponent touchdowns.
“We’re looking good (in practice this week).” Rippee aid. “We have the flu bug that has hit everyone this last week, but hopefully we’re on the road to recovery.
“The kids are excited. We’ve had good, upbeat practices this week. Every game is important and we want to continue to improve, get better, keep working hard and giving ourselves a chance to win.”